Sleepless Nights Killing You? Tips On How To Get Better Sleep
Sleeping problems are common and sufferers know the toll that not getting enough rest can take. Typical complaints include low mood and irritability, sluggish energy levels that leave you reaching for high-sugar and high-fat foods, and a general feeling of achiness. So, what can you do to get a good night’s sleep?
Common Causes of Sleeplessness
One of the main reasons that sleeping problems are on the rise is the popularity of devices that emit blue light. Your phone, tablet, computer, and television are all sources. Try installing a filter on your screen that will tint it red. This change can take getting used to, but most are timed so the colour intensifies as the day wears on, so you won’t notice the difference as much. Try to put away all electronics at least an hour before you go to bed too as they’re a mental stimulant.
Another source of sleep disruption is caffeine. Avoid coffee and caffeinated teas after 3 pm because they continue to affect your ability to fall asleep long after they give you an energy boost. Alternative drinks include herbal teas, like peppermint or camomile; fruit teas; coffee alternatives, like dandelion coffee or turmeric lattes; and malt drinks. It’s also important to watch your alcohol intake. A few drinks can help you nod off but will prevent you from entering the deeper stages of sleep meaning that your sleep is poor quality – regardless of how many hours you get.
Is your bedroom a relaxing place? A good quality mattress is an absolute must and your bedding should be comfortable and appropriate to the season. You want to be reasonably cool when you sleep, so an overly-heavy duvet – whilst snuggly – can cause problems. Tog values come in 4.5, 10.5, and 13.5 and are suitable for summer, spring/autumn, and winter respectively. During very hot weather you could ditch the duvet altogether and just use a sheet.
If your problem is that you wake up very early, invest in blackout blinds to keep the room dark no matter the time of day. And clear your room of electronics. If you rely on your phone as an alarm, at least put it out of arm’s reach so it won’t disturb you or tempt you to scroll social media when you can’t sleep.
Build A Sleep Routine
Do you just crash into bed whenever you feel tired? Or, worse, do you nod off on the sofa? If you’re serious about getting a good night’s sleep you need to put more planning into things.
- During the day, ensure that you exercise as this will help to burn off energy and give you cause to rest.
- Put your phone and electronic devices away at least one hour before bed.
- Eat a dinner that includes carbohydrates. In addition to raising serotonin, carbs help lower the stress hormone cortisol, which can inhibit sleep when it is elevated at night. Our bodies follow a natural pattern were hormone levels change throughout the day. Cortisol is one of these hormones—it makes you feel alert when it is elevated in the morning to get you out of bed. Then, cortisol should drop over the course of the day, reaching low levels at bedtime to allow for sleep. But if you train or work late, or deal with “life” stress later in the day, cortisol can flood your system, keeping you anxious and awake. Eating carbs can help reduce cortisol because they trigger a prolonged release of the hormone insulin, which is an antagonist to cortisol. High cortisol is one reason a lot of people crave high-carb “comfort” foods since their body is looking for a way to combat the physiological stress response and lower cortisol. Whole food, complex carbs such as starchy vegetables, fruit, beans, and boiled grains are good choices that will provide high-quality nutrition. Best results generally come from staying away from refined and processed carbs—everything from bread to crackers, cookies, ice cream, and so forth.
- Begin getting ready for bed around the same time every night. This could include a warm shower/bath and a skincare routine. Then you could read a book, listen to a podcast, meditate, or perform some low-intensity yoga. If you have a partner, it can be relaxing to chat with them but keep the topics light. If you have something serious or stressful to talk about, save it until the morning. Otherwise, it could weigh on your mind and prevent you from nodding off.
By following the above advice you’ll create the right conditions for a good night’s sleep, but if you find that you still can’t nod off then you need to dig deeper and ask exactly what’s stopping you. Is there a problem that’s weighing on your mind? Or a general feeling of stress or anxiety?
Often bedtime is the only point of the day when it’s quite enough to really think about things. However, it’s not the right time to start delving into complicated issues. If there’s something in your life that’s keeping you up at night you need to deal with it in the waking hours. Talk to your partner, a friend, a family member, or even a doctor. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved and there’s nothing so bad that you have to keep it between you and your bedroom ceiling.