Waking up feeling exhausted, drained, and worst of all, crabby, is never a good way to start your day. Sadly enough, in our new 24/7 culture that’s the reality that greets us in the mornings. When I was an IT systems engineer a few years ago, I used to work on 8-hour shifts with rotations every month. I found that my performance degraded once I was on the night shift, and that switching from nighttime hours to daytime hours was oftentimes very difficult. I wouldn’t sleep well (if at all) during the day and oftentimes that left me feeling terribly exhausted while working nights. Most of us are made to be in bed during the nighttime hours, so if you’ve got a job that frequently requires you to work at night…beware, you may be ruining your health in the long term. Those of us that do get to sleep at night?also tend to practice a lot of bad habits that serve to detract from the necessary processes of recovery that need to take place. What’s that called? Poor sleep hygiene. We’ve got to convert those bad habits into good ones that create the conditions for great sleep. Based on my experiences therefore,?I?thought it helpful?to share some tips for a good night’s sleep that will help you make the most of your resting hours. Spread the love around if you can!
- Avoid chemicals that interfere with sleep
That darned coffee! Who knew something that tasted so good could be so bad? Who also knew that it could potentially get you off track for a peaceful night of sleep? This 1st tip for great sleep is all about understanding caffeine and its effects. Caffeine is a compound most of us are familiar with, and can be found in many teas, carbonated beverages (especially cola) and chocolate (yum). It stimulates the nervous system, hence the feeling of wakefulness upon consumption. It goes without saying of course that the more awake you are, the less likely you will be to fall asleep easily. It’s also important to note that it can be a component in certain pain relievers, particularly those that claim ‘rapid relief’ (or any such term). Since caffeine raises blood pressure, it accelerates uptake of the painkiller into your bloodstream, thus the ‘rapid’ effect.?It’s a good idea though to steer clear of this stimulant at least four to six hours before bedtime so that you can flush it out of your system! The same goes for nicotine and alcohol, steer clear of both for a few hours before bed.
2. Stick to a sleep schedule
Be quiet for a second. What’s that sound? Your body clock, that’s what it is! Believe it or not, despite the fact that spontaneity is fun, your body clock likes regularity. Going to sleep at the same time every night, and also waking up at the same time each morning is likely to help you get better rest. The biology behind this is pretty interesting…in a nutshell you’ve got two mechanisms that contribute to sleep: one controls the accumulation of sleep?and the other describes the rhythm and timing of ?sleep/wake cycles. The latter is also called the ‘circadian rhythm’ or ‘circadian biological clock’ something we’ll learn about in another post. The long and short of this tip for great sleep is that being regular helps to set your clock correctly each day, which helps to avoid ‘sleep hangovers’ (ie. those feelings of terrible fatigue?you get when you’ve slept off your cycle).
3. Create a sleep-worthy environment
Comfort is very important to a good night’s sleep. I’m not just speaking about the firmness of your mattress and the softness of your pillows–I’m also speaking about ambient temperature, noise levels/distractions and lighting! While the first two are great, the other environmental factors can really make or break the quality of your sleep. Case in point, whenever I came off night shift in the morning, I would come home to a great bed and a nice set of pillows. However, my room would be too warm (oftentimes over 70 deg. Farenheit by 9:30am in the morning), there would be lots of noise due to traffic outside, and worst of all, there would be a ton of light because the sun would be shining quite happily. I would only ever manage 3-4 hours of sleep, and even then those hours would be restless and uncomfortable. There are ways of course to help mitigate those issues–namely the use of fans, white noise machines air conditioning units/humidifiers, etc so be sure to evaluate your room and select your interventions accordingly.
4. Exercise daily
Exercise is an awesome promoter of deep, quality sleep (and it helps you fall asleep faster too!). The timing however should be taken into account, since if done too close to bedtime it may have the opposite effect. Engaging in physical activity releases the stress hormone cortisol, which can actually make you more alert and thus increase wakefulness. It’s best therefore to get your workout in between 3 and 4 hours before you expect to hit the sack, or else you may find yourself too energised to sleep!
5. Establish a bedtime ritual?
We are nothing if not creatures of habit. We find comfort in routines because they provide predictability and can also serve to signal our bodies to prepare for certain activities. For example, the principle of warming up and stretching before engaging in an intensive workout circuit helps to prepare the body by priming the muscles and tendons as well as the nervous system for physical stress. When going to sleep, we should also establish suitable patterns that convey conditions of relaxation and low stress to our brains and nervous systems. This could include such things as taking a bath, performing stress-relieving exercises (eg. light yoga), watching TV, or just simply reading. Additionally, while we should be open with our partners at all times, before bed is certainly not the time to discuss psychologically ‘heavy’ topics or to have emotionally charged debates. These will increase anxiety and those promote wakefulness, which, once more, will detract from a good night’s sleep.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to add your $0.02 below!