A regular good night’s sleep is in so many ways the foundation for excellent, all-round health and wellbeing. The after-effects of a lack of shut-eye don’t just begin and end with feeling tired and grouchy the next day.
There are many different factors that can keep us from sleeping well, including diet and habits surrounding how we use technology. Thankfully, there are just as many ways that we can get our sleep patterns back on track too.
The effects of a lack of sleep
We all know the feeling as we trudge around the place the day after a bad night’s sleep. We’re irritable, not very productive at work and we feel like we’re carrying a heavy weight around with us.
This is bad enough even if it’s only happening every so often. But if it’s a more frequent occurrence, the long-term effects of a lack of sleep are the stuff of nightmares.
Continued poor sleep puts a person at risk of physical issues like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It’s also been blamed for shortening life expectancy – so if you plan on sticking around, have an early night.
Getting less sleep than you need is a cause of heart disease and it can bring about a loss of libido. It can stop you losing weight, too, because sleep helps your body secrete a hormone which makes you feel full.
Not getting enough sleep also has a devastating effect on mental health, because the brain needs time to rest. You’ll lose focus, start feeling depressed and you’ll put yourself at risk of accidents because you can’t concentrate.
If these effects have made you sit up, take notice and want to improve the quality of your sleep, help is at hand. There are ways to improve your routine and prepare your body and mind for a better visit from the Sandman.
Tips to improve your sleep
Many factors can aid a restful night, so pick and choose those which work for you when developing your night-time routine. And remember, you should be avoiding bad sleep habits as well! The first thing to consider, though, is to try and go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
Your next stage should be to slow down gradually before going to bed each evening. There are several ways in which you can do this:
- Take a warm bath, so your body is at a settled temperature
- Plan the next day by using ‘to-do’ lists, so you’re not tossing and turning all night thinking of tomorrow’s jobs
- Try techniques like light yoga stretches and listening to relaxation CDs to loosen your muscles
- A number of apps have also been developed to help the drift into sleep
Although sleep apps are popular, sleep scientists recommend reducing the amount of time spent using smartphones or tablets before bed. The blue light emitted by them has been found to prevent sleep rather than aid it.
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Caffeine should also be avoided from the afternoon onwards because it’s a stimulant which makes the heart race. Regulate the bedroom temperature so it’s right for you and you’re not too hot or too cold when you go to bed.
Lastly, try and use the bedroom solely for sleep and sex, so they’re all your mind associates the room with. If this seems strange, flip the scenario and imagine trying to sleep in the kitchen – it wouldn’t work, would it?
‘Sleep is the elixir of life’
It’s a famous quote attributed to the writer Matthew Walker and there’s more than a kernel of truth to it. The elusive eight hours a night isn’t a cure for all your ills, but it’s a fantastic start on the road to health.
Don’t forget that there are other reasons apart from everyday stress and a poor bedtime routine which prevent you sleeping. There are several medical reasons why you might not be getting enough sleep, so if your insomnia persists, see your doctor.
Otherwise, the ways and means to help rest the mind and aid refreshing sleep are all waiting to be tried. If one doesn’t work, try another until you find the one which lulls you off like a baby.
And when you are, there are also plenty of ways in which you can stop yourself or your partner snoring too!