‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’
– Benjamin Franklin
Know Your Why. Understanding that quality sleep is so fundamental to how you feel and function on a daily basis is a great starting point to prioritise a great restorative sleep habit. As a medical doctor I often see people with sleep issues and insomnia. Here are sixteen strategies that I recommend to support a healthy sleeping pattern.
# Keep a regular sleep schedule
Having regular bedtime and rise time can pay real dividends. Sleeping in at the weekend won’t fully make up for lack of sleep during the week AND will make it harder to wake up Monday morning. As a suggestion keep an alarm not just for wake up but as a nightly reminder of wind down and bedtime.
Natural light exposure during the day for at least 30 minutes helps to regulate sleep patterns by enhancing energy and shutting off daytime melatonin. Even cloudy days provide a light intensity of 10,000 lux (compared to only 250-500 lux indoors.) Consider walk and talk meetings at work as a strategy to get outside.
While naps can be a great habit for a restorative recharge during the day, they are best avoided after 3 pm & never for more than 15-20 minutes duration. Otherwise they can interfere with nocturnal sleep pattern.
#Environment of bedroom
Keep your bedroom dark and cool. The Optimal bedroom temperature for sleep is cooler than many realise at 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees Celsius. Ensure your pillow and mattress are comfortable.
#Technology free zone
Keep digital devices out of your bedroom and your alarm clock out of view to avoid clock watching.
#Blue Wavelength Light.
Avoid blue wavelength light for at least 2 hours before bedtime. Blue wavelength light from mobile devices shuts off melatonin production significantly delaying initiation of sleep and reducing sleep quality.
# Relaxation Routine
Build in a relaxing mental wind down before bed. Give yourself at least 60-90 minutes free from work prior to bedtime.
#Hot bath before bed
In addition to being relaxing and a mental wind down, a warm bath results in rapid heat loss from the skin surface which cools core body temperature afterwards and helps faster initiation of sleep.
#See your doctor if you snore.
You may have a form of sleep apnoea which affects sleep quality and often associated with high blood pressure. Discuss your medications with your doctor to see if they affect sleep. Many treatments for blood pressure, heart as well as over the counter cough cold & allergy medicines may impact on sleep.
#20 Minute Rule.
If you can’t sleep after more than 20 minutes in bed or if you feel anxious or worried, get up & read or do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.
#Watch fluid and food intake at night.
While light snacks are ok, heavier meals affect sleep quality. Drinks late at night can result in frequent trips to the bathroom.
Alcohol is a sedative drug and will anaesthetise your brain, reducing REM sleep and deep restorative sleep. By keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep it can lead to frequent awakenings especially when alcohol wears off in the middle of the night.
Caffeine can take 8 hours to wear off so mid and late afternoon coffee can keep you awake at night. Some people are extremely sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Exercise is a brilliant habit for physical and psychological fitness and promotes a healthy sleep pattern. It is best avoided within 2-3 hours of sleep however as the biochemical energy boost may keep you awake.
#Keep a journal.
Writing down three things you feel grateful for at night is a great way to focus on abundance and appreciation, moving you into a relaxing restorative state. Writing your ‘to do’ list for the following day before going to bed can release pent up worry and anxiety, increasing the quality of your sleep.
Consider counselling in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) from a trained therapist if you have ongoing sleep issues. Avoid sleeping tablets which not only are addictive but increase all cause mortality.
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