Overcoming insomnia and improving your sleep needn’t be hard. Often the reason why people can’t sleep is due to a few bad habits which prevent the natural onset of sleep. People often aren’t even aware of the things they do that could be preventing them from sleeping.
By removing these insomnia inducing habits, and introducing new sleep promoting habits, you can create a daily routine that naturally encourages a good nights sleep.
Here are 7 simple sleep tips that you can use to fall asleep quicker, sleep deeper through the night, and feel more awake during the day.
1. Avoid alcohol before bedtime
Alcohol is a natural depressant which makes us feel nice and relaxed, so it’s tempting to think that having some before bedtime can help us get a better night’s sleep.
But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. It’s deceptive! While it might get you to sleep faster, it affects quality of your sleep. This means you spend less time in the deeper more refreshing stages of sleep and more time in the lighter stages of sleep, leaving you feeling sleepy in the morning and during the day.
Drinking alcohol in the evening also increases the likelihood of waking up during the night, and once you’ve woken up, you may find it harder to fall back to sleep.
So ultimately, you’d be better off without it.
2. Only use your bed for sleep and sex
Your mind’s association with your sleep environment has a major part in getting you to sleep. If you were to use your sleep environment for day to day activities, such as watching TV, your mind will associate it less with sleep.
The best solution is to use your bedroom only for sleeping, but I know this might not be possible for some people.
The most important item in your sleep environment is your bed. So you should only use your bed for sleep and relaxation. Well maybe sex too, but that’s it!
3. Light up your days and darken your nights
The amount of light seen through your eyes is one of the clues your body uses to work out what time of day it is. Your body naturally associates light with day and alertness and dark with night and sleepiness.
When it’s dark, your body releases a hormone called Melatonin. This helps to make your body feel drowsy and helps it prepare to go to sleep. But when it’s light, Melatonin is suppressed.
At night you should expose yourself to as little light as possible. Dim the lights in your house if possible or be very selective with which ones you use. If you use your computer before you go to bed, make sure the brightness setting of your monitor is turned right down.
Try to expose yourself to daylight as soon as you wake up. This will help kick start your body into action and wake up feeling refreshed. Keeping yourself in darkness will make your body think it’s still night time and then you could have real problems waking up. A simple way of doing this is by opening your curtains as soon as you wake up to let in as much daylight as possible.
If you need to wake up when it’s still dark outside, consider investing in a lightbox. Lightboxes produce a special type of light that mimics natural daylight. So a few minutes in front of a lightbox should give you all the benefits of waking up to natural sunlight.
4. Avoid stimulation before bed
Try to avoid all types of stimulants before you go to bed, such as:
- Heavy exercise
Just before your bedtime, after a natural peak, your body will start to wind down and you’ll feel sleepy. Any stimulants taken around this time will mess up this natural wind down stage and you’ll find it harder to get to sleep.
5. Take regular exercise
Just a little exercise each day can make a big difference to your sleep.
This works in two ways. First, it helps relax your muscles so you’ll feel less inclined to move around in bed. Second, exercise is a great way to reduce stress, which can also reduce anxiety.
You don’t need to go to the gym and bust those weights, just make the commitment to move a little more during your daily routine. Take a walk down to the local shops instead of taking the car to the supermarket. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Go for a walk in the evening to use up your last bit of energy.
It’s the little things that can make a big difference to your sleep. Exercise also has the benefit of making you look good and feel good too!
6. No unplanned naps for more than 30 minutes
Your body’s natural cycles hate anything out of the ordinary outside of your regular sleep wake cycle. So for the best results, you should stick to your sleep pattern like glue to build up regular sleep timing. Any unplanned naps can really mess things up, and one bad nights’ sleep can easily develop into a future insomnia problem.
If you nap for more than 30 minutes, you’ll start to enter the deeper stages of sleep. This means when you wake up you’ll probably end up feeling worse than you did before you had the nap.
To avoid this, you would need to nap for around an hour and a half. But doing so would affect your sleep timings. So it would need to be part of a regular sleep pattern.
7. Don’t watch TV in bed
It has become a must have TV for the bedroom, but it has also become one of the most common causes of not being able to get to sleep. Watching TV in bed does two things:
- It mixes up your body’s natural wind down process. Since your body associates light with daytime and alertness, staring into a big box of light confuses the body into thinking it’s daytime, preventing the sleepiness hormone Melatonin (as mentioned above) from being released.
- Your brain is very sensitive to association. By watching TV in bed, your mind beings to associate your bed and your bedroom more with entertainment and less with sleep. This can cause a condition known as Learnt Insomnia where by your body actually learns to stay awake rather than to fall asleep.
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It’s often the seemingly little things that can affect your sleep. Remember that unless you have a regular habit of being able to sleep well every night, your sleep pattern will be very delicate, taking only the slightest changes to put it out of place and potentially cause insomnia.