Why is sleep important?
My grandmother always said that sleep is a part of your diet. You need wholesome, clean, and fresh food just the way you need a good night’s sound sleep. The quality of sleep is going to affect your mental and physical growth because your body goes into a fix-it mode once you are asleep and it will:
- Heal damaged cells.
- Work on enhancing your immune system.
- Recover all the lost energy and mend the fatigue of the day.
- Reboot your cardiovascular system.
When you are well rested, you will notice that not only are you physically more active but also your brain works in a concise and effective manner. So why can’t it be like this every day? Well, because this is what life is and we all have our ups and downs and let’s face it, the hectic routine of this millennial lifestyle is getting to us! The work life, the social life, family pressure, personal dilemmas, and what not!
What we can do is work on it, find a solution and troubleshoot it! Here are 10 ideas to get that sound sleep you’ve been craving for since god only knows when!
- Develop a sleep schedule.
That’s right! The first step is that you need to keep your circadian rhythm in check. What’s that you ask? It’s your body clock and it is as simple as that. It is on a set loop according to the sunset and sunrise. Your elders were right, early to bed and early rise does make you healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Avoid long naps and try to sleep on time and wake up on time. It is a popular belief is that if you want to inculcate a habit, do it for 20 days, and it will be embedded in your system. Once you sleep and wake up on time for 20 days, you may not even need an alarm clock anymore. Yes, there are people who wake up without the conundrum of alarms and snooze buttons. It is possible. It is up to you to give it a try! You will wake up feeling fresh and you are going to be on top of your game.
- Cut the addictions (especially right before bedtime)
Addictions such as alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and even sugar are going to affect your sleep.
First of all, caffeine has many benefits; just one cup is going to make you more focused and aligned to handle your day and perform well. However, caffeine stays in your system for up to 6-8 hours and to calm your nerves before bed, you should try avoiding it at least 5 hours before bedtime. If your cravings kick in, you could opt for a decaffeinated drink to take care of those.
A common mistake we make is to think that we sleep better after a couple of drinks or a nightcap. This is a false notion. Alcohol messes with your sleep hormone called melatonin. Therefore, even though you may fall asleep quickly, your sleep will remain disturbed, you may snore or experience irregular breathing, etc. It is best to avoid alcohol on normal working days.
Smoking keeps you awake because of the nicotine in the cigarettes! This encourages conditions such as sleep apnea. Let’s be honest, smoking really does you no good whatsoever! Just leave it because it’s bad for absolutely all aspects of life and you’ll be fine.
Sugar rush? Sound familiar? Yes, it’s true, sugar makes you hyper and we all know it. So, it’s best to avoid sugar before bed and if you are really craving something sweet, try dark chocolate, it is low in sugar and good for your health in general.
- Eat well, eat early.
The best thing about food is that it does not just fill our stomachs, but it also helps in the functioning of different aspects of our body. We can eat particular foods to give an advantage to different systems; i.e. fruit because of fiber for digestions, milk based because of calcium for bones, etc. Similarly, there are foods that are better for you to eat in the evening if you want a good night’s sleep, for example, almonds, walnuts, chamomile tea, kiwi, oatmeal, cottage cheese, etc.
Hint: a low carb diet does wonders for your sleep!
Ideally, dinner should be over before 8 pm. This gives your body the time to digest the nutrients properly. Another important thing to note here is that drinking fluids before sleeping is a big no! You do not want to keep making trips to the loo or lay down with the awful feeling of holding it in!
- Follow a work out routine.
You may not be a fitness junkie and that’s all right because that is not how fitness works. Nobody is telling you to get abs or get ripped. The idea is to get some exercise for the overall wellbeing of your body. If you are fit and healthy, you probably won’t face much problem when it comes to getting a good dose of sleep. That, and you will get tired and you will want to go to bed!
Doctors say it would be better not to work out right before bedtime, but at least 4 hours prior to that so that your hormones are at rest and your body can concentrate on the sleeping part.
- Give nature a chance!
When nothing works, go back to mother nature. Natural remedies all have a scientific reason and the best thing is that there are no side effects. Here are some you could try:
- Ginkgo biloba- this herb will calm your anxiety and clear your thoughts.
- Ashwagandha root- according to Ayurveda, if powdered root of ashwagandha is taken in a glass of warm milk before bed, it clears the body of stressful toxins.
- Valerian root- this is a natural nerve sedative and antispasmodic (reliever of muscle stress).
- Lavender oil- just a few drops on your temples and wrists will calm your nerves and put you to sleep. This is also helpful to people who experience nausea while traveling through mountainous areas.
Apart from these wonderful antidotes, there is another practice that you may find interesting. Good old yoga. Yoga has the solution to most health problems, if not all. So get yourself a yoga instructor and get to it!
- Do your hormones need a boost?
Melatonin is a natural sleep-inducing hormone in your body. Melatonin levels are usually high at night, especially after 9 pm. However, if you are having trouble sleeping, a dose of melatonin will help you through this deficiency. Usually, people take 2 mg of melatonin before sleeping but it is always better to consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking any kind of medication, whether light or strong.
- Make the bedroom your space.
The environment you sleep in is going to make a lot of difference to the quality of your sleep. You may have seen babies who sleep better when they are holding onto their particular blankies (blankets) or toys, or something which smells of and belongs to a parent, this is because this provides them with comfort. The same way, you will need your room to provide you with a feeling that says you are home and you are safe:
- Decorate it the way you like it.
- Choose comfortable furniture, pillows, sheets, and mattresses that suit you.
- Take charge of the light, pick lights that soothe you, add curtains to block the light if you have trouble sleeping in bright spaces (disturbance from street lamps, passing cars, etc.)
- Photographs that make you feel connected to your family (if that’s what you need).
- Be in charge of the temperature, this can really help a lot. Figure out what your body likes best.
- If you have small children or you’re a pet parent, avoid sleeping with them! I know it’s difficult! But it is best for them and for you.
Try these out! Not only will you sleep well, but also get the opportunity to create your own space for overall comfort.
- Treat yourself to a warm bath or shower.
A warm bath after a long hard day is truly a treat! Just make sure the water is not too hot and not too cold, just lukewarm enough for the fatigue to wear off and body temperature to fall and this signals the brain that it is time to slow down and go to sleep. It refreshes you psychologically and mental peace is the key to a sound slumber.
- Try therapy!
Life is a thick and lumpy soup for many, and getting through it is not only difficult but also tiring. Sometimes we really need to share what is going on with somebody, but people are so busy with their own soups that they don’t have the time to deal with yours. Or maybe, you don’t want anybody to know of your problems. Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. Your health matters more than what people will think, and to be honest, if people judge you for something like this, let go of them, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Once you have gotten things off your chest, you will feel lighter, and sleep troubles will be a distant memory!
- Rule out sleep disorders.
As much as the world will tell you that it’s in your head and you just need to count sheep and you will fall asleep; if you are having a constant sleeping problem despite having tried all the different ways and means, you absolutely must go and see a doctor to rule out sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep movement disorders, circadian rhythm disorders, etc. These are not conditions to be taken lightly as they could lead to a multitude of problems. And who wants problems?
Don’t worry and just try to figure out what is best for you, understand your body, give your mind some rest, do whatever it takes to achieve good sleep. Because only when you are rested will you function properly and conquer the dreams and goals you have envisioned for yourself.