Rest, shut eye, snooze, cat nap – call it what you like but when it comes to your health and well being getting your eight hours is vital. Sleep is the time your mind and body processes, restores and heals itself from the vigour of the day.
It’s not enough to just sleep either, it really has to be good quality, uninterrupted sleep to help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new day.
In this article we’re going to be looking at what you need to do to make sleep a priority in your life and some of the tips and tricks needed to get what it takes for a great night’s slumber.
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The very first place you should look when you want to improve the quality of your night’s rest. As a rule of thumb consider your bed an investment into your health and always buy the best quality Mattress you can.
If you can, avoid a second hand mattress where you can’t be sure how much exposure it may have had to pet fur and smoke from cigarettes. If you have any allergies a second hand mattress can sometimes act as a trigger point so buy from a reputable store.
The other benefit from buying from a store is the chance to try out varying levels of firmness. You might think you’ll love a soft mattress that you can sink into but if you suffer from any back problems or want to avoid any in the future it might be that a firmer option feels more supportive and a little more comfortable going into in the future.
There is also the option of memory foam which is either something you’re going to love or hate. It takes some getting used to and can help support and hold your body in a comfortable position throughout the night.
A final consideration will be the size of your mattress and again we would suggest buying as large as your room and budget will allow. A larger size mattress and frame is particularly useful when you share a bed with a partner and goes a long way to ensuring you don’t disturb each other during the night. Feeling you have enough space and room to stretch out is an essential part of getting good quality sleep.
These are the measures you can take to make sure your sleep remains uninterrupted and healthy. It starts with your bed. As with your mattress, you want to make sure that your duvet and pillows are suitable for your specific needs. If you find yourself with tired scratchy eyes in the morning then consider swapping your feather pillows to a man-made equivalent. You can also add dust or mite protection covers to reduce the effect these two might have on your sleep.
Try to keep your bed linen washed regularly to help avoid unwanted visitors visiting your bed in the form of mites and bed bugs and to give yourself a psychological boost as you slip between clean crisp sheets at the end of a long day.
The room you sleep in and the environment surrounding your nighttime slumbers is another important factor to take into consideration.
Consider how light your room is, if you don’t have curtains that block out the sun, then you’re going to get woken up early far too early during the summer months. If you can, consider having your curtains lined with black out material to help keep your room darker for longer.
You’ll also want to consider the ambient temperature. You will find that although it’s tempting to keep the house as warm as possible, evidence suggests that a cooler temperature at night is far more conducive for a good night’s sleep. Turn the heating down, open a window a little and lower the temperature. Your body temperature also drops and goes into a kind of semi-hibernation, allowing it to shut down and repair during the night.
Noise is also a factor to take into consideration and you’ll know how hard it is to fall asleep and stay asleep when you have noise going on in your immediate vicinity. You may not be able to do too much about the noise outside your room but you can take action to help reduce it. The best way is through the use of earplugs, which will help give you the peace you need. If you’re worried about sleeping through your alarm then pick up a vibrating alarm clock that will gently vibrate you back into consciousness.
How and when you prepare for going to bed is an essential piece in the sleep jigsaw puzzle. Crashing into bed, phone in hand is not going to help you stay asleep. Instead, there are better ways to make sure that you prepare for a restful night ahead of you.
Having a routine in place might sound like something you would do with a small child, but the benefit of establishing a routine for yourself is that gives your body the right signals and helps your brain start to slow down and work less hard in preparation for sleep.
To start this off, it’s vital that you look at your screen use – television, tablet, phone and laptop. Are you still looking at them right up to and even when you’re in bed?
All this does is increase your brain activity and keep you awake when you should be striving for exactly the opposite.
To achieve this, turn off all screens at least an hour before you head to bed. Dim the lights, read a book, take a bath or make a warm drink anything that helps you to feel relaxed and ready for sleep. Leave your phone downstairs and if you do wake up in the night, don’t even think about reaching for it. The screen activity and blue screen light will start waking you up and make it that much harder to go back to sleep again once you’re done scrolling through your Twitter feed.
You may find it helpful to play some ambient music as you’re falling asleep, preferably on a device that has a timer and will switch off on its own. Some people will also tell you that a white noise machine is a great way to help your brain shut down and stop thinking about the stresses and strains of the day.
What you eat and drink, when and where you exercise can also help to get you off to sleep. Try to avoid eating rich or spicy food too close to bed. You run the risk of heartburn or indigestion and you’re more likely to wake up in the night feeling thirsty.
You should also avoid caffeinated drinks that will keep your brain firing when you’re looking to have it slow down.
Exercising is a great way of having your body use up energy and helping you to feel sleepy and fresh air has its own health benefits. There is also some evidence that it’s harder to drop off to sleep after just completing a tough workout, so think about going for a long run earlier on in the day.
Being overweight, particularly if you carry extra weight around your neck can lead to conditions such as sleep apnea and if this is something that you struggle with, then taking a trip to your GP or to a sleep clinic is a good first step. Often sleep apnea can lead to chronic snoring, which can be a pressure point for your partner, disturbing both of you during the night. You may be given an oxygen mask to try out and while this will feel strange at first, you may find the quality of your sleep is greatly improved.
Avoid excessive alcohol before bed. While you might feel it helps you to drop off, like rich food it will probably see you waking up more frequently in the night, feeling dizzy and thirsty, so limit your consumption while you try and get your sleeping patterns back on track.
Getting a great sleep routine set up, isn’t easy. There are lots of factors to get right from the bed you sleep in to the actions you take immediately before you head to bed. Start with getting your bed and the environment you sleep in up to a standard that you’re happy with.
Then you’ll be in a great position to work on getting your routines into place. Think about how your evenings are going to pan out and make relaxing a priority. Dim the lights and limit your screen time. There are some sacrifices you’re going to have to make, such as avoiding alcohol and so on but when you’ve been suffering from bad sleep, you’ll agree that they’re well worth making.
Then settle down, relax between clean sheets and look forward to getting that long, uninterrupted restful sleep that your body and mind are looking for.