In a fast-paced and ever-demanding world, us humans are finding it increasingly difficult to go from the fast lane to slumberland. We are, thankfully, also creatures of habit. Here, James Dixon gives highlights the most important healthy sleep habits to double down into the pillow with.
Plenty of us find ourselves unable to sleep, or at least unable to sleep in a way that allows us to feel fully rejuvenated. A lot of this can be down to our habits and whether or not they are geared towards sleep. Just a few simple changes might make all the difference, allowing you to sleep more easily and greatly improving your sleep duration and quality.
There are plenty of daily wellbeing activities that can lead to improved sleep at night. Incorporating them into your daily routine really can make a difference.
Natural light is a big deal. You should always try to make sure that you get at least 30 minutes of exposure to natural daylight. This helps to more ably regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle and makes it easier to fall asleep at night. If you can, step outside in the morning or let natural light in through your windows if going outside isn’t possible.
Sleeping and eating schedule
You should also implement a regular sleep schedule. Maintaining consistent bedtimes and wake-up times can significantly enhance the quality of your sleep. Research has shown that following a consistent schedule can improve sleep, and the timing of daily activities, like meals, can also affect sleep patterns.
Choose a specific time to wake up each day and start your morning with the same routine. Plan your meals for roughly the same times each day, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Similarly, having a consistent bedtime routine can signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Napping can help or hinder your nighttime sleep. If you like to nap, you can optimize the benefits on offer by keeping them short and in the early afternoon. Napping close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Limit your naps to 20 minutes and schedule them at least eight hours before bedtime.
Your diet also plays a role in your sleep health. Incorporating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals can support better sleep by providing essential vitamins and nutrients. If you’re unsure about your current diet, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist, who will be able to properly advise you.
Managing stress is crucial for getting good sleep. How you respond to stressful situations can affect your sleep quality. Learning and regularly practicing relaxation techniques, like deep breathing and visualization, can help you better handle stress and improve your sleep.
Try different techniques to find what works best for you. Practicing these techniques during the day can prepare you to use them at bedtime, promoting a calm state for sleep.
By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can enhance your sleep quality and overall sleep health. Remember to prioritize exposure to daylight, create a sleep schedule that is consistent, limit afternoon naps, eat nutritious foods, and run through relaxation techniques to manage stress.
Your sleep routine
The quality of your sleep can be influenced by your sleep routine. Establishing a healthy nightly routine can lay the groundwork for better and more rejuvenating sleep. Do the following to give yourself the best chance of getting to sleep and staying there.
Reduce screen time before going to sleep
Blue light produced by your electronic devices can inhibit your sleep by suppressing melatonin production (melatonin is a hormone involved in sleep regulation). Avoid using screens at least an hour before bed, or use blue light filters or apps that adjust the screen’s color temperature.
Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime
Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality, but exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep. Aim to finish your workout at least a few hours before going to bed.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt and interfere with your sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, so try to limit your consumption in the afternoon and evening. While alcohol may make you feel drowsy initially, it can lead to fragmented and less restorative sleep.
Practice your relaxation techniques right before bed
If you find it difficult to unwind before bedtime, try incorporating relaxation techniques into your nightly routine. This can include things like gentle stretching, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or even just taking a nice warm bath with candles.
Avoid heavy meals and fluids close to bedtime
Eating a large meal or consuming a lot of liquids before bed can cause digestive discomfort and increase your need to use the bathroom during the night. Try to have your last meal or snack a few hours before going to bed and consider limiting your fluid intake in the evening.
Consider natural sleep aids
It’s a good idea to experiment with natural sleep aids such as herbal teas (e.g., chamomile or valerian root), aromatherapy (e.g., lavender essential oil), or relaxation techniques like mindfulness or meditation, if you’re struggling to fall or stay asleep.
Getting your sleep environment right
Your sleep environment is incredibly important. Nobody can get a good night’s sleep if they are uncomfortable or distracted, blinded by light, disturbed by noise, or stressed out by clutter or dirt. You need to gear your sleep environment towards restful, peaceful sleep as an absolute priority.
Consider the following tips to make sure that your sleep environment is exactly what it needs to be.
Invest in some blackout blinds
Blackout blinds are an excellent addition to your sleeping environment for several reasons. They are specifically designed to block out unwanted light and create a dark and peaceful atmosphere in your bedroom.
Blackout blinds not only block out light but also help minimize external distractions. They can shield your bedroom from streetlights, passing cars, or any other sources of outside noise and visual stimulation, creating a calm and serene sleeping environment. By reducing distractions, blackout blinds can contribute to a more peaceful and undisturbed sleep.
Excessive sunlight entering your bedroom can cause heat buildup, leading to discomfort and making it harder to sleep. Blackout blinds act as a barrier against sunlight, preventing your room from heating up during the day. This can help maintain a cooler temperature in your bedroom, promoting a more comfortable sleep environment.
Blackout blinds are available in various styles, including roller blinds, curtains, and cellular shades, allowing you to choose the option that best suits your aesthetic preferences and functional needs. However you style it, incorporating blackout blinds into your sleeping environment can significantly contribute to a better sleep quality and overall well-being.
Declutter your bedroom
Having a clutter-free bedroom is not just about aesthetics; it can have a significant impact on your overall wellbeing. A cluttered space can contribute to a cluttered mind, which can lead to increased stress levels and difficulty in focusing. On the other hand, a tidy and organized bedroom can promote a sense of calm and relaxation, helping you unwind and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Additionally, a cluttered bedroom can create visual distractions that can disrupt your sleep. It can overstimulate your mind, making it harder to relax and fall asleep.
A tidy and organized bedroom, on the other hand, creates a peaceful and calming atmosphere that promotes restful sleep. When your bedroom is free of clutter, your mind can relax, and you can easily transition into a state of relaxation, allowing for a more restorative sleep experience.
Organizing your bedroom can also have a positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being. Cluttered spaces can subconsciously remind you of unfinished tasks. They can be overwhelming, and this feeling alone can lead to increased anxiety. When your bedroom is tidy and organized, it can create a sense of order and control, helping to reduce stress and improve your overall mood.
So how can you keep your bedroom tidy and organized? Just follow a few simple steps:
- Declutter regularly: Take the time to go through your belongings and get rid of items you no longer need or use. This will help prevent unnecessary clutter from accumulating in your bedroom.
- Create designated storage spaces: Invest in storage solutions such as bins, baskets, and shelves to keep your belongings organized. Assign specific places for different items, making it easier to find things and put them away again.
- Simplify your decor: Minimize the number of decorative items in your bedroom to create a clean and serene environment. Opt for a few meaningful items that bring you joy rather than overwhelming the space with clutter.
- Develop a cleaning routine: Set aside time each week to clean and organize your bedroom. This will help prevent clutter from building up and maintain a tidy space.
By keeping your bedroom tidy and organized, you create a peaceful and calming environment that promotes relaxation and better sleep. So take the time to declutter and organize your bedroom, and enjoy the benefits of a clean and serene space.
Invest in a comfortable bedding set
Natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen are excellent choices for sheets, blankets, and pillows. These materials have the ability to promote airflow, allowing your body to stay cool and comfortable throughout the night.
Cotton is a popular choice for bedding due to its softness and breathability. It is a natural fibre that absorbs moisture, keeping you dry and preventing the buildup of sweat. Additionally, cotton sheets and blankets are easy to care for and have a longer lifespan compared to synthetic materials.
Linen is another fantastic option for bedding, especially during the warmer months. It is made from flax fibres and has excellent moisture-wicking properties. Linen sheets and blankets are highly breathable, allowing air to circulate and preventing overheating. The fabric also becomes softer and more comfortable with each wash.
Choosing the right material for your pillows can greatly impact your sleep quality. Natural fillings such as down and feathers provide a plush and luxurious feel, while still allowing air to flow through. These types of pillows adapt to your head and neck, providing optimal support and comfort.
In addition to selecting the right fabrics, it’s essential to consider the thread count of your sheets. Thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of fabric. While a high thread count may be associated with luxury, it’s important to note that a higher thread count doesn’t always guarantee better quality. It’s more important to choose a thread count that strikes the right balance between softness and breathability. A thread count between 200 and 400 is generally considered suitable for most people.
Control the humidity
Maintaining the right humidity level in your bedroom is essential for comfortable sleep. Dry air can cause nasal congestion and dryness, while excessive humidity can lead to discomfort and disrupt sleep quality. Consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier to achieve optimal humidity levels.
Minimize electronic devices
Blue light is a type of light that is emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. While exposure to natural blue light during the day can be beneficial for regulating our sleep-wake cycle, excessive exposure to artificial blue light, especially in the evening, can have negative effects.
One significant impact of blue light on our sleep is its ability to suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep. When we are exposed to blue light in the evening, it signals to our brain that it is still daytime, thus delaying the release of melatonin and making it more difficult for us to fall asleep.
To mitigate the negative effects of blue light on our sleep, it is a good idea to avoid using electronic devices in the bedroom before bedtime. This includes activities such as browsing the internet, watching TV, or using social media. The goal is to create a relaxing environment that prepares the body for sleep.
If it is necessary to use electronic devices in the evening, there are apps and blue light filters available that can help reduce the amount of blue light emitted from these devices. These apps or filters work by adjusting the screen’s colour temperature, reducing the amount of blue light and shifting it towards warmer tones, such as red and orange. This can make the screen easier on the eyes and minimize the impact on melatonin production.
Create a bedtime routine
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine signals to your body to begin to unwind and prepare for sleep. Include relaxing activities such as having a nice, warm bath, reading a book, or practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, tai chi, meditation, or deep breathing.
Remember, creating an optimal sleep environment is a personal journey, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you. Experiment with different strategies and listen to your body’s cues to create a bedroom environment conducive to restful sleep.
Developing healthy sleep habits can improve your ability to fall asleep and wake up refreshed. By incorporating daily wellness activities, establishing a consistent sleep schedule, managing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, and setting up a clutter-free, soothing sleeping space, you can enhance your sleep quality quite significantly.