It is no secret that what we do when we‘re awake influences our sleeping habits – and the latter, in turn, affect pretty much every aspect of our waking lives, from our appearance to our work performance. So, if one part of the routine gets out of control, it‘s only a downward spiral from there.
So what do most modern workers occupy themselves with during the day?
They stress, rush from meeting to meeting, spend hours in front of a computer in a dimly-lit office, eat convenience food and calm their minds down for a while with the help of alcohol or cigarettes. The result – we take all the extra time we need by „biting“ into the sleep hours we so desperately need.
Saying it is easy, but then life happens
No wonder then that sleeplessness is such a prevalent problem nowadays – our lifestyle is designed for disturbing our natural sleep-and-wake cycle.
As a response to this growing issue that wreaks havoc on our productivity and the overall quality of our lives, a set of simple, yet incredibly effective, tips has been developed by the leading specialists in the field.
Collectively, these tips are now referred to as ‘sleep hygiene‘. For those of us who struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep or simply cannot find a way to fit those precious eight hours of shut-eye into our daily schedule, learning how to implement these practices can make a huge difference.
They don‘t require a whole lot of effort and, at first sight, don‘t seem life-changing at all – nevertheless, it‘s surprising how meaningful such small adjustments can turn out to be in the long run.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink during the day
This is an absolute no-brainer, but the importance of proper nutrition can never be emphasised enough – especially when it comes to the quality of our sleep.
Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice and pasta dishes. They might provide you with that much needed, although extremely short-lived, energy boost during the day, but they also have the potential of triggering wakefulness at night.
Refrain from eating a large meal before bedtime, as this is a well-known recipe for disaster. Ideally, you should not eat at all several hours prior to going to bed – however, if you do get hungry (and hunger is sure to keep you awake as well), go for a light snack instead, such as yoghurt, a small bowl of whole-grain cereal or a banana.
Make sure to limit your caffeine intake – it can be found in tea, chocolate, cola and even some painkillers, as well as coffee. You should try and stay away from caffeinated products at least four hours before retiring to your bedroom.
The same applies to alcohol. It may help you fall asleep at first, but it starts acting as a stimulant a couple of hours later and decreases the quality of your nightly rest. For more tips on sleep-promoting foods see this guide on RD.com
- Create a sleep-friendly environment in your bedroom
Your sleeping space is supposed to be a sanctuary of comfort and quietude, which is why it is best to devote it exclusively to sleep. Do not work or eat in your bedroom and, if possible, keep all computers and TV sets out of it as well. Doing so will help your mind to create an unbreakable association between your sleeping space and quality rest.
The human body is a complex mechanism, more intricate in fact that we dare to imagine.
The temperature regulation is a big part of what keeps us alive as species. The good news is that we have technology today that can help us more than ever before to help us sleep warmer if we are cold sleeper and vice versa.
In the case of warm sleepers, the solution can be simpler than turning down the thermostat way down. It can be as simple as throwing a cooling mattress pad onto your bed. This means that you don‘t have to make the whole room cold, which is a big deal if you‘re sleeping with a partner that doesn‘t have the problem.
The best cooling mattress pads today are so effective and finely tuned that they can cool down only your half of the bed – they are shortcut to a cool peaceful slumber.
They do some in a variety of types and sizes and choosing a good cooling pad or topper is far from simple – for more on this you can see the top-rated cooling pads for your mattress as per TheSleepStudies here.
- Engage in a relaxing pre-sleep routine
It‘s important to ease into a period of relaxation and quality rest, especially after a stressful day at work. Developing a bedtime routine really smooths the transition out.
Find what works for you and stick to it – be it reading a book, having a warm bath, listening to some music, practising relaxation exercises or anything else that helps you wind down and is not too mentally stimulating.
Stressful or intense activities lead to the production of cortisol, a hormone which causes elevated alertness, so it only makes sense to steer clear of them before bedtime.
- Develop a sleeping schedule
Reset your internal clock by sticking to a consistent schedule of rest. By going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, you are training your body to expect sleep, or wakefulness, at that particular hour, so falling asleep comes a whole lot easier.
Don‘t try and catch up on the lost hours of weekday sleep during your days off, as that will only disrupt your sleep further. You should also avoid long napping during the day – by long naps we mean anything that‘s longer than 30-40 minutes.
A nap can be good for productivity, but if if it‘s too long – it can (and probably will) with your night sleep patterns.
Keep it short and don‘t delay it for too long – getting some quick shut-eye after 5 PM is generally not a good idea if you‘re looking to get a proper night‘s rest. Crafting a solid sleep plan and sticking to it is crucial – you can see more tips here.
- Exercise – but only at the right time
Exercising does a wonderful job at promoting better sleep – that is, if you are finished with it at least three hours before bed. Just like other intense activities, it causes the body to secrete lots of cortisol and the hormone is meant to keep you alert and awake. Go for a quick morning jog in order to start your day fresh and be able to sleep better during the night.
No technique or plan will work if you don‘t
Reading some sleep tips is one thing, but implementing them is where most people give up. As we said, life happens and there‘s always something more important.
The right way to look at our sleep habits is not as „one more thing to worry about“. Look at the bigger image – it will tell you that proper sleep is the foundation of a healthy life and productivity. Look at the whole process as a part of your self-improvement plan.
Sleep is not a waste of time – it‘s a way to get the most of it.