A lack of consistently good sleep can end up being your worst enemy.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain and health issues. It can age your skin. It can affect your sex drive. I think we’d all agree that none of these are good things.
Sleep is basically the cornerstone of a happy and functional life, yet it often plays second, third or fourth fiddle to everything else we find ourselves having to cram into each day.
There are however, small steps you can take to ensure that you are doing your best in this modern, crazy world we live in, to improve your own quality of sleep. It isn’t hard – it just takes the implementation of a few new habits and the breaking of some old ones that are doing you more harm, than good.
1. Have your last cup of coffee before 5pm.
Although a caffeine hit can peak within your body from anywhere between 30-60mins after ingesting, it takes between 3 – 5 hours for the drug to leave your body entirely.
So, that cup of char’, joe or soft drink that you ingested around dinner time could be responsible for you lying awake for hours in bed, your mind racing. (And once you do eventually drift off, caffeine can affect the amount of deep sleep you have, rendering you exhausted upon waking, which surely defies all logic).
So ensure that you have your last sip of a caffeinated beverage well before bedtime. If ten o’clock is your ideal time to go to bed, ensure that it’s at least five hours before then.
2. Set a sleep schedule.
We are creatures of habit after all, so you’ll find greater success in sleeping if you make the time to establish a routine.
If you consistently switch the lights off at a certain time, your body will see it as a signal to go “Oh, right, it’s that time of the day/night again… sleepy time!” – and overtime you’ll find it easier and easier to nod off.
If you’re collapsing in bed exhausted some nights at 9pm, then staying up wasting time ‘til 1am other nights, you’ll just make it harder for yourself and your poor, confused body.
Likewise, forcing yourself to get out of bed at the same time will help work wonders. Say you commit to a wake-up time of 7am every morning. It might seem like the worst thing in the world at first, but over time you’ll find yourself naturally waking up, sometimes even before your alarm.
3. Invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock.
Speaking of alarms, one of the smartest moves I ever made was swapping out my mobile phone for an old-fashioned alarm clock.
I chose an analogue clock, with a silent ticker and an alarm that wasn’t going to frighten the bejeebers out of me when it went off every morning.
It’s made a world of difference. I hit the snooze button a lot less, these days.
4. Turn your phone off and leave it in another room.
And this is primarily because I no longer sleep with my mobile phone right next to my head.
Sometimes if I couldn’t sleep, I’d reach out for the phone and lose myself in the Internet. An hour may pass… or two and I’d still be unable to sleep and feel the worse for it.
Now I switch off my phone every evening and leave it in the lounge room. The temptation is no longer there and I sleep a lot better for it.
5. Don’t do work/read/watch TV on your bed.
If you can help it, try to avoid using your bed for anything other than sleeping. Once again, this is just a way of signalling to your body that the act of getting into bed, means it’s time to sleep.
Not reading. Not fart-arsing around on your phone or computer. Not binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. Just pure and simple sleep.
6. Have a light dinner.
Ever heard of the quote: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”? They are certainly words to live your life by.
Eating a large dinner will fire up your metabolism, making it difficult for your body to relax. Dinner should be eaten at least three hours before you sleep and should be followed by some sort of movement.
This is an excellent time to address some of the chores you’ve been putting off, like washing some clothes or finally cleaning your toilet for the first time in weeks.
7. Sniff on some lavender oil before bed.
Certain essential oils can be handy little things to have lying around your home and lavender is one of them. Whilst it won’t send you straight to sleep, it will certainly help relax your system.
I find rubbing a couple of drops of the oil onto my temples helps calm me down.
You can also burn incense sticks, mix some lavender in water to spray onto your pillow, put a few drops into an oil burner, or steal/borrow some springs from a neighbour’s garden to keep in your room.
8. Do a few yoga poses before bed.
Another simple way to relax is to do a few yoga poses before bed. I particularly like to lie with my bottom against the wall and legs against the wall for a few minutes, with my eyes closed, whilst concentrating on deep breathing.
Here are a few other poses that will help you wind your body down.
9. Get a light workout in.
In fact, if you have the time, why not get a bit of movement in?
Nothing hardcore – HIIT classes may not be the best thing to attend at 8:30 at night. Think more along the lines of a few laps in a local pool, a yin yoga class or a stroll around your block.
Think just enough to get the heart pumping a wee bit, but not so much that it gets over-excited and then needs time to calm itself down.
10. Make your bedroom your sleep haven.
Make your bed every morning, to make it seem more inviting when you hop under the covers at night. Fill your room with plantlife. Invest in some quality sheets. Keep the room clean and the clutter to a minimum. Wash your sheets once a week.
By doing all this, you’ll be far more excited to go to bed… and hopefully sleep won’t be too far away.
Author Bio: LC Hunter is an ex-expat, who is currently exploring her home country of Australia. She has three ambitions in life – to travel plastic-free, visit all Nordic countries and territories (3 to go!) and eventually settle down on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a shetland pony and several pygmy goats. Follow her travels around Oz and the world and her attempts to embrace a greener lifestyle on her blog Birdgehls and on Facebook.