Lack of sleep affects your mood, brain performance, and overall health besides increasing the risk of many diseases like heart disease, obesity, dementia, and stroke, warns Dr Manav Manchanda, director-respiratory medicine, Asian Institute of Medical Science Faridabad.
A good night’s sleep is a lot more than spending hours lying in bed.
And while it may seem easy to get the required hours of sleep every day, getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis may be a dream for many.
Moreover, the pace of modern life barely gives time to relax but good quality sleep is equally important for good health as proper diet and regular exercise.
Lack of sleep affects your mood, brain performance, and overall health besides increasing the risk of many diseases like heart disease, obesity, dementia, and stroke.
Healthy sleep includes three major things — quantity of sleep — how much sleep you get on a daily basis; quality of your sleep and lastly, a consistent bed-time schedule.
Irregular sleep timings such as working night shifts may further make it difficult to get quality sleep.
The conditions necessary for good sleep called sleep hygiene are usually overlooked. However, simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep.
Here’s a look at 10 changes to make in your life to sleep better and stay healthy.
1. Maintain a healthy bedtime routine
A healthy bedtime routine comprises roughly fixed timings for going to bed every night and waking up the next day.
Regular sleep times help programme your body to sleep better. It is shown to improve the quality of your sleep and also reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
It works best to choose a time when you are likely to feel tired and tend to sleep easily.
Also, pay attention to the activities you indulge in before going to bed as these have a significant effect on the quality and time required to sleep. For example, using smartphones right before sleeping affect the quality of sleep resulting in decreased performance the following day.
2. Have a peaceful sleeping environment
A peaceful sleeping environment is vital for a good night’s sleep.
The temperature, lighting, and noise inside your bedroom should be well under control which helps to fall (and stay) asleep.
Noise above the recommended decibels affects your total sleeping time and even if you feel you are used to the noise around you, it still affects the quality of your sleep leaving you feeling tired in the morning.
Lighting in your room also negatively affects your sleep.
Your body perceives darkness in the room as nighttime and signals the brain to release hormones to enter a state of sleepiness.
In the presence of light, this signal gets disrupted and the body finds it difficult to sleep.
3. Exercise regularly
While any form of strenuous exercise, running or the gym, just before bedtime may prevent you from falling asleep due to overstimulation of the brain, regular moderate exercise such as swimming or walking in the morning or anytime during the day definitely has a positive effect on the quality and duration of sleep.
Besides, it helps relieve some of the tension built up over the day. You need to figure out the activity of your choice to get fit your way.
4. Cut down your caffeine intake
Caffeine is known to interfere in the process of falling asleep and also has a negative effect on the quality of sleep — it prevents deep sleep.
So, make sure you cut down your caffeine intake in tea, coffee, energy drinks, or colas, especially in the evening. Rather it works to have a glass of warm milk or a cup of herbal tea before going to bed.
5. Watch out your food intake; do not overindulge
Having too much food or alcohol especially late at night can interfere with your sleep patterns.
While alcohol may initially help you go to bed easily, it has a negative effect on the quality of your sleep later in the night and you will end up waking up more often and not sleeping deeply.
Sugar-laden food and beverages before bedtime increase your energy levels making it all the more difficult to fall asleep.
Further, when you finally get sleep, the drop in blood sugar levels will wake you up again causing a disturbance in sleep.
Try to include foods high in L-tryptophan in the evening such as spinach, broccoli, walnuts, etc.
This amino acid has a role in the production of melatonin and serotonin that helps you to get a good night’s sleep.
6. Stay away from smoking
Nicotine is a stimulant that works against your sleep.
Smokers have difficulty falling asleep and tend to wake up more frequently along with having disturbed sleep patterns.
7. Relax before going to bed
Try to relax before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music, or do some gentle yoga to relax the mind and body.
8. Clear the clutter in your head before going to bed
Though it might seem difficult, to begin with, it is very important to clear the clutter in your head such as your worries, negative events that might have happened during the day before going to bed.
Repetitively going over the same thoughts or events of the day not only affect your mood but also have a negative effect on your sleep.
It is best to practice meditation, or mindfulness exercises before bed as it helps to relax the mind and promote good quality sleep.
Another common problem that does not allow you to sleep properly is anxiety about what you have to do the next day.
Set aside time to make plans for the upcoming day to save yourself from disturbed sleep at night.
Moreover, if you still fail to get sleep after all that you do for a good night’s sleep, it is better to wake up and do something that you find relaxing rather than being in bed and worrying about it.
When you feel sleepy again, you can go back to bed.
9. Ensure you sleep on a comfortable bed
As we work on day-to-day factors that affect our sleeping patterns, it is worthwhile to pay attention to things such as the quality of the bed, mattresses, pillows, etc. to play a role in promoting better sleep.
Moreover, it is difficult to get proper sleep on a bed that is too small or old or a mattress that’s too hard or soft.
10. Other factors that affect a good night’s sleep
Some people may face disturbed sleep issues due to their bed partner’s problems and habits, such as snoring, tossing, and turning in bed while sleeping.
Make sure all such factors are taken care of if you are having trouble getting proper sleep at night.
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