The average adult needs around seven to eight hours of sleep to be able to function to the best of our ability each day.
When we sleep, our brains go into repair mode – which is the main reason why sleep is so important to our ability to function.
Not getting enough hours of sleep can lead to an increase in anger, anxiety and depression.
Hormone imbalances or changes are also one of the biggest causes for women struggling with sleep. Women are more vulnerable to sleep problems when hormone levels spike or drop during the menstrual cycle, during and after pregnancy and through menopause.
We’ve got the top 10 ways to get the best sleep possible by aiming to improve your patterns and increase your sleep.
“If you find you can’t get to sleep after a short amount of time, it’s best not to lay there waiting to fall asleep or stressing about not being able to get to asleep”
1 – Stick to a sleep schedule (even on weekends)
During the working week, many stick to a sleep schedule to help them get the right amount of sleep needed to function during the working day. The weekend comes around and we tend to stay up later than normal but more often than not, our body clocks will continue to wake us early in the morning.
The downside to this is that we end up getting less sleep than usual and we most definitely find it harder at the beginning of the week to get back into our routine.
You’ll be doing yourself a favour by pushing your week day sleeping patterns into the weekends too.
2 – Have a comfortable pillow that suits you
This might be surprising for some, but your pillow should be changed every year depending on your cleaning habits and allergies.
Most pillows that you purchase now are stamped with a recommended expiry date which makes it even easier for us to get it right. Finding the correct pillow shape, size and levels of firmness that suit your sleeping positions and can be tiring job in itself.
Unfortunately we can’t take pillows home to test them before knowing if we are happy with our purchase. But it’s so important to make the time to find the right one, as the wrong pillow can be really uncomfortable and cause lack of sleep or a sore back and neck.
3 – Avoid long naps during the day
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, assess the reasons why this could be happening.
Many of us enjoy a siesta after lunch or mid-afternoon but this could be the reason why you find it hard to sleep at night. You might need to ask yourself if you’re sleeping too much.
If a nap is absolutely necessary, then limit this to about thirty minutes. This is enough time for our bodies to switch off for a while but also not long enough for us to slip into a deep sleep and make us feel groggy after waking up.
4 – Be active during the day
Any form of exercise during the day can help you get a good night’s sleep – whether it be vigorous exercise or light exercise, as it will help to tire you out. Your body will crave the sleep as a way to help your muscles recover overnight.
Exercising at any time of the day can help unless it’s during your normal sleep pattern.
Make sure you don’t exceed your capacity levels during exercise as that can cause injuries. You might just end up putting more stress on your body and mind leading to sleepless nights.
“Sleep is the best meditation”Dalai Lama
5 – Evaluate your room
Try to design your room to ensure the conditions you need for maximum sleep.
Take into consideration the layout of your room and position of your bed.
Your bedroom should be free from noises and light.
Consider using blackout curtains or roller shutters to keep any light out until you’re ready to wake.
Eye shades and ear plugs to block out noises whilst you’re falling asleep and during the night.
6 – Avoid over eating or drinking at night
Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine just before bed can disrupt your sleep and better yet, make it harder for you to get to sleep in the first place.
If you can, avoid eating large or spicy meals two to three hours before bedtime as this can cause discomfort and even indigestion. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry after dinner.
7 – Don’t lie awake watching the clock
If you find you can’t get to sleep after a short amount of time, it’s best not to lay there waiting to fall asleep or stressing about not being able to get to asleep.
Another mistake that a lot of us make is staying on our phones or tablets until we start to feel like we are drifting off. Not only can this have us lose track of time and keep us awake for longer than we thought, but recent studies have shown that being exposed to the blue-and-white light from our devices at night prevents our brains from releasing melatonin. This is the hormone that tells our bodies it’s night time which means it takes us longer to fall asleep.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”Thomas Dekker
8 – Expose yourself to the “right light”
Spending time in the sun in the morning just after waking up will help your body clock to recognise that it’s time to get moving for the day.
Try to have your morning coffee outside or eat breakfast by a sunny window.
Aim to let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible during the day to keep your mind and body running on your daytime body clock.
This will make it easier for your body clock to settle into night time as we close the blinds, switch off the lights and create a dark environment.
9 – Wind down and relax before going to bed.
To fall asleep at night you need to be in a state of relaxation. Many people will go to bed wide awake and find it takes them a long time to fall asleep.
The best way to help you wind down before bed is to avoid any type of physical or mental stimulation. Try doing something relaxing and avoid doing things like being on a smartphone, or a tablet. Reading a book, having a bath or listening to relaxing music are just a few ideas to help you unwind before bed.
10 – Spend the right amount of time in bed
While we all love the thought of staying in bed all day, all good things must come to an end.
You only want to associate your bed with sleeping, so avoid working, watching TV, or using your computer or phone in bed for large sections of the day. This way your brain registers that your bed is for sleep and you’ll find it easier to stay in the mindset of going to bed and going to sleep much quicker.
The harder we try to sleep, the more elusive it becomes! The best solution to getting better sleep is to make changes to your routines and habits before going to bed, rather than waiting until you are struggling to fall sleep.
If you need some exercises to get your day started after a good sleep, check out our recent blog here.