How do you fall asleep? Do you find yourself counting the proverbial sheep? Do you feel the need to read? Or are you one of the tired souls that lack shut-eye altogether? If you struggle to fall asleep, you may want to start practicing healthier bedtime routines.
Do any of the following symptoms sound familiar?
- Memory lapses/loss
- Decreased reaction time
- Low concentration
- Dark circles beneath your eyes
Here’s some advice to put sleepless nights to rest:
1. For up to an hour before hitting the hay, avoid the use of all electronic devices
Whether you’re stalking your ex on Facebook, or posting that cute pic on Instagram, your phone is what’s keeping you up at night. Your phone, tablet and laptop screens emit something known as (artificial) blue light. Blue light can be found almost everywhere, but your body uses light to regulate its sleeping cycle. Blue light is responsible for increasing your alertness, boosting your mood and heightening reaction times, as well as supressing the secretion of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness).
2. Create a sleep-inducing environment
Your phone isn’t the only thing disrupting your circadian cycle. Blue light can also be found in LEDs and fluorescent lights. Turn off the lights, close the curtains, and get rid of distractions like the TV or the radio. As mentioned previously, your body uses light to regulate its sleeping cycle so it’s best to remove all light in order for your body to switch off and go to sleep.
3. Get enough sleep
The average person needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Your body goes through different stages of sleep. The first lasts between 5 and 10 minutes. This is when your eyes are closed, but you are still conscious of what’s happening around you and it’s easy for you to wake up. The second stage is when your body temperature drops and your heart rate slows down because you won’t be needing as much energy to perform tasks. The third stage is also known as deep sleep. This is when it becomes difficult if somebody were to try and wake you up. If they did, you would be disoriented for a few minutes. At some point in our lives, we’ve heard of the term REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During REM, your body repairs tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. Most dreams occur during REM sleep because this is when our brains are most active.
4. Try to keep a constant bed time
Desynchronosis or ‘jet lag’ is the perfect example of what happens when there is an alteration to the body’s circadian rhythm. If you are on a flight from South Africa to New York, your body feels 7 hours behind its sleep schedule because of the time difference. It’s important to try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time. This way, you will set what is known as an ‘internal clock’. Try your best to stick to this routine, even on weekends, to avoid having to hit the snooze button 7 times before dragging yourself out of bed on Monday morning. Even if you feel that you didn’t sleep well the night before, try to wake up at the same time every morning and your body will soon catch up on the sleep it’s been missing.
5. Don’t eat too late
Okay, so let’s just establish that the light in your fridge is not there to make deciding on your midnight snack easier. Food gives you energy, and you sleep when you have no more energy, so by eating you are stopping your body from carrying out its cycle. Try to make sure that dinner is the smallest and lightest meal of the day or you may find yourself struggling to fall asleep because your body is using the newly received energy.
The benefits of maintaining a healthy bedtime routine:
- you’ll be less likely to catch a cold or feel ill
- headaches and migraines will be a thing of the past
- you’ll be in a better mood and will have fewer problems with depression and anxiety
- you will be able to build muscle easier
- you will have healthier skin
- you will learn better, concentrate more and have a better memory
Hopefully you will adopt a few of these habits and find yourself feeling revitalised and rejuvenated.