The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” may sound like a great catchphrase when you’re racing to meet a deadline, heading out of the door to party, or consoling yourself after a bad night’s sleep, but the reality is that sleep is so much more important than many of us realise; while we sleep our minds rest, reset, and prepare for the new day ahead, and our bodies’ cells and tissue rejuvenate to ensure we’re facing each new day more fit and healthy than the last.
Sleep is beneficial for both our physical and mental well-being, and yet so few of us are getting the slumber we so desperately need. Without the right amount sleep you may find that you struggle to function properly and perform far worse in the tasks assigned to you by work and family life. You may even have noticed marked changes in your ability to work, rest, and play, as well as dips in mood and general well-being following a particularly bad night’s sleep – but what can be done to ensure you’re getting the rest you need?
No rest for the wicked: A good sleep guide
This sleep business is something of an exact science; indeed, experts recommend that adults aim to achieve between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, with six being a minimum, and ten a maximum. While this may sound like heaven to many of you, the truth is that modern life has made it very difficult for us to switch off. Whether you’re answering emails or checking social media until you fall asleep, wide awake after the consumption of coffee too close to bedtime, or plagued by flickering street lights and cars in the road below, there’s a good chance that falling asleep is never very easy. So, what can you do? Could it be that there’s a special knack to getting just the right amount of sleep, before repeatedly hitting that snooze button in a vain attempt to sneak in one more wink? As it turns out there’s not just one knack but several, ranging from the types of foods and drinks you should be consuming to the habits that you could be adopting right now…
Cut out the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, with the body feeling its effects for up to twelve hours following consumption. To achieve the perfect night’s sleep, it’s important to limit the amount of caffeine you consume, as well as avoiding big meals within two hours of bedtime, and limiting your alcohol and fluid intake as the evening sets in; such habits can send you to the toilet more times than you can count, and leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. If you would like that cup of tea or coffee before bedtime switch to decaffeinated, or choose a soothing alternative such as chamomile or hot chocolate.
Shut out the modern world
From bright smartphone screens and the distraction of television, to the roar of traffic and the flicker of lamps in the street below, the modern world can be something of a menace when it comes to going to sleep. Urban disturbances, as they’re known, are a modern construct, and yet there’s so much that can be done to reduce their impact on our bedtime routine.
Avoid using bright screens, including backlit reading devices, mobile phones, and televisions up to two hours before bedtime to give your mind a chance to relax and your eyes a period to rest, and turn down bright lights as you prepare to head to bed. Create a space that is solely for sleeping, making your room as dark as it can be; wooden shutters are excellent for reducing natural and urban light, and can also be used to muffle the sounds of the street below. There are various types of shutter available that will complement your home and its style, with DIY shutter guides to ensure you’re getting the most from your blackout solution.
Get into a routine
Experts say that a good night’s sleep can be promoted by sticking to a routine, ensuring that your circadian rhythm, or natural sleep cycle, is in sync with the rest of your day. Aim to head to bed around the same time each evening, and get up at the same time in the morning – yes, even at weekends. While lying in is a luxury that we’re rarely afforded, such a habit could be altering your sleep cycle and hampering your efforts to fall asleep in the first place. In addition to being a little stricter with your routine, try and get as much natural light as you can during the day; melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure, is a huge part of your wake-sleep cycle, so head outside, keep curtains open, and enjoy the natural light during the day, and keep rooms as dark and cosy as possible in the evenings.
The chances are you’ll be preparing for a better night’s sleep by the time you get to the end of this article – indeed, I hope you’ve managed to finish it, and left yourself alert enough to make that mug of hot chocolate. Now, switch off your laptop or phone, pick up a good book, and snuggle beneath the sheets in preparation; tonight is going to be the best night’s sleep of your life.
This post was written by Jennifer Hughes who has a keen interest in health and fitness, and is currently studying how sleep can impact on our overall health. After suffering insomnia in her teen years, Jennifer is keen to pass her experience onto others.
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