A Healthy 2016: Sleep Better

sleep betterFollowing our Healthy 2016 series, this week we are going to focus on sleeping better. A good night’s rest is vital to maintaining a strong immune system, improving cognitive function, body repair, and of course, waking up in a good mood. It is therefore clear that sleeping well is essential to living well, but nearly one in three of us still suffer from insomnia.

The good news is that studies have brought us proven methods to sleep well, which you can start implementing now:

Reduce blue light before bed. Before bed, we regularly perform evening activities such as watching the television, reading, or checking emails and social media. In addition to some of these being too stimulating, the blue light is the real problem that affects our ability to sleep. The LED lights reduce your body’s melatonin production, and so interfere with the natural sleep cycle. It is best to avoid any devices two hours before going to bed.

Stick to a bedtime routine. The best thing about growing up was no longer having a bedtime, but sadly science suggests that we should all have one and stick to it – even on weekends. Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time helps our bodies to establish a circadian rhythm, and avoid drowsiness during the day.

Have a warm bath. In addition to being incredibly relaxing (and keeping you away from the TV), the effect of a warm bath – or rather, getting out of a warm bath – stimulates sleep. Because your body drops in temperature during the night, the quick drop in temperature that occurs when getting out of a warm bath sends a signal to the body that it is time to sleep.

Avoid alcohol. It may seem counterintuitive, because a nightcap helps us feel sleepy, but alcohol actually contributes to a more disturbed sleep. So while you may fall asleep quicker after a Scotch, you will actually struggle to stay asleep throughout the night and end up waking up groggy in the morning.

Count sheep. No joke! Science has proven that distracting the brain actually helps you to shut off and get to sleep. While counting sheep may be difficult if you have no sheep around you to count, try the alphabet game: pick a topic, and go through the alphabet with a name for each letter. For examples if you played the alphabet game with countries, A is for Australia, B is for Brazil…

Clear your bedroom. Having a distracting bedroom can make it hard for you to switch off and sleep while you’re in that room. The bedroom should be the place where you sleep, and not perform any hobbies. Kick out the television, the knitting basket, and the clutter that needs to be put away.

If you stick to these tips for more than a week, you will start to see your sleep behaviour changing, and hopefully begin to feel more rested during the day. Then all you have to do is stick with it!