Getting a good night's sleep is essential to living a healthier and more productive life. It refreshes us, relaxes us and ultimately, it leads to better physical and mental health.
Sleep is The Magic Potion in Life
Getting that solid eight hours of sleep has become so important in our fast-paced societies that doctors and therapists are actually “prescribing” more sleep.
You may be thinking is it really so hard to get a good night’s sleep?
Turns out, it’s not so easy.
More and more people are reporting poor sleep, and the “hustle” culture has not made things easier on us.
To make it clear, it’s not just about the quantity of sleep, but the quality of sleep.
It’s easy enough to be “asleep” for eight hours, but during those eight hours did you sleep soundly or were you tossing and turning and wake up frequently during the night?
Further to this, are you frequently yawning during the day?
Do you get easily irritated?
Is your lack of sleep impacting your behaviour at home or work?
If you have answered yes, to any of the above questions, you may need to rethink your night’s sleep.
Luckily, for you, this guide has everything you need to know to help you get a good night’s rest.
First Things First, Let’s Talk Sleeping Environment
Because no one likes to sleep in a pile of dirty laundry!
Look around your bedroom. Really look at it.
Does your room make you feel relaxed, or does it cause you tension?
Does your bed look cosy and inviting or “just a place to sleep”?
More importantly, is it clean?
You may be surprised to read that your room’s environment can impact your sleep and it is your responsibility to create an optimal sleeping condition in your room.
Ah, the simple pillow. One of the most underrated sleeping items ever.
Look at your pillows. Is it a comfortable one that you love using?
The right pillow can be the key to getting a good night’s sleep.
There are so many pillows on the market these days it can be tricky to choose the correct one for you.
There are four main types of pillows in which you can choose from: down, memory foam, polyester and latex.
- Down Pillows
Down pillows are made from goose or duck feathers and they are premium pillows.
As a result, they tend to be slightly expensive.
However, it's an investment worth having because they are long-lasting (they can last for 10-15 years!) and you can’t put a price on good health and good night sleep.
These pillows provide a soft and fluffy surface that can easily be reshaped so it provides excellent support for your head and neck.
As they are made of feathers, the pillows are super light so if you’re a traveller you can take them with you easily!
Down-Alternative Pillows are for you if you’re feeling icky about those poor birds.
As a synthetic substitute for real down feather, they are less expensive but have a similar plush feel, so you won’t be missing out on the perks of owning a real down pillow.
- Latex Pillows
Latex pillows are becoming quite common in households.
There have a soft and springy feel and provides great support for the head and neck.
They are also breathable, so you won’t feel smothered by your own pillow.
Obviously, not for anyone with a latex allergy.
- Polyester Pillows
One of the most accessible pillow materials is polyester fill and it grants the user gentle support and a range of firmness.
These pillows aren't pricey, but they tend to lose their shape in a quicker amount of time.
- Memory Foam Pillows
Memory form pillows conform to the shape of your head while you sleep, which is what makes them so popular.
They’re good pillows but they do have a reputation of emitting a strong chemical smell.
In a nutshell, it's worth re-evaluating the type of pillow that you sleep on and perhaps changing it if you feel that your current pillow is just not cutting it for a good night’s sleep.
- Total Blackout
Research shows that even small amounts of light coming into your bedroom can hamper your sleep negatively.
The reason for this is that light is a danger signal that the brain is programmed to react to even when we are sleeping.
Thus, the smallest amount of light that enters your room will most likely keep you in the light sleep zone and not the deep sleep zone.
Invest in some good quality curtains that can completely block out lights coming from the outside.
Also note, any light source affects sleep, even those pesky lights coming from your TV, laptop or smartphone.
So ensure you keep them on "do not disturb" mode, turn them off or just keep them out of your room.
If you can't completely remove the light from your room, try out an eye mask.
- Clean Your Room
Don’t allow your bedroom to turn into a storage room.
Clear the clutter and make space for yourself.
Not every nook and cranny of your room needs to be filled with something.
This only creates feelings of being overwhelmed and raises your cortisol levels thereby causing you to have trouble sleeping!
Get the clutter out of the way by getting rid of anything you don’t need any more or create space for them that isn’t your bedroom.
Your bedroom is your haven that should only have one function and that is to sleep.
Leave Your Devices out of the Bedroom
You've heard this one at least a million times before and we all know it's easier said than done.
We all love winding down on our bed by scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, Facebook or whatever your preferred choice of social media drug is.
But seriously, put your phone and laptop away at least an hour before bed.
These devices emit a blue light that stops your body from releasing melatonin.
Melatonin is the "sleepy" hormone and is responsible for our sleep so if your body isn't producing that, you may have trouble sleeping.
Not only that, scrolling aimlessly through social media can peak your anxiety levels if you come across something undesirable.
With so much negativity going on across the world, you pretty much guaranteed to come across something.
Create a Religious Bedtime Routine and Stick to it
I have this thing where all social media is “closed” for at 6 pm.
How do I achieve this? I use a blocking app.
This forces me to do things that are better for me, such as read a book, make dinner, exercise or walk the dog.
Doing all of this winds me down by the time my sleep time comes along, so I feel relaxed and ready for bed.
Your bedtime schedule can include anything that helps you unwind and be ready for sleep.
Try some yoga or meditation to help relax.
Simply put, try having a consistent sleep schedule every night by going to bed at the same time and try to wake up at the same time every morning.
Get Some Exercise
It’s a no brainer that working out has some pretty great health benefits.
It doesn’t matter what time you chose to exercise as you are likely to sleep better by just being active.
Whether you decide to do exercise in the morning or evening, ensure that get at least 30 minutes of workout time for the best results.
If you’re more likely to do exercise just before bed, try some light yoga.
Watch What You Eat!
Diets that are high in unhealthy fat lower sleep efficiency.
Unhealthy fats unfortunately include all our favourite foods such as cookies, doughnuts, hamburgers, cakes, pizza and fried foods.
Make sure you have a healthy balanced diet that includes loads of fruits and veggies and make sure to drink sufficient water.
If you are lacking key nutrients in your diet that could also affect your sleep, for example, Vitamin D is known to improve sleep quality.
Rich sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as sardines or salmon, fortified foods such as cereals or milk, and egg yolks.
You can also take magnesium supplements to improve your sleep quality. Check with your doctor first!
Blood sugar levels also affect your sleep.
Low blood sugar often causes nightmares and you may wake up feeling sweaty and clammy while a high blood sugar level can make you feel irritated and restless in your sleep.
Thus, before bed, it's best to avoid food that may cause fluctuations in your blood sugar level.
Foods that cause spikes in blood sugar are those that are high in carbohydrates such as rice, bread, fruits and sugar.
Some foods that you can eat before going to bed including avocados, veggies, leafy greens, berries, nuts and eggs.
Hopefully, by now, you know how important sleep is and how it can affect our life, physically and mentally.
Simply put, rest is important.
Ensure that you are getting the quality sleep that you need and if not, with the help of our guide, look at what needs to be changed.
Sometimes it’s a simple fix such as changing your pillows and other times it can be a bit more complex such as getting the right nutrients.
Whatever it is, check with your body.
Remember, “a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.”