8 Ways to Improve Your Sleep (and Your Overall Health)
When most people think about the health benefits of sleep, they tend to focus on mental health. However, our sleep schedules have an enormous impact on our physical well-being, as well, determining our levels of energy, our diets, and our ability to stay fit. Especially when we are living through such uncertain times, sleep becomes even more of an important factor.
For these reasons, good sleep habits are crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re struggling to have a good night’s sleep.
Set a Regular Sleep Schedule
This is the single most important thing you can do to sleep better. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night, but it’s up to you to figure out how that looks like in terms of your schedule. Sleep.org recommends testing out different times for going to bed and waking up until you find what works best for you, and then sticking to this every day – yes, even on weekends.
Make Some Bedroom Improvements
Stress is the enemy of sleep, which is why you should work to create a sleep environment that reduces stress as much as possible. Some simple bedroom upgrades you can make to achieve this include getting blackout curtains, reducing noise through soundproofing, and making sure your room is a comfortable temperature.
Know Your Caffeine Cut-Off Point
You wouldn’t have a pre-bed double shot latte, but you might be vastly underestimating how long caffeine stays in your body. Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours, which means that a cup of coffee at 6 PM will still be in your system at midnight. Set a caffeine cut-off point six hours before your planned bedtime to guarantee that caffeine does not interfere with your sleep.
Big Lunches, Small Dinners
Most people eat a quick lunch and focus on dinner as the big meal of the day. While this makes sense in terms of a normal 9-to-5 schedule, it is the worst possible option for your sleep. Big dinners take longer to digest, which can keep you up at night. Instead, try packing a filling lunchtime meal and having something lighter for dinner – try something high in fiber, with bonus points for emphasizing whole foods.
Work Out in the Mornings
Morning workouts can be the best option to improve sleep, based on findings from a study. That’s because exercising in the morning can produce the same blood pressure-reducing effect as sleeping. On the other hand, you do some exercise at night to help you relax – just try something low-intensity like an at-home yoga session.
Let the Sunshine In
Exposing yourself to natural sunlight helps your circadian rhythm (which dictates your sleep patterns) work optimally. Ideally, you should get 30 to 45 minutes of sunlight exposure in the mornings. Of course, we in the UK know that sunlight is not always available – a light box is not as effective as the sun, but it can provide similar effects in the middle of a dreary British winter.
Get the Best Sleep Kit
This may seem like an obvious one, but make sure you are sleeping with the best quality mattress, pillows, and bedding you can afford. The mattress is particularly important, since it can affect not only your quality of sleep but your overall spine health. There are quite a few new mattress brands claiming to be the best, which can be a bit confusing, so read some comparison guides to help you make your decision.
Have a Wind-Down Routine
Finally, take some time every evening to relax your body and mind. This will help dissipate any stress you may be holding onto and makes it easier for you to fall asleep. Useful habits include switching off gadgets, taking a hot bath, listening to a guided meditation, or playing white noise sounds.
It can be hard to do all of these at once, so build things up slowly. Pick one or two habits you’d like to establish, then focus on these until they feel natural to you. Any progress is good progress, and any improvement in your sleep quality and quantity will have direct positive effects on your physical and mental well-being.