A good night’s sleep is restorative, physically and mentally. Deprived of our slumber we neither feel well nor can we function effectively. Here are five easy to implement tips for sweet dreams.
Keep the room cool (around 65°F/16 - 18°C) and well ventilated. Use only soft lighting, sleep in the dark – the darker the better – and cut out noise. No TV, computer, briefcase, mobile phone or anything else unrelated to sleep. A comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows are a must. And try sleeping on your non-dominant side, that's left if you're right -handed, right if you're left handed. Reason? Some sleep experts are finding this improves quality of sleep.
How much sleep is enough?
When we’re getting enough sleep we should wake without the need for an alarm clock. Establish a regular bedtime/waking routine and try to stick to it, even on the weekend. Rather than hours, figure out how many 90-minute sleep cycles (light, deep and REM) you need. Add 15 minutes falling asleep time plus 15 minutes for waking and adjust your bedtime accordingly.
Boost night time melatonin levels
Melatonin, a hormone, helps us feel sleepy; darkness triggers its production while light suppresses it. So, aim for maximum exposure to natural light and bright light during the day then, towards bedtime, reduce light levels: avoid backlit screens (including TV) and don’t sit in bright light immediately before bed.
A relaxing late-evening routine sends the brain a powerful signal to unwind. Make basic preparations for the morning – laying out your clothes, etc. Experiment to find the bedtime routine that relaxes you best then repeat it nightly – anything from taking a warm (not hot) bath to reading or listening to soft music.
No evening napping
Falling asleep on the sofa is not a good option. Fight off after-dinner drowsiness with anything you can think of: step outside, phone a friend, wash the dishes. Aim to eat around three hours before bed and skip heavy, fatty foods – a rumbling stomach or heartburn can disturb sleep. Caffeine, of course, is a stimulant and alcohol disrupts the normal sleep cycle. Warm milk, which contains sleep-inducing tryptophan, may help you drop off to sleep, or a carbohydrate and tryptophan snack such as a banana or wholegrain cereal with milk.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan