Sleep is one of the most essential processes of our lives that help us to function effectively. While we sleep our bodies repair and restore both body and mind, and it is vital to ensure that we get sufficient sleep everyday to enable this process.
It is without a doubt that we can all benefit from improving the quality of our sleep. For some of us, it may just be as simple as making small lifestyle adjustments, while for others, it may take an expert intervention or specialist treatments. Whatever it may be, it is crucial for all of us to take care of our health, both physically, mentally and emotionally through the simplest way possible, which is a good night’s sleep.
Health, Stress and Sleep
Sleep and health are strongly related. Poor sleep increases the risk of poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep. Common mental health problems like anxiety and depression can often underpin sleep problems. Poor sleep over a sustained period can also lead to a number of problems which are immediately recognisable including fatigue, sleepiness, poor concentration, lapses in memory, and irritability.
Up to one third of the human population may suffer from insomnia which affects our moods, energy, concentration levels, relationships, and our ability to stay awake and function during the day.
If you’re experiencing stresses in your life, chances are that you might be struggling to fall or stay asleep at night as well. Your anxious worry about life and its problems may keep your brain from settling down, and the disruption of sleep is likely to keep you feeling more on edge the next day. Sleep disruption is a common feature of mental health problems, and anxiety is no exception. More that 40 million people say that they experience a long-term sleep disorder, with many others experiencing occasional sleep disruption due to stress. 70% of adults report that they experience daily stressors, so it makes sense that on average we are getting less sleep than in the previous decades.
Circadian Rhythm Keeps Our Body Going
Our bodies are finely tuned machines that have different control centers to regulate what we do and when we do it. One of the most well-known control centers of our bodies that control our biological rhythm is the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm controls most of our biological and behavioral functions and when it is deregulated, the body doesn’t get the opportunity to get in sync. As a result, our motor, emotional, and interpersonal functions are altered.
What’s fascinating about this is that sleep helps make this alignment possible. Sleep helps to wind all our organs’ clocks to keep them running smoothly and without sufficient sleep, we feel edgy or emotional when we’re overtired.
An interrupted circadian rhythm can cause sleep disorders and major physiological disturbances. Among the sleep problems that one can go through are cognitive impairments, such as a decrease in learning and attention capabilities, decrease in long-term memory, impaired language development and unstable emotions. These can also take form in cases of insomnia, un-rested sleep, constant waking up at night or prolonged sleep.
So here’s how you can make a good night’s sleep a reality and keep your circadian running smoothly.
Making A Good Night’s Sleep A Reality
It is no secret that a good night’s sleep helps to improve not just our physical health, but our mental health too. So here are some tips to make falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
1. Increase bright lights in the day
Natural sunlight or bright lights during the day help keep our circadian rhythm healthy. This improves our daytime energy, as well as night time sleep quality and duration.
According to studies, daytime bright light exposure to those who suffer insomnia showed improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took them to fall asleep by 83%. A similar study in older adults also found that 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80%.
So get your daily sunlight exposure for a better night’s sleep.
2. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
While exposure to light during the day is beneficial, nighttime light exposure has the complete opposite effect. Again, this is due to its effect on your circadian rhythm, which tricks your brain into thinking that it’s still day time.
Blue light which electronic devices like smart phones and computers emit in large amounts is the worst culprit. So avoid watching TV or being on your phones or gadgets at least 2 hours before heading to bed.
3. Avoid caffeine consumption late in the day
Caffeine has numerous benefits. A single dose can enhance focus, energy, and sports performance. However, when consumed late in the day, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
In fact, in one study, it showed that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime significantly worsened sleep quality as it can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, stick with decaffeinated coffee.
4. Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep. Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, meaning that you may struggle to sleep at night. In fact, in a study, participants ended up being sleepier during the day after taking daytime naps. While another study showed that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can harm health and sleep quality.
However, if you regularly take daytime naps and still sleep well at night, then you shouldn’t worry. The effects of napping depend greatly on the individual.
5. Sleep and wake up at consistent times
Our body’s circadian rhythm function is set on a loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Therefore, being consistent with our sleep and waking times can aid in long-term sleep quality.
A sleep study showed that participants who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep. While another study showed that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep.
If you struggle with sleep, try to get into the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
6. Make your bedroom a haven
Our bedroom environment is a key factor in getting a good night’s sleep. From the temperature, noise levels, external lights, and furniture arrangement, everything plays a part in setting up the ideal set up for a good night’s sleep.
Numerous studies showed that external noise, often from traffic, can cause poor sleep and long-term health issues. In another study, 50% of its participants showed improved sleep quality when noise and light were eliminated.
So work on making your bedroom your haven. Keep it clean and tidy, have warm dim lights, add relaxing scents, set up the right temperature and prepare a welcoming bed. Now you’re ready for a restful sleep.
7. Avoid eating late at night
Eating late at night affects both your sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin. That said, the quality and type of your late-night snack may play a role as well.
One study showed that a high carb meal eaten 4 hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster, while another showed that a low carb diet also improved sleep, indicating that carbs aren’t always necessary, especially if you’re used to a low carb diet.
8. Relax and clear your mind in the evening
Set aside a pre-sleep routine that helps you relax. A relaxation technique before bed has shown to improve sleep quality and is another common technique used to treat insomnia.
You can also listen to relaxing music, read a book, take a hot bath, meditate, do deep breathing exercises and anything that helps you relax. Try out different methods and find what works best for you.
9. A warm bath or shower
A warm bath or shower is another proven way to sleep better. Studies show that they can help improve overall sleep quality and help older adults fall asleep faster.
In one study, taking a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped people get more deep sleep. Alternatively, if you don’t want to take a full bath at night, simply soaking your feet in hot water can also help you relax and improve sleep.
10. A comfortable bed, mattress, and clean sheets
People often wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel. Well, apart from the relaxing environment, hotel beds are comfy and welcoming. So equip your room with a mattress that provides you with comfort and support, like the Sealy Posturepedic.
Studies show that sleeping on a new mattress for 28 days reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60%, and back stiffness by 59%. It also improved sleep quality by 60%. Other studies show that clean new bedding enhances sleep. Additionally, poor quality bedding lead to increased lower back pain.
If you haven’t replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, you may want to consider switching to a Sealy Posturepedic today! Technologically driven and comfort guaranteed, you will not regret choosing a Sealy Posturepedic.
While there are many factors that lead to a better night’s sleep, the bottom line lies in the fact that proper rested sleep plays a key role in our physical, emotional and mental health. So make sleep a top priority in your life, and start incorporating some of the tips above for a better sleep, every night!