Now I’m not particularly athletically inclined, try as I might, but the one thing that I could win at is getting good sleep. Of course practice makes perfect, but a few tips on how to fall asleep faster and sleep better can really make all the difference…
First of all, what should you be aiming for? It varies, but in general teenagers need around 9 hours and adults need about 8 hours. That’s the first step to winning; make sure you actually give your body enough time to grow, repair and everything else mentioned in my previous post, ‘The Science Behind Sleep’.
The next key aspects are the two R’s: regularity and routine. If you regularly go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, your internal body clock will become ‘synchronised’ with your timings which will promote better sleep. And when I say everyday, I mean it! Weekend lie-ins can skew this schedule so try to wake up as close to your regular time as you can. This may seem like a real sacrifice but if you are able to improve your sleep quality and get enough sleep on weekdays, then weekend lie-ins will become redundant anyway.
Establishing a nightly routine before bed will indicate to your body that it’s time to wind down. Your routine could consist of a warm bath, relaxation exercises like yoga and reading a book or listening to music. Watching TV or using electronics, however, could hinder your sleep as the blue-wavelength light of bright screens can trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. This in turn causes hormones involved with falling asleep to be delayed. Therefore it is recommended you avoid such screens in the last 30 minutes before bed.
Make sure your sleeping environment is optimal with a comfortable mattress and pillow. The room should be dark, quiet, cool (between 18-24°C) and relaxing. Your diet should also work to your advantage when it comes to falling asleep. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine in the hours before sleep, and limit alcohol intake as too much alcohol before bed can disrupt sleep later at night.
Stress not only spoils the daytime, but can also cause insomnia by keeping you distracted and awake at night. It is important that you find ways to manage stress. The most obvious way of doing this would be to remove yourself from whatever is causing the stress but I’m well aware that it is not always that simple. Take basic steps to ensure at least some stress is relieved by being organised, allowing yourself to take breaks, eating well and doing exercise. Also, make time for hobbies and being with friends and do not be afraid to talk about your problems. Another good tip is to write a to-do list of what needs to be done the next day before you go to bed.
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise daily can promote sleep as well as the numerous other health benefits to exercising, although in general you should avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Finally, try to cap daytime sleeping to a maximum of 30 minutes. Even if you haven’t gotten enough sleep in the night, a daytime nap cannot make up for that. That said, a power nap between 20-30 minutes in the afternoon can improve alertness and mood.
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