The bed: an item that is the most indispensable in our culture. You spend a third of your life sleeping. Sleep is the thing you need, and if you don’t get it, you are grouchy, or even worse! Yet in the 21st century, sleep has been relegated to unimportant levels. We are up all night checking social media or glued to our screens, TV, phone or otherwise. We use expressions like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, “Sleep? That’s for losers”. The working week we subject ourselves to involves more night shifts and 12 hour days in all aspects of work. We move a lot less. Obesity has increased over the last 20 years in the United Kingdom, and this has been blamed by poor diet in addition to a sedentary lifestyle.
More and more research has been put into sleep in recent years. Sleep is where your brain, and body, recharges itself most effectively. Sleep helps your brain embed information that has been learnt that day. Your reaction times are heavily impaired if you have two hours less sleep a night than the recommended 8 hours. In fact, sleeping for 6 hours a night over a two week period are fatigued the same amount as someone who has been awake for 48 hours! Maybe burning the candle at both ends can get that report in on time, but the long term effects may be devastating.
Here are a few things that can hamper your ability to get your much desired 40 winks, and a few solutions…
“Electric Blue… That’s the Colour Of My Room”
It is simply a case that we are not taking as much time out to wind down as we used to. There is always a screen of some sort, stimulating our brains, which in turn is suppressing our body’s ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, and this helps control our sleep and waking cycles. Using tablets and mobile phones before bedtime suppresses our body’s ability to produce melatonin because of the screen’s blue light. If you really need to use your phone before bedtime, try and get a filter app, such as F.Lux, which changes the screen shade to a less harsh colour.
Are You Blind?
If you are trying to limit the amount of light that infiltrates your room at night, sleep masks or blackout blinds are a godsend. The blinds mimic nighttime so well you can’t see your hand in front of your face. After trying out a friend’s blind I don’t think I had such a good night’s sleep in years!
Yes, but not for that reason! You will get a better night’s sleep if your body is cooler. If your body is too warm you will not sink into a deep state of sleep, so it is recommended that you keep your body cool, in fact below 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) it will help your body regulate its melatonin. Don’t like the idea of sleeping naked? Have a cold shower two hours before bedtime. It has many benefits but for sleep, it will cool your body and reduce your cortisol (stress) levels which will put you into a slumber state.
Meditation and mindfulness are written about in abundance elsewhere. But if you aren’t so inclined to give your chakras a good clean, then maybe this little breathing technique will help. The “4-7-8” routine has been successful in relaxing your body and mind. It’s simply this, breathe in for the count of four, hold it for the count of seven, and then exhale for the count of eight. And repeat. It’s great because it requires no equipment and is so simple to do. Try it twice a day and after six weeks you will see some fantastic results.
“Do You Even Sleep Bro?”
Exercise has been linked to many health benefits of course, but having yourself a good session in the gym has been linked to a reduction in cortisol. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime. At least four hours’ prior will leave you ready to drop off when bedtime approaches.
A Matter of Routine
These days, after a stressful and busy day, we expect to fall into bed and be asleep in a matter of minutes. Why can we not sleep when we want to? Well, probably because there isn’t a bedtime routine in place. When you were a child, do you remember having a bath, being tucked in and then being read to? Didn’t you have a wonderful night’s sleep? As we get older, we don’t think about having a routine. A few suggestions can include, a nice cup of herbal tea (camomile is recommended for its relaxation properties and lack of caffeine), a warm bath with epsom salts, or simply a good book, just make sure it’s not quantum mechanics or something that will engage your mind too much.
Get Comfy, Sleep All Your Cares Away
Limiting technology or establishing a routine will help. But if you’re not in a comfy bed, your sleep quality will seriously be hampered. Many factors will affect your physical sleep quality. For example, sleeping on your left side is better than sleeping on the right side for a multitude of reasons. Buying the right bed will really help you go the distance. Do you even have a bed that suits your size? While some of us can “sleep on a spike”, others may need to upgrade to king sized mattresses or get one that has breathable material. Not sure what type you want? Try this out for size, or get help here.
While it can be tempting once in awhile to have a duvet day, make sure it is once in while. So, nighty night. Sleep tight. And if you’re reading this on your tablet, turn it off!