As many as one-in-three to four adults experience problems sleeping with the consequences of a poor night's sleep- higher stress, increased mistakes, concentrating difficulty- are everyday occurrences, however, it doesn't have to be this way. Most of these problems are due to either our sleep habits or our sleep environment. This article aims to increase knowledge about the steps people can take to improve their sleep “bed-u-cation” as so-called by the Better Sleep Counsel.
First of all, you have to make sleep a health priority. Getting enough good sleep is a crucial part of maintaining healthy lifestyle and functioning optimally through simple solutions that can significantly enhance the quality of your sleep and in turn the quality of your life. For most adults, this means sleeping eight hours a night, while children need much more sleep.
From the perspective of longevity and vitality of immune system, sleep may turn out to be more important than most people think. There is plenty of compelling evidence supporting the argument that sleep is the most important predictor of how long you live, perhaps more important than whether you smoke, exercise or even have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
Two major massive studies of such factors have been made during the past fifty years showing that stated habitual sleep time demonstrated the best correlation with mortality, though, the correlation was not linear. The highest mortality rates at all age levels occurred for those who used to sleep four hours or less and those who said they slept nine to ten hours or more. The lowest mortality rates were seen for those who said their habitual nightly sleep time was around eight hours. Although sleep needs vary, people who sleep about eight hours, on average, tend to live healthier and longer.
Obviously, it's not the outside hustle-bustle that governs our waking and sleeping. Actually, we have to look inward…to a biological clock. This clock is part of or genetic make-up and we share it with all other livings.
We are biologically programmed to follow a circadian, or 24-hour, rhythm that is linked to sunlight and darkness. Inside our bodies, levels of natural chemicals rise and fall from dawn to dusk and feelings of alertness and sleepiness shift with them. We experience a natural dip in alertness in the mid-afternoon and at night when sleep is most irresistible between midnight and six a.m. Melatonin, which is a chemical our body produces, explains that. When darkness falls, melatonin production rises, body temperature starts to fall, and we feel less alert. That is why many people mention that their morning hours are their most productive ones of the day.
After learning some facts about sleep and its importance, you should assess the quality of your sleep by asking yourself some questions. Is your slumber often interrupted by an overwhelming urge to eat? Does falling asleep entail endless hours of tossing and turning before catching some shut-eye? Or do you wake up and stare at the clock numerous times during the night? If any of these situations ring a bell by recurring often, you may be one of millions with a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders include middle-of-the night munchies, whereby, some people regularly wake up and can't get back to sleep without snacking on something first, acting out dreams, sleepwalking, sleep talking, as well as insomnia. The latter is the most common type of sleep disorder and involves a general difficulty with falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Various factors such as anxiety, depression, and worry are direct cause of insomnia. For some, the pressures and responsibilities of everyday life are too much to put aside once they get in bed. Psychological factors can affect a person's ability to sleep and most people with insomnia blame their sleeplessness on stress, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Finally, we all have too much to do, so take time out and recharge yourself by getting a good night's sleep. The quality and quantity of your sleep can make all the difference in how productive you'll be the next day. Here are a bundle of tips to help you get the restful sleep you need and deserve.
- Keep regular hours. Keep your biological clock by going to bed around the same time each night and waking up close to the same each morning-even on weekends.
- Cut down on stimulants. Consuming stimulants, such as caffeine, in the evening can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Don't smoke or cut down on smoking. Smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help relieve daily tension and stress-but avoid strenuous exercise right before sleep and even up to three hours before bedtime. That's because exercise has an alerting effect and raises your body temperature, which in turn needs five to six hours to have a falling temperature in readiness to sleep.
- Eat a relatively light dinner. This should be no later than seven p.m. so you do not go to bed on a full stomach. Take a leisurely stroll or walk after dinner.
- Unwind early. To the extent possible, minimize exciting, aggravating or mentally intensive activities after 8:30 p.m.
- Give yourself “permission” to go to bed. Aim for a nightly six-at least-to eight hours of sound slumber without the aid of medication. Hours of sleep before midnight are generally the most rejuvenating. Therefore, if you are sleeping eight hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., you will feel more rested than if you are sleeping eight hours between midnight and 8 a.m. Hence, aim to be in your bed with the lights out between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. If you are not used to getting to bed this early, move your bedtime up by half an hour every week until you are in bed by 10 p.m.
- Develop a sleep ritual. Doing the same things each night just before bed signals your body to settle down for the night. To promote easy restful sleep, try the following routine:
- About an hour before bedtime, run a hot bath into which you place a few drops of a calming aromatherapy essential oil such as lavender, sandalwood, or vanilla. You can also diffuse this scent in your bedroom.
- As your bath is running, perform a slow self-administered oil massage, using sesame or almond oil.
- After your massage, soak in the warm tub for 10-15 minutes.
- While soaking, have the lights low or burn a candle, and listen to soothing music.
- After your bath, drink something warm. It can be a cup of warm milk with nutmeg and honey, or some chamomile or valerian root tea.
- If your mind is very active, read or skim through a journal for a few minutes before bed, downloading some of your thoughts and concerns so you don't need to ruminate about them when you shut your eyes.
- Create a restful place to sleep. Sleep in a cool, dark room that is free from noises that may disturb your sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation. It is difficult to sleep on a bed that is too small, too soft, too hard, or too old.
- Read inspirational or spiritual literature for a few minutes before bed. Avoid dramatic novels or distressing reading material.
- Do not watch television or do any work in bed.
- Once in bed, close your eyes and simply “feel your body”. This means to focus on
- your body and wherever you notice tension, consciously relax the area. Then, simply watch your slow easy breathing until you fall asleep.
Hushshshsh…..sleep tight ……sweet dreams…!