How To Sleep Better – The Aspects That Matter
There are dozens of ways for normalising the sleep: from diet calibration to making use of breathing techniques – the methods gathered under one roof by ‘sleep hygiene’ term. Sleep hygiene deals with practices, habits, and environmental factors that make a direct impact on sleep and have particular importance.
Here are the four core aspects that sleep hygiene considers:
- Circadian rhythms (24-hour rhythm)
- Psychological stressors
- Traditional ‘social drugs’, such as nicotine, caffeine and alcohol
Every person has individual day-night biorhythms, also referred to as circadian rhythms. The more stable circadian rhythms are, the better we sleep. The cycle can be changed under the influence of various factors, such as short naps, exposure to light, evening exercises, crossing time zones and many more.
Age also dramatically influences the quality of sleep. In 40+ years old individuals a sleep picture changes; such people are more subjected to waking up at night than younger people. Such wake-ups not only affect the quality of sleep, but also interact with other conditions, which may cause frequent awakening, e.g., withdrawal symptoms (abstinence) that occur after drinking alcohol before bedtime. The more often you wake up at night, the greater the feeling of fatigue in the morning would be.
Tough deadlines, exams, marital conflicts, problems at work can easily mess up a portion of a daily sleep, since switching off the noise accumulated during the day is a truly complicated task. Working late into the night, remembering all the events that have passed for the day, planning the next day – in rush of a daily routine, it is hardly impossible to erase the data instantly and immerse yourself in the deep sleep.
Therefore, a specific bedtime ritual is recommended to be developed to break the link between stress and bedtime. The ritual can last from 10 minutes to an hour. Some find relaxation in composing a list of stressors along with possible solutions. The technique can be combined with abstraction, for example, reading positive novels, meditating or taking a hot bath.
Social or recreational drugs
Social or recreational drugs such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol have a disastrous effect on sleep – in reality, the negative impact is greater than it might seem at first glance. Caffeine builds up in the body for 14 hours and contributes to undesired awakenings overnight, consequently reducing the amount of sleep. This in turn may affect the health and appearance of irritability or anxiety in the daytime. Nicotine acts similarly, with the difference that it enters the body at lower doses and acts as a sedative in small doses; but in large dosages it almost always contributes to poor sleep.
Alcohol can also act as a sedative and help to fall asleep sleep. But, as metabolism and cleansing of the body occur even during sleep, it may also result in unwanted awakenings. Concurrent smoking and drinking alcohol and caffeine dramatically affects the condition of the body. Sleep disturbance will lead to the fact that in the morning you will feel tired and unrefreshed in addition to a hangover effect.
It is important to understand that the lack of a full sleep not only has short-term effects, but leads to negative long-lasting consequences.
The amount of sleep, reduced by only an hour and a half, reduces your daily efficiency by nearly 30%. Excessive daytime sleepiness impairs memory and the ability to think and process information, and this increases the risk of occupational injury. A lack of sleep during a long period, caused by sleep disorders (e.g., apnea seizures) may result in blood pressure rise, heart attack or stroke.
How to sleep better: sleep hygiene principles in action
Help yourself with a bunch of ‘how to sleep better’ tips that will help you to relax, sleep soundly through the night, improve the quality of sleep and wake up in the morning refreshed and full of energy.
- Exclude watching TV, eating and engaging in emotional discussions while in bed and prior to bedtime. Otherwise, the bed may become associated with other activities over time, making the process of falling asleep extremely complicated.
- Try to minimize noise and light: even slight noises or luminescent radiation can degrade the quality of sleep; find a golden medium temperature is also crucial. Thus, using earplugs and having decent curtains, electric blanket or air conditioner is always justified
- Avoid drinking any liquid after 8 pm: this will reduce the frequency of awakenings at night because of the need toilet.
- Avoid having short sleeps during the daytime. If taking a nap is inevitable, make sure it lasts no longer than 25 minutes and 8 hours after awakening. However, if you have issues with falling asleep, try to refuse from short naps in the afternoon.
- If you cannot fall asleep in complete darkness, leave soft light fixtures turned on only.
- Nicotine is a stimulant that causes awakenings during sleep hours. Smoking before bed, at first glance, relaxes the body, but at the same time it stirs the blood.
- Caffeine is another stimulant that presents in coffee (100-200 mg), soda (50-75 mg), tea (50-75 mg) and a majority of OTC (over-the-counter) medications. Avoid taking caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. If you have been drinking coffee in large quantities, abrupt discontinuation can lead to headaches, which can also cause frequent awakenings at night.
- Although alcohol may help to fall asleep, its withdrawal from the body occurs, resulting in the opposite effects as time passes (nightmares and excessive sweating are among them).
- Do not engage in intense physical exercises before going to bed, especially if you are one of those who easily wakes up at night. In this case it is better to engage in the morning or afternoon (preferably just aerobics, such as jogging or brisk walking).
- If your pet sleeps with you, it can also be the cause of sleep problems: be it an allergy to animal hair or extra noise or movement.
In addition, it is worth mentioning a technological approach to the business: the niche of mobile applications also offers a number of powerful tools for improving sleep. Such products as Sleep Cycle, Sleep As Android or Sleep tracker help to obtain qualitative and quantitative picture of sleep, serving as great motivators at the same time.
Observing simple rules and armed with modern technologies, you’ll wake up rested, refreshed and full of energy.