3 Habits for Getting Better Sleep
Tired of tossing and turning in bed at night, and waking up exhausted? Getting restful sleep every day is not just a distant dream. From creating a bedtime routine to engaging in some pro-sleep activities throughout the day, here are three habits guaranteed to help you sleep better.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night or getting enough hours of quality sleep, you are not alone. According to a study published in 2018, almost 30 per cent of the general population in India suffer from occasional insomnia. Anxiety, stress, health concerns and worries about your daily life can often keep you awake and prevent you from getting those recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, thereby affecting your physical and mental well-being.
But getting good sleep is more in your control than you might think. While the causes at the root of your restlessness can be varied, research shows certain practices and habits, known as sleep hygiene, are foolproof ways to get uninterrupted and consistent sleep each and every night. We have broken down these necessary habits into three simple steps that you can tailor to your own requirements and abilities. Do keep in mind that if you still have trouble sleeping frequently, it might point to some underlying condition for which you need to consult a doctor.
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Create a regular pre-bedtime routine
A bedtime routine will help your brain to recognise certain activities as the precursor to sleep, and allow you to fall asleep faster. Multiple studies over the years, such as one published in Sleep Medicine Clinics in 2007, show that anxiety is one of the leading causes of insomnia. A bedtime routine will help you to relax by taking your mind off of stressful thoughts and reducing anxiety. Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your sleep routine.
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- Disconnect your electronics: Are you in the habit of scrolling through social media, or watching a Netflix show or Youtube videos until you fall asleep? Research says that all of these activities are detrimental for sleep. The blue light emitted by devices suppresses natural melatonin production, says a 2008 study by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, which makes it hard for your brain to wind down. Try to keep your devices aside for at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.
- Wind down with relaxing activities: Filling your bedtime routine with calming activities will help you avoid overstimulating your brain, making it easier to fall asleep. Read a book, take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music or meditate for ten minutes before you go to bed.
- Have a bedtime tea: A hot cup of herbal tea before bed has been used as a natural sleep remedy for years. Certain varieties of teas like chamomile, lavender and passionflower have been proven by research to calm the mind and induce sleep.
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary: Bright light and noise in your bedroom can throw off your circadian rhythm. Dim your lights, keep your curtains closed, and turn off any sources of noise. Declutter your room to remove any distractions. Make use of an aromatherapy diffuser with a calming scent like lavender, or play some ambient sounds like pink noise (waves or rain sounds) or white noise to help you relax.
Stick to a proper sleep schedule
A sleep schedule is a routine of fixed times to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning every day, following which will help you get enough hours of quality sleep. To customise your sleep schedule, fix a time at which you need to wake up, and calculate backward with the recommended hours of sleep to find your optimal bedtime. Try to minimise naps during the day to only one of about 20-minute duration in the late afternoon, as anything longer than that will make it hard for you to fall asleep at night. Limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weekends and weeknights to less than an hour.
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Practice pro-sleep habits during the day
It is not just your bedtime routines that affect your sleep—your activities throughout the day also influence the quality and duration of the sleep you get at night. To get rid of sleep disruptions, keep the following tips in mind.
- Expose yourself to morning sunlight: Light is the most important external factor affecting the circadian rhythm, and thus sleep. Get enough daylight in the morning by taking a walk outdoors or opening windows and blinds to let sunshine into your home or workspace.
- Cut down on caffeine in the evening: The link between caffeine and sleep is known to all of us, yet it can seem impossible to function without a few cups of tea or coffee. If you cannot cut down on caffeine completely, you should avoid consuming caffeine after 2 p.m, or at least 7 hours before bedtime.
- Break a sweat: A review published in 2014 in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine notes that daily exercises can help you fall asleep more easily. But make sure to not do intense workouts close to bedtime, as it can hinder your body’s ability to wind down.
- Use your bed only for sex and sleep: While lounging on your bed throughout the day might be tempting, using your bed for all kinds of activities can make it hard for your brain to associate going to bed with sleeping. Try to use your bed only for sleep, with sex being the one exception.
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