While most people know that getting eight hours of sleep a night is the ideal, many of us still struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Fit For Work Occupational Health Physiotherapist Jason Longworth says establishing good sleep habits begins not just before bed but earlier in the day as well.
Your sleep quality affects not only your mental and physical health but the general quality of your day-to-day life, whether that be working, socialising, or playing sport. It can also affect your heart, weight, and mood.
There are a number of things people can do during the day, before they go to bed and while they’re trying to sleep, to get the most out of their time in bed.
Jason’s sleep strategies:
Get some regular exercise
Working out during the day is a great way of improving sleep. If you’re finding it hard to fall asleep at night, doing exercise, particularly cardio, is a great way of relaxing and making your body tired.
Eat and drink properly
Eating meals at regular times helps to maintain the rhythm of your body clock and assist in establishing sleep patterns. Going to bed hungry or too full can make it difficult to get to sleep or to stay asleep. It is recommended that you eat something nutritious four to five hours before going to bed in order to get the best sleep possible.
Minimise your total intake of stimulants such as caffeine, especially from late afternoon onwards.
Avoid drinking alcohol to help you get to sleep. While it can help relax us and acts as a sedative, it eventually becomes a stimulant that will upset your sleep patterns.
Unwind before bed
Our bodies were adapted to get tired as it gets dark. Sunlight during the day suppresses melatonin, which is our sleep hormone, but as it gets dark we produce more melatonin. However, artificial light sources such as electric lights, TVs, and other devices can suppress the production of melatonin. So, it is a good idea to turn off, or dim as many lights as possible into the evening.
As well as being a light source, watching exciting TV, playing on your phone, or paying bills online right before bed can make it hard for your brain to switch off. Instead, as it gets closer to bedtime try reading a book, listening to soothing music, or taking a short hot shower.
Get your room ready
Use your bed for sleep; not as a workstation, a multimedia suite, or a dining table. You want to associate bed with sleep.
Our bodies cool down when we are having a good sleep, so avoid having electric blankets or heaters going in bedrooms all night.
Don’t share your bed with pets. Research has shown that people sleeping with pets have a more disturbed sleep.