Sleep is the best. Get a good night’s rest and you feel like you can take on the world.
Get a bad night, however, and it can be an almighty uphill struggle to make it through the following day.
We all know the immediate consequences of a poor sleep – the dreaded bags under our eyes, the uncontrollable desire to yawn in our boss’ face, irritability, headaches and the inability to control our attraction to junk food.
Less of us know the long-term consequences of chronic bad sleep. Which is worrying because they are pretty bad, both for our physical and mental health. Sleep-deprivation can play a role in obesity, depression, diabetes and even heart disease.
Yet despite study after study confirming the importance of healthy sleep, as a society we have never slept worst. A majority of adults report not getting the medically recommended eight hours a night.
The modern world is partly to blame for this, too much artificial light and too many distractions lead most of us into laying down in bed with an over stimulating mind.
But also many of us just don’t take sleep seriously enough. It is time to change that.
Below are 3 simple steps to sleep better every single night.
1. Stick to a regular bedtime
If you think a regular bedtime is just for kids, then you are seriously mistaken. Humans are creatures of habit and our bodies love routine.
A whole heap of physical and mental processes is undertaken by our amazing bodies while we lay there dreaming: our memories are consolidated, our cells and muscle tissues are repaired after the ill treatment of the day and our food is digested.
All these processes work more efficiently if we have a regular routine – If we eat at the same time, if we sleep at the same time.
So do your body a favor, find a bedtime and stick to it. As a quick rule of thumb, work out when you need to be awake in the morning and wind the clock backwards eight hours. That is your new bedtime. Stick to it. Your body will thank you.
2. Find a pre-bed routine
Our bedrooms are supposed to be a sanctuary of peace so why is it when we switched off the light and lay our head on the pillow our brains go into overdrive.
The problem – overstimulation before bed. Too many of us simply head to bed in a wound up state. And as a result, we have trouble falling to sleep. We toss and turn, we worry about everything under the sun.
The solution – a pre-bed routine that helps your mind enter a relaxed state before you go to bed.
Central to this is removing anything that may overstimulate you. This means screens. If you want to fall asleep promptly and sleep soundly every night, then you simply have to avoid looking at any screens in the hour before bed.
Yes, this means your smartphone screen too. No tweet is important enough that it bears missing sleep over. And don’t worry, you will still be able to unleash your pithy comment on the latest meme in the morning.
Replace screens will a wind-down routine. Mine includes ironing and laying out my clothes for the following day, setting out my breakfast things, making a to-do list for tomorrow, having a shower, brushing my hair and then reading a chapter of a good novel.
These actions work for me. They may not for you. Experiment and come up with a set of low intensity actions you can repeat every night before. Repetition is key because as I said earlier – our bodies love routine.
Your mind will begin to associate certain actions in your pre-bed routine with sleep. This will help it to prepare itself to sleep, so much so that when you eventually turn out that light it will be in the Land of Nod immediate.
3. Ensure your bedroom set up is spot on
Stepping into your bedroom should have the same effect as stepping into a Japanese Zen garden. It should be immediately obvious that this is a place of relaxation.
If your room is cluttered, then declutter it. If light leaks in from curtains, get better curtains. Your bedroom should be clean and tidy when you head to bed and pitch black when you turn off your lights.
Ensure the temperature is right to sleep. Too cold and you won’t be able to nod off, but too hot and you will likely wake feeling uncomfortable in the middle night.
If you have problems regulating your temperature at night, check out this handy guide from the guys on the Sleepadvisor blog.
And for heaven’s sake, make sure your mattress is in good condition, too old, soft or sagging in the middle, and it is likely your bed is causing you to sleep in a poor position. This may not stop you falling to sleep, but it will contribute to you waking up with aches and pains.
There you have it, three simple steps that if taken seriously can have a huge impact on how well you sleep.
The bottom line is that sleep is vitally important for our health. And it should be taken seriously. Treat your bedroom and bedtime routine with the respect they deserve, head to bed with a relaxed mind and you will be rewarded with a good night’s sleep – every night.
This article was written by Sarah, a freelance writer and blogger at Sleepadvisor