Sleep is one of those things that we often fear during childhood, dismiss as students, miss dearly as young parents and generally lack throughout our adult lives.
When we want to sleep but toss and turn instead, one proven solution is to slip into our Nuknuuks, prepare some chamomile tea with honey and read a few pages before trying again. Which is perfectly fine once in a while. It’s only if those nights become the norm rather than the exception that they may become a concern. A good night’s snooze helps our bodies recharge, make sense of the day’s experiences, file away memories and establish a regular circadian rhythm.
That doesn’t mean we all need the same amount of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, while children need 10 to 12 hours. And just as children benefit from a regular bedtime routine, so do adults. Here are our top 7 tips to improve sleep:
1. Go For Less
Minimalism is a trend that may not appeal to you in all aspects of your life, but it’s a great concept for the bedroom. Keeping clutter to a minimum goes a long way to establishing a soothing atmosphere when you turn in for the night. It helps to keep bedrooms clean as well. You can still display your favourite things, but take a look around the room and contemplate each item’s usefulness. Remove any unnecessary plants, books or collectibles. The bed is a necessity, of course. So are comfy Nuknuuk slippers beside it, at least in our book!
2. Follow A Routine
As creatures of habit, we can improve our sleep by creating a soothing bedtime routine. First, set yourself a bedtime reminder. Count back 7 to 9 hours from the time you need to get up to make sure that you will get enough sleep. Then try to turn this daily bedtime into a habit. Your body responds to routine, so it should get used to it fairly quickly. This does not mean you have to cancel your night out with friends or avoid late nights altogether. Go have fun, by all means! But try this routine during the week, for example, when you have to get up early to go to work or school.
Once you know what time you need to go to bed, combine it with certain habits to prepare your body and mind for a restful night. This includes changing into pyjamas and brushing your teeth, for example. Keep your cozy Nuknuuk slippers on, even for some relaxing stretches or yoga poses. Or try a warm bath. Find nighttime habits that work for you and stick to them for a while.
3. Avoid Large Meals Before Bed
We have some bad news for all those late-night snackers who insist they need a little sustenance before going to bed. If the stomach is too full, the body is more concerned with digesting the food rather than getting some rest. We know, it sucks. Snacking is so much fun! The problem is high-calorie snack foods, really. If your last meal of the day was a long time ago and you feel like you would be too hungry to sleep, then by all means opt for a piece of fruit instead of chips, says Mark Reddick of sleepadvisor.org.
4. Limit Caffeine, Alcohol And Nicotine
Coffee and other drinks that contain caffeine help keep us awake, so avoid them if you want to go to sleep anytime soon, even if they don’t seem to affect you that much. Experts suggest drinking water to stay hydrated (but not too close to bedtime, of course), or sipping on some cherry juice, chamomile tea, milk or passion fruit tea with a little honey.
While alcohol can make people feel sleepy, drinking it before bedtime often leads to interrupted snoozes, loud snoring and intense dreams. Again, that doesn’t mean we have to avoid alcohol altogether, just that we shouldn’t mistake it for a sedative. Nicotine has a stimulating effect, so a cigarette before bed may negatively influence sleep quality.
5. Ditch The Devices
We all love our devices, apps and binge-worthy shows, but when it comes to improving the quality of our sleep, we may need to rethink those nighttime habits. The light emitted by smartphones, ipads, televisions, laptops and even e-readers mess with our internal clocks and may delay the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. It is a good idea to limit the number of devices in the bedroom and to turn those that remain on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode.
6. Embrace The Darkness
Keeping devices out of the bedroom is not the only way to help our bodies adopt a circadian rhythm that allows for a restful sleep - a dark bedroom in general is important. Most urban bedrooms chase away darkness with too many unnatural light sources, including power saving buttons, street lamps, night lights etc. Try installing window treatments such as blinds or blackout shades to darken a room. Other tips include closing the bedroom door and covering light-emitting sources in the room to avoid unnecessary light exposure.
In the morning, however, the body craves natural (sun)light, so slip into your Nuknuuks and greet the day on your patio whenever possible, or at least open all the curtains and enjoy the day’s natural light.
When you feel comfortable in your bedroom, you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. Everyone’s comfort level is different, so make sure that your bedroom meets your ideal sleeping conditions. One of the most important factors is the bed, of course: Is the mattress supportive, is the pillow comfortable, and are the sheets soft? Keep an eye on the room temperature and regulate it so that it is not too hot or too cold. A quiet environment is better for sleep. Some people swear they sleep better with white noise in the background, while others opt for earplugs if noise is an issue. Last, but not least, let some air in before and after sleep (if not all night) to ensure good air quality.
8. Stay Awake During The Day
A daily nap may interfere with your ability to sleep during the night. Avoid nodding off during the day (unless it’s a much-needed 10-20 minute power nap) and always seek out your bed if you need to sleep at night. Conversely, experts say that you should avoid tossing and turning in bed if sleep eludes you. On those nights, put on your Nuknuuk slippers, do something else and try again later.
Follow these tips and enjoy a better night’s sleep. Happy ZZZ’s!