According to scientists, good sleep may be one of the biggest health crises of the modern age. Our lives have become so busy and we’ve created so many distractions and anxieties for ourselves that when it comes time to hit the hay, we struggle to snooze.
This is worrying, since good sleep, along with good nutrition and exercise, is one of the most important aspects of overall human health. But you can end your love-hate relationship with sleep but making a few crucial lifestyle changes.
1. Turn Off the Screen
You probably already know this one, so why is it so hard to actually do? You know you should switch off and get to sleep, but you just can’t seem to make the break. It’s not like anybody can blame you. After all, the smartphone revolution has put 24-hour information and entertainment on demand and right at your fingertips.
But according to sleep scientists, it’s not just the level of engagement that prevents you from dozing off. The blue glow emitted by your phone screen diminishes production of the important sleep chemical melatonin. The same goes for any screen, including your tablet and TV. Sleep experts recommend switching off all screens half an hour before bed, turning on night mode if available, and sleeping as far away from your phone as possible.
2. Ditch the Caffeine
Speaking of things you already know, it won’t come as any surprise that it’s best to avoid caffeine before bedtime. However, you may not be aware of just how early it’s recommended you quit your coffee intake. According to a study from Michigan’s Wayne State University, drinking two to three cups of coffee six hours before bedtime can cost you an hour’s worth of sleep.
The researchers suggested caffeine intake be ceased after 5pm and generally avoided in the afternoon if possible. That goes for tea, too, which contains caffeine and can also have a diuretic effect. If you’re getting thirsty before bedtime, try milk, which contains the sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan.
3. Start with Your Bed
Many of us who complain about a lack of sleep often ignore what’s arguably the most important part of our sleep—the bed. Of course, not all of us are in a position to invest in an expensive, orthopaedic mattress, but it does pay to go out and do some research and cost comparison. Consider it an investment in your productivity and your spine.
Research what kinds of mattresses are best for the type of sleeper you are. Are you a stomach sleeper? A side sleeper? Then take a look at the best rated mattresses out there and whether there are cheaper alternatives or anywhere selling them for reduced cost. Once you’ve bought your perfect mattress, chuck some bamboo bed sheets on. They’re considered the most comfortable in the world, as well as helping control your temperature through the night.
4. Stick to a Routine
If you don’t have a nightly bedtime routine, maybe it’s time to develop one. Research has shown following the same pattern of actions and behaviour at bedtime can actually improve your ability to fall asleep.
Scientists believe this is because your body gets used to the precise series of actions you perform and interprets this information as you getting ready to sleep. As a result, your brain starts preparing you for sleep by releasing sleep-oriented chemicals, such as melatonin. If you’re unsure of what to do for your personal bedtime routine, try a bath and 30 minutes of reading. Just make sure you avoid screens.
5. Get Active
Many doctors and sleep scientists recommend exercise for those suffering from insomnia, so if you’ve been avoiding the gym lately, do it for your sleep. What’s interesting about the impact of exercise on sleep, however, is we’re not entirely sure just why exercise improves sleep, nor do all forms of exercise necessarily beneficial for sleep.
One study found that whilst a session of moderate exercise reduced the time it took to fall asleep whilst increasing the length of sleep for people with chronic insomnia, vigorous exercise can actually have the opposite effect. As for why exercise is so good for our sleep, scientists have suggested everything from the post-exercise body temperature drop promoting sleepiness, to exercise affecting our circadian rhythms.
About Our Guest Writer:
Phoebe Yu is CEO & Founder of Ettitude, Australian bamboo bedding startup. Ettitude makes luxurious, socially responsible bedding from bamboo biocell. She also founded 2 international sourcing companies, has 15+ years experience in supply chain management and merchandising, and knows all about the importance of a good night’s sleep!