6 Tips to Improving Your Sleep
Experiencing lack of sleep can leave you feeling unmotivated, unable to concentrate, worried, tired and overwhelmed. This can affect your ability to get tasks done well and can lead to poor decision making. But if we flip a poor night’s sleep into a good night’s sleep, you will notice a world of difference; such as feeling energised, clear in the mind and an extra step in your stride. Sleep issues can be complex but fortunately there are some small achievable things you can do to eliminate what might be preventing you from getting a well-rested sleep. Of course, there may be a need to eliminate more serious conditions with your GP but these 6 tips are a great place to start.
- Light Exposure
To support your natural circadian rhythm, it is important to get daytime bright light exposure which has shown to improve sleep quality and duration for people with insomnia. Exposure to light at night time has the opposite effect. Avoiding bright lights such as watching TV and especially using electronic devices like smartphones and computers which emit large amounts of blue light can be problematic for sleep. Some simple suggestions include limiting your tv viewing at night, not using electronic devices at night or install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone. These are available for both iPhones and Android models.
- Minimise Your Fluid and Food Intake Before Bed
Caffeine has its benefits as it can help with focus and energy however when consumed late in the day it can stimulate your nervous system and you may find it more difficult to relax. Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Avoid drinking coffee 8 hrs before your normal sleep time to be on the safe side and if you must, stick with decaffeinated coffee. Also, be mindful that a couple of drinks of alcohol at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones. Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep.
- Creating A Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Things such as noise, external lights and even bedroom furniture layout can affect your sleep. Are you finding that you are too hot at night or perhaps too cold? It is suggested 20°C is the ideal temperature and through trialling different blanket arrangements to suit your changing weather conditions is a doable solution. Street lights can often shine through the side or bottom of blinds, and simply by addressing this issue with a change in blinds may make a big difference. Reducing external noise such as traffic noise is out of your control but using ear plugs is likely to make a big difference. Make sure your mattress and pillow is comfortable and supportive. Finding the right mattress and bedding for you is important and with the right support and comfort, you are likely to experience less pain and a better sleep. It is recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years.
- Exercise Regularly
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health and has been shown to reduce symptoms of insomnia. Picking your time of when you do your exercise is also important as, performing it too late in the day may cause sleep problems as it causes a stimulatory effect increasing alertness. Look at exercises that you enjoy and add value to your life so it does not become a chore. Remember some exercise is better than no exercise, so starting small is better than not starting at all.
- Consistent Routine
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can benefit your long-term sleep quality. Studies have highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signals your brain to sleep. If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times, but don’t be hard on yourself, and understand that new patterns don’t happen overnight. Using a sleep diary can help you notice patterns and can arm you with new knowledge to make adjustments along the way.
- Clear your Mind
When you drive a car you shift down gears and your body also needs time to shift into sleep mode, so practice a relaxing bedtime ritual – for example reading, hot bath, listening to music, practicing mindfulness an hour before bed can do wonders for calming the mind down ready to transition into sleep.
If you would like to take it a step further, many people are using technologies to support their sleep hygiene. One of those technologies is NeurOptimal® neurofeedback which supports the brain to relax, optimise and be in the present.
About the Author
Steve Phillis (Australia) is counsellor, speaker, educator, NeurOptimal® Rep and Instructor