Why is Sleep Quality Important?
Many think that sleep is all about the quantity. However, the truth is you're better off with six hours deep, quality sleep than nine hours of broken, shallow sleep.
A good, deep sleep allows the body to rest and repair. A lot of the body processes occur at night, including rebuilding of muscles and 'rebooting' the brain.
Getting insufficient quality sleep is linked to:
- Higher risk of obesity
- Higher risk of hypertension
- Higher risk of mental illness
- Mood swings, including anxiety and anger
- A lowered immune system
- Impaired cognition and concentration
- Higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes
As you can see, there are many reasons why you might want to get the best night's sleep you can.
What is 'Sleep Hygiene'?
A term that is thrown around a lot when it comes to good quality sleep is 'sleep hygiene'. Put simply, this is about how you treat your body, and your bedroom, prior to sleep.
These habits help you to remain most alert during the day, and then drop off into a deep, restful sleep at night.
Many experts believe that sleep disorders, such as insomnia, occur due to years of poor sleep hygiene. But by implementing good sleep hygiene, you can train your body to rest at the right time.
How to Sleep Deep
So, what can you incorporate into your routine to ensure a good sleep? Here are some of the best sleep hygiene tips to try.
Cut the Blue Light
Ever found yourself scrolling through Facebook for four hours straight, unable to sleep? How about watching a whole TV series in a single night without a wink of sleep? Electronic devices emit a blue light that can inhibit production of melatonin, our sleep neurotransmitter.
Keep the TV for the early evenings, and switch it off at least one hour before bed time. For your phone or laptop, you can download apps to reduce the blue light levels at night.
Keep It Black
Any kind of lighting can be disturbing to sleep, even the light of your phone charger. Keep the electronics to a minimum in the bedroom. If you really must have your phone on charge, cover up the light.
The same goes for the rest of the room. On a full moon night, your sheer curtains may not cut it. Make sure all curtains and drapes in the bedroom have a blackout backing. If you're crafty, you can add your own backing to your current drapes.
Enjoy Sleep Inducing Sips
Many people enjoy a night-time beverage. The good news is, there are several options out there that can aid in inducing a good quality sleep.
For warmer nights, consider keeping a bottle of tart cherry juice in the fridge. Tart cherry is a natural source of sleep neurotransmitter melatonin. For cooler weather, try a sleepy tea blend, with popular ingredients that include valerian, lavender, camomile and passionflower.
Aim for Optimal Sleep Temperature
You might find yourself getting cold when you're tired, and cranking up the thermostat. Not so fast! Sleep quality is best when the ambient room temperature is around 60-67 degrees F.
Too chilly for you? Layer on the blankets instead. You can always kick a blanket off during the night. It's also far less disturbing than having to get up and turn down the thermostat. You might also want to have a warm shower before bed.
Write It Out
Sometimes, when you crawl into bed after a big day, your brain is racing. You might be worried about a million things for the future. This is when a journal or notepad comes in handy.
Spend ten minutes jotting down notes about all of your thoughts and worries. It might be a to-do list, a vent about the day or just a stream of thoughts. Whatever it is, unload it onto the paper.
Then pop it in the drawer, out of sight. By getting it out onto the pad, you process a lot of the thoughts and can often settle into a better sleep afterward.
One of the easiest ways to get a good night's sleep is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the 'rest and digest' system, where your body thinks that everything is safe and secure.
The easiest way to do this is by deep breathing. Take some time to breathe deeply into your belly. Breathe in as far as you can, and then exhale slowly for as long as you can. Repeat for a few minutes. You'll notice your heart rate will drop, and it will be easier to breathe deeply than when you started.
For bonus points, incorporate in a meditation. Guided meditations for sleep are best, as they allow you to drop off whenever you're ready. A good one to start with is Meditation Oasis; you can download their free iSleep Easy app for both iOS and Android.
Watch Your Caffeine and Alcohol
It's such a simple thing, but it's something that many people overlook. If you are consuming caffeine after 3 p.m., you may be causing yourself sleep issues. If you need your 3 p.m. beverage, try enjoying a cup of a caffeine-free drink, such as rooibos tea, instead.
Similarly, alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, but it actually disturbs sleep after a couple of hours. If you're going to drink, stick to one glass and enjoy it early in the evening.
Establish a Pre-Bed Routine
Our bodies love routine. Once they know the routine, they like to stick to it. That's why creating your own routine is a big step in sleep hygiene.
A pre-sleep routine is highly personal. Some people might change into pajamas and then read a book. Others might have a shower to rinse off the stress of the day. The exact order and preference isn't important. Combine your preferred sleep hygiene tips into a routine that works for you.
By adding in these easy tips, you'll find yourself sleeping better for longer naturally. As we know, the more rested you are, the healthier you'll become.