For many of us, getting the right amount of sleep is a luxury that slips through our desperate grasps. Likewise, the poor quality of our sleeps leaves us feeling drained, lethargic and sluggish. We all know the feeling of having an amazing nights sleep and the head start it gives you going into your day! In a similar fashion, we also know the feeling of a dreadful night’s snooze and the drawbacks it has on your mental & physical health.
I’m going to refer to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in this article, as its importance is crucial for a healthy sleep. To put it simply, REM sleep is a term used to describe a unique stage of sleep, whereby a person is experiencing deep, intense sleep where recovery of vital systems takes place at its highest potential. Dreams typically occur during this phase of sleep, if you have always wondered where they come from.
It’s important to know the basics here before you doze off on me. Sleep is an essential process that aids the brain and body in many ways. Insufficient sleep can be linked to bowel, prostate and breast cancer. It is vital in helping the brain process and memorise information it receives throughout the day. Similarly, sleep plays a huge role in reducing health risks, preventing injury, boosting vitality and improving metabolism.
If you follow these 7 Simple Steps, beauty sleep won’t ever be an issue for you again.
- Do Your Exercise Early.
For you to feel relaxed and ready to fall asleep, you want to avoid any vigorous exercise before bedtime. An intense workout raises body temperature, increases heart rate and stimulates adrenaline. All of which when done consistently, provides you with great results physically and mentally of course. However, if you’re not sitting down relaxed at home at least 2-3 hours before bed, this will have negative effects on your quality of sleep.
We all don’t live in an ideal world where we can hit the gym early in the day due to work commitments, but exercising too close to bedtime can make it very hard to fall asleep. Exercising early in the morning before work is a great way of getting a workout in and allowing yourself time to come down gradually from your action-packed workout. You will also have a head start on your day, knowing you were up and out early while others press the snooze button, is also very satisfying.
- Have your last meal early in the evening.
Evening rituals normally feature a bedtime snack of some sort. Going to sleep hungry doesn’t always feel the best, even if it does wonders for burning fat overnight. So having a little snack won’t do major harm in the grand scheme of things. However, if you regularly eat late in the evening and have trouble getting a good night’s snooze, it’s worth considering the connection between the two.
Eating a large meal late into the evening may negatively impact your ability to fall asleep and the quality of it. You want to have your dinner in you a good 4-5 hours before bedtime for it to digest properly.
In terms of snacking, if you’re like me and always feel hungry before bed, go for something small like nuts or berries. Don’t go to bed too full, and don’t go to bed too hungry.
- Avoid Caffeine late in the day.
Caffeine is best consumed early in the day, when you need that little bit extra to get yourself going. It can be great to boost energy, burn fat, improve performance and warm your body, especially in these frosty winter months.
However, taking caffeine late in the day may result in stimulation you don’t want before trying to sleep. Caffeine can be active in your body for 6-8 hours, so your best bet is to avoid consuming it any time after 4pm. Coffee being the most popular source of caffeine people turn to, similarly we often forget that one cup of tea after dinner while watching the soaps may be what stimulates your nervous system at night time as well.
My recommendation here would be to stick to decaffeinated coffee or decaffeinated tea if you are craving a cup before bed time.
- Set the mood
No, I’m not asking Alexa to “play Marvin Gaye” here. I am referring to the area of space you sleep in called the bedroom. Your bedroom must feel comfortable, quiet and secure for you to have a good night’s sleep in it. I’d advise dim lighting in the late evening, as bright lights before bed will affect your ability to wind down and relax, resulting in reduced REM sleep overnight.
It only makes sense as the more relaxed you are, the better sleep you have. This is also a phycological thing. Do you ever find yourself struggling to sleep in a hotel or BnB? This is because you are in a foreign environment outside of your comfort zone.
- Don’t consume Alcohol
A chemical people would commonly associate with aiding sleep is alcohol. Yes, we have all been there, after a few drinks you can feel sleepy and tired. However, alcohol is very good at disrupting our sleep pattern and blocking REM sleep for the night you are drinking.
When we consume alcohol, REM sleep is minimal that night. Meaning we haven’t gone through the process of recovery and rest at its fullest potential. Therefore many of us get what we call “the horrors” the night after drinking. Essentially, “the horrors” is a rebound effect of missing out on a nights REM sleep. Your brain has its normal appetite for REM sleep plus the night it has missed out on due to your shenanigans at the bar. This explains the crazy, vivid and intense dreams we all have the night after a session of drinking.
If you’re going to drink alcohol, know your limits and don’t take it too far, as its effects on your body and brain may be longer lasting than you think.
- Ditch the screens before bedtime
This may seem like a harmless habit but staring at a screen before bed not only damages the quality of your sleep but your health also. A lot of the time we scroll through news feeds looking for nothing in particular, as a society we have turned into robots addicted to technology and its many services. Social media being the biggest culprit of them all.
When we decide to jump on our smartphone before bed, we are keeping our mind engaged by feeding our brain more information and entertainment to digest at the wrong time. Instead, try reading a book before bed or simply engage with a family member or house mate.
- Go to bed & wake up at consistent times
Regularity is key here, as a healthy sleeping pattern is very important. When you have consistency waking up around the same time, your body and brain are more prepared as they are familiar with this. Likewise, when you have consistency jumping into bed at night (and hopefully falling asleep straight away), your body knows the time to wind down has come around again.
As times goes by, the process of going to bed and waking up at the same time will get easier. Eventually you may not even need an alarm clock to wake up! I still wouldn’t chance it though.
A Final Word
Sleep may be the world’s most powerful and legal sport enhancer that people are neglecting. But you don’t have to be an athlete to realise its importance to you and your health.
Vinny Pyper – Marketing Co-Ordinator