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How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

How to get to sleep, avoid sleepless nights and improve your sleep quality

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Happy sleeper

How to get a good night’s sleep – A checklist

Before we dig into the detail of techniques that will help you to sleep, I have provided you with a checklist which will help you find the techniques that you can use quickly and help you tick off the ones that you are already utilising.

  • Make your bedroom a chamber of dreams

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule

  • Avoid drugs and stimulants

  • Eliminate bright lights

  • Be more active (but not too close to bedtime)

  • Create a bedtime routine

  • Meditate

  • Don’t have large, heavy, high-energy meals too close to bedtime

  • A little unknown concoction

  • Don’t try too hard!

  • Get help

For an explanation of each technique, continue to read the article. Techniques are in order of the checklist.

Make your bedroom a chamber of dreams

The word bedroom needs to be renamed as “sleeproom” because that’s exactly what it is – a room you sleep in.

Now I know the lustful provocateurs amongst you may beg to differ but if you want to optimise your quality of sleep you must create a room for sleep.

Not a late-night cinema, not a late-night DJ booth, not a late-night social media sanctuary but a place that your body habitually recognises as a place of rest.

So how do you create a sleep room?

Keep it dark

As we learned in The Science Of Sleep, darkness is a natural trigger that informs your body to start winding down for sleep.

Exposure to light and darkness plays a big part in the functioning of your circadian rhythm and release of melatonin.

So shut your door, close your room-darkening curtains and REMOVE THOSE DEVICES!!!

Keep it cool

It has been scientifically proven that to initiate good sleep your body temperature needs to fall by around two to three degrees Fahrenheit as bedtime approaches.

A cool room allows the temperature of your body to fall in the right direction to get good sleep.

Around 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.5 degrees Celsius is considered optimal.

That’s why people often find that a warm bath helps them sleep. Although bathing is considered relaxing for most, it’s the drop in body temperature once exiting the bath that really helps you sleep.

Keep it comfy

The more relaxed and comfortable you feel the easier it will be for you to drift off.

Several studies have shown that newer, more comfortable pillows, mattresses and cushions have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep; as well as reducing the chances of you suffering from back pain, back stiffness and shoulder pain.

sleep

Certain organisations recommend flipping your mattress every year, changing your mattress every eight to ten years and changing your pillow every one to two years; however, I suggest using common sense as these time periods could be a result of commercial coaxing.

If it looks, feels and smells uncomfortable, it probably needs changing!

Keep it quiet

Unexpected noises can disrupt your sleep as you glide smoothly through the shallower cycles.

Sounds can also stimulate the brain, making it difficult to drop-off.

I know that some of you may have heard about the latest in auditory technology, where rhythmic tones are played into your ears as you sleep, synchronising with your brainwaves to induce a deeper, more beneficial snooze.

Such technology is still being developed so I suggest leaving this to the lab for now!

Some products are not covered by safety regulations and there are cases where people have suffered burns or temporary loss of vision because of such devices.

Researchers have also found that if auditory tones are just out of sync with natural brainwave rhythms, sleep is disrupted rather than enhanced.

Follow a regular sleep schedule

Keeping a consistent circadian rhythm is the aim of the game here!

Besides allowing yourself time to get at least eight hours sleep, you must try to maintain a sleep/wake routine.

The more routinely your “body clock” runs, the easier it is to sleep (on time) and the better quality of sleep you get.

If you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, not only will your sleep quality improve but your overall health will too.

Irregular sleep patterns have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease.

Avoid drugs and stimulants

This may not be the most popular of tips but it’s important if you want to reap the benefits of good quality sleep.

You must avoid caffeine, nicotine, drugs and alcoholic drinks too close to bed time!

Alcohol does not help you to sleep! It’s actually a sedative drug which shuts your brain down, reduces your REM sleep, negatively impacts your natural flow of sleep and leads to lighter, more restless sleep.

All of these symptoms lead to diminished sleep quality, next-day fatigue and potential long-term health issues.

I’m sure many of you know that caffeine keeps you alert and awake, but you may not realise that drinking a coffee just after dinner can impact on the quality of your night-time sleep.

FOR MORE ON CAFFEINE CLICK HERE!

The more drugs and stimulants you consume, and the closer you consume them to bed time, the more they will negatively impact your sleep.

Eliminate bright lights

This tip has been alluded to a couple of times already during this article and is one of the most difficult to abide by in modern society!

Darkness is the precursor for the release of melatonin, the healthy sleep-modulating hormone.

To get a better-quality night’s sleep (and also help you sleep) dim down the lights, put down the phone and turn off the TV at least one hour before bed.

Sleep lighting

Blue lights emitted from LED screens are what nightmares are made of in this case!

They trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and that you should be awake, dampening melatonin release.

Matthew Walker reports a study in his book, Why We Sleep, that found blue light exposure several hours before bed delayed the rise of melatonin by up to three hours; therefore, having a knock-on effect on sleep cycling, sleep quality and how participants’ felt for several days after.

Be more active (but not too close to bedtime)

As a general rule, you should do some form of exercise each day to maintain your overall health, but exercise also helps with sleep.

By alleviating stress, increasing adenosine levels and generally tiring you out, exercise has all the natural ingredients needed for a potent sleep remedy.

Exercise for sleep

It is important to note that most organisations and experts recommend you finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime.

Exercising too close to bedtime can intrude on your natural rhythms and, from a logical perspective, it’s more difficult to sleep if you’re in the cortisol-driven state of exercise – heart beating fast, blood pumping quickly, alert, attentive, etc.

Try maintaining a regular work out schedule where you finish 3 hours before bed.

This may help you to sleep as your body will fall into a natural rhythm and you will also benefit from your body’s post-exercise drop in temperature (explained above).

Create a bedtime routine

We are all creatures of habit, relying on past experiences and emotions to conduct our behaviour.

Creating a bedtime routine that your body associates with the drowsy state of sleep may help to nod off quicker.

It’s important that you don’t do anything that is too taxing on the brain and can be done in a soft, dim light as you start to wind down.

Some bedtime rituals you may benefit from include:

  • Grooming or brushing your teeth
  • Reading
  • Bathing
  • Tidying
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Washing up

Brain dumping is another good technique to use before bed.

This is basically writing everything you have stored in your mind on a piece (or several pieces) of paper. Stresses, worries, to-do’s, thoughts, feelings, write them all down so you aren’t caught lying in bed pondering!

Also, keep a journal by your bed to empty your mind when you feel you need to.

Another pre-bedtime ritual which may suit you is meditation…

Meditate

Like brain dumping, meditation helps you to control the pace of your mind and become more aware of the present moment.

It helps us to let go of the day and ease into the tranquillity of relaxation, both of the mind and body.

Closing your eyes, focusing on your breath and being aware of the body drifting into slumber creates a natural sleep remedy, at the time we are most likely to be caught up in thoughts.

Sleep meditation

According to scientific research you can find at Headspace, “meditation helps lower the heart rate by igniting the parasympathetic nervous system and encouraging slower breathing, thereby increasing the prospect of a quality night’s sleep.”

TRY OUR GUIDED SLEEP MEDITATION

Don’t have large, heavy, high-energy meals too close to bedtime

It’s difficult to find a definitive scientific recommendation on this tip, it just depends on what you believe and what works for you.

It seems obvious to me that when you sleep you want your body to relax and refresh. You don’t want it to be wasting energy on processing food when it could be repairing your body.

This is why I personally don’t eat too close to bedtime. I want to give my digestive system a rest and I like a hearty breakfast.

However, I do not see a problem with consuming small, nutrient-dense, low energy foods before bed.

The problem arises when the bedtime snack is a large, heavy, high-energy meal or junk food that will potentially lead to problems like obesity, heartburn, indigestion and even insomnia.

As for obesity, an extra meal before bed equals extra calories and, quite often, that late night snack in front of the laptop or TV is not a nutritious one!

If you consume more calories than you expend, you gain weight. Simple!

Another problem is that unhealthy bedtime snacking is just another way to get caught in a spiral of unhealthy habits.

It is generally recommended that you consume your last meal 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, allowing digestion to occur and contents in your stomach move to your small intestine.

A little unknown concoction

I learned this one from Tim Ferriss, who got it from the late Seth Roberts, PhD.

I have tried it and, I must confess, it does not work for me; however, I know Tim swears by it and Gaz is also an advocate.

Just before you go to bed, mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of raw honey with some hot water.

Neck it down and that, my friends, is your tranquilliser!

Let me know if that works for you… I am interested!

Don’t try too hard!

Now this is a difficult one, I know!

If the tips above don’t help, don’t lie in bed awake.

Get up, move to another room in the house and, in dim light, do something soothing whilst avoiding food, exercise, drugs and stimulants!

Get help

If you’re having problems sleeping or feel unusually tired during the day, speak with your doctor.

This could be part of a bigger issue!

Another option may be to engage with a clinical hypnotist. We spoke with Steve Guy on our podcast, who explained that clinical hypnotism is not what you imagine when you think of hypnotism.

It is a form of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that reinforces messages into your brain whilst you’re in a subconscious state.

It’s basically consuming scripts that are read to you whilst you are half asleep, reinforcing positive messages into your subconscious mind.

No-one’s going to make you act like a chicken!

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