Sleep is so important. In fact, the quality of your sleep is one of the key factors that determines the overall quality of our physical and mental health. The amount of sleep you have during any given night determines how well-rested you will feel the next day which in turn also affects your energy levels and daily performance. So, not only do we love sleep, we need sleep which is why it’s so unfortunate that more than 60% of people experience sleep deprivation and struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep.
There are many factors that determine the quality of our sleep but, when it comes to poor-quality sleep, unhealthy lifestyle choices in our daily lives more often than not reveals itself to be the culprit. With a bad night’s sleep having adverse effects on our moods, immune system, our ability to cope and health in general, it is worth putting in some time and effort into improving our sleep.
Luckily, improving your sleep is something that is well within your reach and with just a few small tweaks to your daily habits, restless nights will soon be a thing of the past. Here are five simple ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Create a routine and stick to it
Synchronising your body with its natural cycle or circadian rhythm, the times when you would natural fall asleep and wake up is a crucial first step towards better sleep. It has been proven that sticking to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the exact time is vital for establishing patterns and helping you get a good nights sleep. A key factor here is the quality of your sleep, when you’re responding to your body’s natural circadian rhythm your sleep will be deeper and more restful even if you’re still sleeping for the same amount of hours. A great way to set a daily sleep schedule is to choose the right moment to go to bed. There is no magic number and the exact time will be different for everyone but basically it should be a time when you are naturally feeling tired.
- Avoid stimulants at nighttime
What we eat throughout the day and particularly what we consume in the hours before going to bed can have huge effects on the quality of our sleep. Stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, preservatives and some medication prevent or disrupt our sleep if we consume them too close to bedtime. If you’re struggling with sleep, research shows that not only should you limit your intake of stimulants throughout the entire day but you should also be careful with what time you consume any stimulants. If you’re a coffee lover there’s no reason to stop drinking coffee altogether but perhaps switch to decaf in the afternoons as studies show that caffeine can impact your sleep for up to six hours after you consume it. Most people know that alcohol is a depressant (meaning it will make you feel lethargic) but, when consumed just before bedtime, it can actually have the opposite effect causing disrupted sleep. Try and keep your consumption of these substances to a minimum and avoid them entirely in the 3 hours before you go to sleep.
- Control your environment
Light and sound are environmental factors that are likely to impact both the quality and quantity of your sleep. Control environmental distractions by using heavy curtains or blackout shades or by sleeping with earplugs or potentially using a white noise machine. The temperature of your room can also affect the quality of your sleep. Keep your room at a temperature that works for you, if you’re unsure of what temperature you find comfortable, 20 degrees celsius is comfortable for most people. If you continue to have trouble getting quality sleep or suspect that beyond behavioural and environmental factors you might have a sleep disorder then you may need to consult a doctor or sleep specialist. If you’re diagnosed, there are many ways of treating sleep disorders moving forward. CPAP is an example of a therapy that successfully deals with sleep apnea, relieving the symptoms so you can get a well-deserved night’s rest.
- Replace your pillow
Think about it, most of us spend more than a third of our lives asleep so, an investment in the quality of that sleep is well worth the price. So, treat yourself to new bedding such as an ergonomic mattress and pillow is something that everyone should look into. A good quality pillow will properly support your spine and neck and reduce the chances of poor sleep and headaches in the morning.
As we are resting our heads on our pillows every night, even the highest-quality pillows will eventually flatten out and lose their supportive nature. So make sure you replace your pillow every one or two years researching the best pillows for you every time you buy.
- Limit your screen-time
We live in the age of digital technology and are constantly interrupted by our phones and screens. More often than not, we are exposed to blue light from our phones and laptops. It’s hard to resist the urge to scroll through social media while lying in bed but you should absolutely resist it because not only does the blue light impede the production of the melatonin that controls our sleep schedule but the stimulation of social media can leave thoughts running through your mind. So, try switching off your smartphone or other electronic devices, including your TV an hour before going to bed and, if possible, try and keep them out of your bedroom entirely.
There are many simple ways to improve your sleep routine to ensure that you get a good night’s rest. Once you’ve figured out what’s stopping you from getting to sleep whether it’s light, noise, caffeine late at night or even a sleep disorder then you can plan a way to improve your situation moving forward. Talking to your doctor as soon as you notice a problem will allow you to find the best solution to suit your situation, so that you can continue to sleep soundly at night as you once did.