Written in collaboration with adairs
Sleep is one of the most important things our bodies need to survive. And maintaining a healthy sleep schedule will serve you better than regular exercise or a healthy diet. Research has shown that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, brain function, exercise performance and digestion.
Finding productive and healthy ways to improve your sleep quality should be a primary concern for anyone, particularly those suffering from irregular and low-quality rest. From creating restful environments with your favourite wool quilts to spending more time outside, these simple steps will have a massive impact.
Stick to a sleep schedule
The recommended amount of sleep for an adult to be well-rested is at least seven hours and no more than eight. By sticking to this time parameter, you avoid under sleeping and oversleeping, which can both negatively impact the function of your body.
Go to bed and wake up every day at the same time. Sticking to this schedule trains your body to work on a cycle. If you don’t fall asleep in the first 20 mins of going to bed, leave your room and engage in a relaxing task, like reading or listening to calming music. Repeat this as many times as needed but maintain your proper schedule and the times you have set for yourself.
Regular physical activity is an excellent promoter of healthy sleep. Not only are you exposing your body to natural sunlight that it needs to regulate your internal clock, but the fresh air and exercise also drain your energy healthily and productively.
Many people feel an instant mood and energy boost post-workout, allowing them to function properly for the rest of the day. Because of this energy boost, it is recommended that you avoid being active close to your bedtime.
Pay attention to diet
As much as possible, avoid heading to bed feeling hungry or stuffed. Indulging in a heavy meal so close to bedtime can lead to discomfort that may keep you awake. Furthermore, products that contain nicotine, caffeine and alcohol should be heavily limited in the latter half of the day.
The stimulants found in nicotine and caffeine can take hours to wear off completely, keeping you wide awake at bedtime. Additionally, alcohol may initially make you sleepy but will likely cause issues later at night.
Increase bright light exposure
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock, more commonly known as circadian rhythm. This rhythm affects your brain, body and hormones, alerting your body when it is time to go to sleep and when you need to wake up.
Natural sunshine or bright light, which occurs during the day, helps to maintain a healthy rhythm, increasing your daytime energy and improving your sleep at night. Studies have shown that spending just two hours a day outside helped increase sleep by an extra two hours and improved efficiency by a massive 80%. If you live somewhere that lacks daily sunlight, invest in an artificial bright light device or bulbs for a mimicked effect.
Create a restful environment
Many experts agree that setting up your room environment in a restful, calm and inviting way is a key factor in determining the quality of your sleep. This umbrella term can include temperature, noise, furniture arrangement and quality, and artificial light.
To create a peaceful room for optimised sleep, limit external noises and light, avoid setting up a workstation in your bedroom, keep it clean and orderly, and maintain a comfortable temperature through heaters or fans.
Manage anxiety & stress
For those suffering from anxiety or stress, finding ways to relax and settle their minds is vital to their daily routines. Relaxation techniques used prior to sleeping have been shown to improve sleep quality and are recommended treatment plans for people living with insomnia.
Methods include listening to relaxing music, taking a hot bath, meditating, reading a chapter or two of a book and deep breathing. Try different strategies to determine what is best for you and your night-time needs.
Limit daytime naps
For many people, it may feel impossible to get through the day without an afternoon nap to carry them through to bedtime. But having too long a nap during the day can prevent you from falling asleep and disrupt your established schedule. Therefore, you should never nap for more than one hour a day and avoid having one later in the day.
However, for many night shift workers, taking a later nap closer to the start of their shift is essential for erasing the sleep debt you may incur with unusual working hours.
Rule out sleep disorders
Suppose you feel like you have tried everything to improve your quality of sleep, and nothing is making a difference. In that case, it is wise to consult with your doctor about the possibility of an underlying health condition that may be the root of your problem.
One common issue is sleep apnea, a condition that causes irregular and interrupted breathing. People who suffer from it will stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping. Other possible problems include insomnia, sleep movement disorders and circadian rhythm problems, a common complaint with shift workers.