Unrefreshing or poor sleep is seldom taken seriously. Unfortunately, it isn’t something you may just yawn at and dismiss with a wave of your hand, because your body needs sleep as much as it needs food. Besides, that refreshing burst of energy after a good night’s satisfying sleep is enough to drive one to work towards sleeping better every single night.
Although, sound sleep seems extremely elusive in today’s fast-paced world, compromising on your sleep for seemingly important goals is the worst you could do to your body. Poor sleep can take its toll on your overall health, energy levels, sex life, concentration, and performance at work. Irregular sleep habits are also possible precursors of depression, anxiety, mood swings and ill-health. On the contrary, Good sleep helps with the maintenance of a healthy heart, a strong immune system, and improved energy levels and productivity. Perhaps, you are already aware than you need 8-10 hours of sleep daily to rejuvenate and stay healthy. However, what we often fail to grasp or ignore is that these 8-10 hours of sleep need to be undisturbed. In other words, you may sleep for 8 hours every night and yet wake up in the morning feeling unrefreshed and drained. Chances are that poor sleep quality is what’s causing this, despite sleeping for 8 hours through the night. Sleep disturbances are somehow more rampant among women as compared to men. The sinking of estrogen levels in women during menstruation and after menopause is possibly why women experience more sleepless nights. However, blame it on your hormones or your lifestyle, proper undisturbed sleep is crucial to your well-being. Fortunately, although a good night’s sleep may seem impossible especially to a seasoned insomniac, it is still achievable. Yes, a few simple lifestyle changes and dietary adaptations are just what you need to sleep better. Here’s a list of the 5 most important and effective ways to attain a good night’s sleep and tackle the most annoying symptoms of insomnia.
1. Establish a sleep-wake cycle
Putting a sleep-wake cycle in place is the very first step towards improving your sleep pattern. The best way to do this is to set an alarm clock for the same time every morning including weekends and holidays. Go to bed at the same time every night too. See that you sleep for 8-10 hours every night. Afternoon siestas are quite common around the world, mainly due to their ability to help the body rejuvenate after all the exertions of the first half of our day. But, if you suffer from sleeplessness or insomnia, it’s likely that you will end up sleep deprived during the night after a long afternoon nap. Hence, either try to avoid a nap completely or limit your power nap to just 30 min in the early afternoons. Sticking to a schedule is hardly easy, but make sure you stick to yours as much as you can. Nevertheless, don’t overwhelm yourself with drastic changes in your sleep pattern, but take small and persistent steps towards change. Your body will soon adjust to a fixed pattern, and in no time you will manage to fall asleep without much trouble and even wake up as per your schedule without the shrill ringing of an alarm clock.
2. Create a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere at bedtime
The level of comfort you experience at bedtime directly impacts the quality of your sleep. Paying attention to what comforts, relaxes, and calms your body is likely to help you fall asleep the moment your head touches the pillow. However, just like one person’s happiness may be another’s pain, only you can gauge what soothes and comforts your nerves best.
Relaxing bedroom atmosphere:
Close the blinds and windows in your bedroom to cut out street lights and noises from penetrating inside. These modalities frequently cause sleep disturbances. You may listen to soothing music or white noise audios of your choice instead. Some experts believe that setting the thermostat in your bedroom between 65oF and 75oF is cool enough to help you sleep better. Check if your mattress is comfortable too. A lumpy or hard mattress is likely to increase your sleep related woes.
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by our brain helps regulate normal sleep and wake cycles. As night approaches, the lack of light in the environment triggers the secretion of this hormone in your brain, which in turn makes you sleepy. However, using an iPad, laptop, computer, mobile phone, or watching television can reverse this process to aggravate sleeplessness. Hence, avoid using such gadgets around bedtime. Switch off all the lights in your bedroom before you go to sleep. Alternatively, opening the blinds or sitting on your patio or the gallery immediately after you wake up can help reduce morning drowsiness.
3. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm
Cut down on your caffeine intake after lunchtime. Caffeine is a nerve stimulant that remains inside your body for over 8 hours after consumption. Hence, a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon or after dinner is likely to cause disturbed sleep or insomnia.
4. Dietary Changes
Tryptophan, an amino acid and calcium together boost the secretion of serotonin, a feel good hormone in your brain to induce sleep. Hence, you could possibly benefit by consuming protein or calcium rich food an hour or two before your bedtime. For instance, you could have a slice of cheese, a glass of milk, or a banana with dinner. An easier way to gain your protein and calcium together would be to have a protein powder shake that contains good proportions of tryptophan and calcium, an hour before bedtime. You are likely to gain more amino acids and calcium from a glass of protein powder shake rather than a glass of milk or a banana. On the other hand, you may want to cut down on your carbohydrates at dinnertime, as they are more difficult to digest and often lead to bloating and gas. Gas can make you uneasy and sleepless. Also, avoid drinking too many fluids around your bedtime, as you may have to wake up in the middle of the night to use the washroom.
A pinch of nutmeg in your milk before bedtime is often successful in inducing sleep. In addition, herbs such as chamomile and lavender activate the alpha wave activity in the brain, to soothe and relax the nerves and induce refreshing and undisturbed sleep. Sprinkling some lavender or chamomile oil on your pillow or keeping a few of these fresh herbs on the night-stand may help you benefit from their sleep inducing effects. Alternatively, you may massage your head with brahmi or sesame oil just before your bedtime to relax and sleep better.
All said and done, do not get anxious or try to bite more than you can chew in your desperation to tackle sleeplessness and insomnia. Go slowly but steadily and give your body enough time to adapt to these changes. Eventually, you will sleep better and wake up refreshed.