In the last segment, we discussed the importance of sleep to our mental and physical health. However, the real question on a lot of our minds is, 'what strategies can we implement to get a good night's sleep?'
The Sleep Health Foundation recommends the following 10 tips to help you get a good night's rest:
1. Have a regular sleep time: our bodies have an internal body clock, which dictate our circadian rhythms of when we sleep and when we are awake. Keeping a regular sleep time, helps to keep our circadian rhythm intact. Shift workers can sometimes find that their circadian rhythm gets out of alignment with different sleep and wake cycles.
2. Spend the right amount of time in bed: being in bed for 8 hours does not necessarily equate to 8 hours of sleep. We have to ensure we give ourselves enough 'sleep opportunity time,' that is the amount of time you spend to bed in order to be asleep for 7-9 hours.
3. Keep entertainment and electronic devices away from the bedroom: the blue light from tablets, phones, television and laptops can disrupt the release of melatonin, which is important for sleep. Melatonin usually rises in the early evening indicating to our body that it is time to sleep. Entertainment devices can also provide excessive stimulation to our brains when they should be slowing down.
4. Relax before bed: reduce any of the day's worries by sorting out any problems before you go to bed. Avoid using your computer, phone or tablet at least an hour before bed. Find a relaxation technique that works and practice it regularly.
5. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and comfortable: usually people make the mistake of heating up the thermostat, but the body is able to get to sleep better as our body temperature drops.
6. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep us awake. Alcohol is a sedative and people mistake it for helping you fall asleep faster. However, it has a detrimental impact by disrupting the stages of sleep, being REM & NREM.
7. Avoid napping during the day: sleeping during the day can affect your ability to sleep at night. If you do need to nap, ensure it is less than 20 minutes and that you are awake for at least 4 hours before going to bed.
8. Don't look at your clock: if you have an alarm or clock next to your bed, you can feel anxious looking at it if you cannot fall asleep or in anticipation of waking up. If you do have an alarm or clock, position it away from you so you cannot see it.
9. Avoid sleeping pills: these are usually a short-term fix to an underlying long-term problem. These should only be taken under the guidance of a doctor.
10. Seek professional help: if you are still having ongoing persistent problems with sleep, seek advice and guidance from a trained professional or your doctor.