Sleep isn’t getting easier for any of us to come by. Busy lives, children, odd work hours, and late-night texts that simply CANNOT be ignored, all work against our natural need to sleep and allow our minds and bodies to heal.
The following 6 tips are all one really needs to sleep better and wake up ready to attack the day, with little more effort than simple stretch and a yawn!
1. Back is Best?
You might have heard that sleeping on your back is the key to a restful nights sleep; that it also causes fewer wrinkles, better digestion, better posture etc. The truth is, if all this hype were true, 63% of the North Americans who sleep on their side would have certainly realized the error of their ways by now.
The fact is you have to do what comes naturally, but be sure to select a mattress and pillow designed for your preferred position.
• Side sleepers should have a softer mattress to prevent circulation problems in their back, arms, shoulder and neck. Their pillow should be firm, with extra support on the ends of the pillow.
• Back and stomach sleepers want to stick with a firmer variety of mattress, to keep the back in reasonably straight alignment. Pillow choice is often dictated by preference, but a reasonably soft one with less stuffing to prevent your head from being overly elevated tends to work best.
2. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Everyone who currently has – or has ever had sleep problems in the past has heard this advice ad-nauseum. And most of you are sick of it, right? A schedule is important though, and can often be completely thrown off if you don’t have any pressing reason to get up at a set time every day (such as a job with a fixed start time.) Maybe a late night program comes on, a friend stops by at or near your bedtime; suddenly 11pm turns into 2 am, and your sleep schedule is completely destroyed.
Set your head down on the pillow every night at the same time, and lay there until it’s time to wake up. Eventually you’ll get tired enough that your mind will be forced to shut off and get some rest. The mistake most of us make is getting up when we can’t sleep or sleeping in when sleep is hard to come by. Even if you’re not sleeping, your body is resting and healing.
3. Avoid Exercise at Least 2 Hours Before Bed
The trouble with any kind of exercise is that it super-charges our adrenals and fires up endocrine system function. Cortisol is released by our endocrine system whenever our body is stressed. In fact, cortisol is released from something as innocent as standing up from a seated position. Imagine what happens when you toss on your sneakers and go for a seemingly innocent walk!
When cortisol is released, adenosine, the hormone that helps prepare our body for sleep is suppressed, making sleep much harder to come by for hours proceeding exercise or other stressful events.
4. The Right Light is Important
Not just while you sleep, but even leading up to sleep. Lights with any sort of blue spectrum in them suppress melatonin production. Similar to how cortisol hampers adenosine; blue spectrum light hampers our melatonin production. Melatonin is the second important hormone in our bodies that helps us get a restful productive sleep.
Blue light, such as that found in nearly all artificial lighting and electronic devices like computer monitors and television screens, cell phones and tablets, is a signal to the body that it’s morning. Blue light is what makes the morning and midday sun so bright and blinding, and is a natural signal to our internal feedback system that we’re supposed to be in a waking state.
All is not lost though, you don’t need to ditch your smartphone to get a good sleep, just be mindful of the light spectrums you’re surrounding yourself with leading up to bedtime. Learn more by reading this great article on light spectrum and sleep.
5. Cool Room = Cool Sleep
There are a couple of good reasons to keep the temperature low while you sleep:
• First, in most places of the world, even the hottest; the temperature generally goes down with the sun. This is another environmental signal to the body that it’s time to wind down, decrease cortisol production, and increase adenosine and melatonin for a restful night’s sleep.
• Second, very few people like to be exposed while they sleep. The need to snuggle deep into a comfy comforter because of a cool room helps soothe us off to sleep faster and wake up less throughout the night.
6. Get a Noise Machine
There are many mainstream noise machines that are very affordable, offering a range of soft subtle tones to help you get, and stay asleep. Having a background noise at a low level lets your brain focus on that specific noise, while tuning out the disrupting sounds in your surroundings such as traffic, construction, “night owl” family members, and household noises such as the furnace and plumbing.
A small household fan, air purifier, or humidifier are also great alternatives to a noise machine.
7. About Napping and/or Waking During Sleep
The jury’s still out on whether napping is beneficial or harmful. This article offers a bit of a different perspective on the amount of sleep a healthy person whose good at regulating their stress levels might need. The fact is, if you find a nap beneficial, then go for it.
If you wake up during the night, the worst thing you can do is stress over the fact that you’re awake. Lie there and think about your day, read a book under a mellow light (of the right spectrum), and your body will continue to rest, even if your mind is awake!