Many of us are not getting enough sleep. This is a fact of life and one that too many people don’t seem to think is very important. But it is!!! Getting enough sleep is vital for a healthy life. If you want to look good, feel good, thrive at work and at play, you need to hit that golden pillow and get some heavy zzzzzzz’s. Lets take a look at 9 easy ways to get more sleep and why you need to…
Reasons We Don’t Get Enough Quality Sleep
- Personal resistance to an Appropriate Bedtime – There are many reasons why we might be resisting going to bed when we should. We just don’t want to go to bed early… Maybe out of habit or fear of missing out…of not having a life. You might feel you have too much to do… Maybe you’re a night owl which is fine if you have the luxury of sleeping late in the morning…
- Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotene are all drugs with stimulant effects that can damage the quality of your sleep. Caffeine and smoking overstimulate the brain and/or body. If it’s too near bedtime this can make it hard to fall asleep. On the other hand alcohol tends to knock you out but then wake you up in the middle of the night. All 3 interrupt natural sleep rythyms and patterns which if chronic can result in ill health.
- Eating or drinking too late at night interrupts sleep. Simply by the discomfort caused by being ‘full up’ or from digestive issues. There is some evidence to suggest that eating too late can also disturb healthy sleep patterns especially in women. Click here for more from The Sleep Doctor.
- Inability to fall asleep at night due to stress, anxiety and mobile phone usage. Stress and anxiety are modern day curses that can have us tossing and turning all night long. Unable to get to sleep, or waking in the middle of the night, our bodies and minds unwilling or unable to shut down to allow us to rest and recharge for the night.
- I mention mobile phones here because, whether we know it or not, they are a major cause of stress and anxiety. Click here for an excellent article all about it.
- Absence of a relaxing evening routine that readies you for sleep. You need to send strong signals to your brain/body that it’s sleep time now. More on this later.
- Noisy partners or environment. This includes things like a snoring partner, noisy neighbours, traffic or city noise, noisy household appliances and also light pollution from our own lights or outside ones.
- Ignoring your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rythym is that internal natural rhythm that tells you when its time to sleep (ie when you feel tired) and when its time to get up (ie when you feel wakeful and alert). It tends, or ideally, should coincide with night-time and daytime, dark and light. For the best sleep health you should always respect your natural circadian rhythms. Below is quoted from an excellent article from sleepfoundation.org click for the whole article.
Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
A part of your hypothalamus (a portion of your brain) controls your circadian rhythm. That said, outside factors like lightness and darkness can also impact it. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired. That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and nighttime (and why it’s so hard for shift workers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night).
Solving the above sleep issues will get us well on the way.
But Why Should We bother?
Health Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep
I think not getting enough sleep is one of the most under rated of our many modern day problems.
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!!!
Prioritizing your sleep will pay you back many times over. Here’s some of the many issues caused by lack of quality sleep:-
- Weight gain
- Weakened immune system.
- Loss of ability to think or reason effectively.
- May increase risk of certain cancers and diabetes.
- May have a Negative impact on heart health Click for More.
- Skin problems. click for more
- Accident prone (including increased risk of car accident).
- Less happy and contented. (i.e. is linked with depression)
- Decreased libido.
9 Easy Ways to Get More and Better Sleep
The tips below are all taken from my own sleep routines. I take my sleep seriously.
- Bed at 10 Up at 6 – This may not suit everyone but for most of us this is the optimum time for bed because most people have to get up fairly early in the morning to get to work or the kids to school on time. You have to prioritise this early bedtime above all else. You may have less hours awake to do what you want but you will enjoy the hours you do have so much more with a full nights sleep to nourish you. Quality trumps Quantity.
- Make sure your room is dark. Your room has to be pitch black, light will seriously disturb your sleep. Use black out blinds or curtains if needed. Make sure you turn off all your appliances completely and turn your mobile to sleep mode. (or put it in another room). When travelling or if you prefer use an eye mask. This will immediately and easily black out all light to your eyes. (I find wearing these too often (as I do) can cause my eyes to get puffy. To stop this I just place the mask over my eyes rather than wear it, so it falls off during the night whilst I am sound asleep allowing my eyes to breathe and therefore no puffiness)
- Make sure your room is quiet. Check your bedroom and the immediate vicinity and stop all noises that are under your control from happening while you are in bed. Persuade your snoring partner to wear one of those stop snoring devices or move them to a separate bed or even room (it’s that serious). When all else fails and the noises are outwith your control (hotel rooms, airplanes etc) use ear plugs.
- Don’t eat or drink after your evening meal. Eat as early as possible and after that don’t eat or drink a thing. No discomfort or uncomfortable indigestion for your body to cope with and no sleep disturbing trips to the toilet in the middle of the night… It’s also great for your health in other ways…
- No screens 2 hours before bedtime. Make a time, mine’s is 8pm, and after that try not to look at your mobile or laptop. Apart from the stress and anxiety responses they may cause the light coming from these can confuse your brain into thinking its still daytime… plus the sheer amount of input and information going into your brain is bound to overstimulate you making it much harder to fall asleep. Try It!!!
- Have a quiet relaxing evening routine. The closer it gets to your bedtime, the quieter and calmer you should become. This is going to be different for each person. For me I always sit in candlelight to signal to my brain it is nighttime. Sometimes I watch a nice easy going television program (nothing too exciting or overstimulating) or maybe sit and draw or write a journal. You may want to read a book, chat quietly or go for a bath.
- Indulge in a Bedtime Story. If you don’t do this already you are in for a treat. Try it!!! Its so nourishing and pampering. You can use audio books in their various formats (tape, cd, MP3 etc) or you can subscribe to Audible and use their app. from your phone. This is what I now do, it means I have all my books available to me all around the world. Whatever format you choose remember for a sleep story it shouldn’t be too exciting and set the sleep timer so that it turns itself off. If you have Calm app they also have sleep stories specifically designed to help people sleep.
- Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotene before Bedtime. Im guessing this won’t be popular, I’m sorry, but these really do affect your sleep. Try to leave as much time as you can between engaging in any of these and going to bed.
- Meditate. As soon as you wake up in the morning do a 10 minute meditation. A regular meditation practice helps you cope with anxiety and stress (too big sleep thiefs.). There are lots of options for meditation. You could just close your eyes, set a 10 minute timer and concentrate on your breathing for 10 minutes, continually returning to your breathing when your mind wanders… or use the Calm app and do the daily calm everyday.