Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Our bodies all require sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
But if you’re not sleeping enough, you can run into a number of health issues, from your less-than-healthy looking sleep, to a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Here are some ways to get better sleep:
8 Ways to Better Sleep
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least 7 hours of sleep.
If you still feel tired or groggy in the morning, you may still not be getting enough zzzzz’s.
Have a bedtime routine
Just like children, adults can benefit from a bedtime routine in order to signal your body to relax for sleep. Whether it’s curling up with a book, sipping on an herbal tea, or listening to calming music doing the same relaxing thing every night will signal to your body that it’s time to settle down.
Another way to signal your body to relax for sleep is to stick to a regular schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day—even on weekends—is crucial for setting your body’s internal clock, which experts call your circadian rhythm.
Avoid tech devices
Avoid watching TV or looking at any laptop, tablet or smart phone screens before hitting the sack, since those activities can trigger your brain to stay awake. The blue light emitted by electronic devices is especially disruptive of sleep because it suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Keep your bedroom clock turned away from you so that you won’t be tempted to watch time tick by.
Watch your diet
When it comes to eating and sleep, watch what you consume close to bedtime. Eating a high-fat meal or foods that you’re sensitive to (ie. wheat or dairy) can trigger inflammation, which may make your body work extra hard and prevent you from sleep. Alcohol or caffeine can also affect the quality of your sleep. Though alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy, it lowers the quality of your shut-eye, so try not to drink it in the evening. Also, avoid drinking too many liquids before you hit the hay to prevent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Take a warm bath
As parents do with babies, one of the most effective sleep inducers is a warm bath. If you normally shower in the morning, taking a warm shower or bath at night adjusts your body temperature so you’re nice and groggy by the time you hit the sack.
While you’re at it, add some aromatherapy such as lavender which can help you feel relaxed. Researchers have found that lavender increases slow-wave sleep, the very deep slumber in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax.
Create a calming bedroom
Is your bedroom environment ideal for sleep? You can make your room peaceful and conducive to sleeping by keeping it quiet, cool, and dark. Draw the curtains, dim the lights and, if you can’t get the room pitch dark, wear an eye mask. Choose a calm décor with paint colours, decorations and bedding that speaks relaxing. Also, try to keep your room uncluttered; seeing a messy bedroom will only make you more stressful.
Choose a mattress, blankets, sheets and pillows that are comfortable to you. Don’t have the TV on; earplugs are helpful if you live in a noisy area. Also, keep a cool room, between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius.
While melatonin has been a go-to aid for frequent travelers dealing with jet lag, people who have trouble sleeping (insomnia) can also help. Melatonin can also help treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Melatonin pills can be especially helpful as you get older because melatonin production decreases as you age.
In most cases, melatonin supplements are safe in low doses for short-term and long-term use. However, at the wrong dosage, melatonin may actually destroy your sleep cycle. But be sure to talk with your doctor about taking them.