Five easy steps to better sleep
If you’ve been suffering from insomnia, these five tips for better sleep can be a good place to start your recovery. It is important not to become too strict or rigid about these recommendations as worrying about getting it “right” can create more stress that could then affect your sleep! Consider them a set of guidelines that can help your natural sleep processes function at their best.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
Caffeine is chemical that stimulates the nervous system, and the effects can last more than 4-5 hours after consumption. The more caffeine you consume the longer the effects can last. While coffee tends to contain the highest levels of caffeine, high levels are also found in cola drinks, tea and chocolate. The stimulating effects of caffeine can exacerbate anxiety, hyperarousal, and insomnia, therefore it is best to avoid caffeine completely if you experience these conditions. Try to not to drink more than two cups of coffee or tea each day, and avoid caffeine after about 2pm.
Alcohol is a drug that suppresses the nervous system creating drowsiness. Some people can depend on it to relax or even get to sleep. The problem is, alcohol can interfere with the natural processes of sleep and cause you to wake up more frequently, so you’ll feel less refreshed in the morning. A glass of wine with dinner shouldn’t create too many problems, but its recommended you don’t drink more than this.
Don’t eat too close to bedtime.
Your digestive system slows down during sleep, so eating heavy meals too close to bedtime might cause discomfort and interfere with sleep. For the same reason it is best not to eat food in the middle of the night. However, if you are hungry before bedtime choose a light, low sugar snack such as yoghurt or banana.
Increase physical exercise and general fitness
A healthy level of regular exercise has a positive effect on sleep. If your current exercise levels are low, start slowly and build up gradually over a number of weeks. The benefits of exercise on sleep may not be recognised immediately but over time your improved physical fitness will support healthy sleep.
Also, it is helpful to note that it is best not to undertake intensive exercise in the 2-3 hours before bedtime. Allow time for the body to relax and unwind before going to bed.
Create a comfortable sleep environment
For optimal sleep it is best if your bedroom is dark and quiet and at a comfortable to cool room temperature. Mattresses and pillows should be replaced every 7-10 years to ensure they offer adequate support. It is recommended that computers, phones, TV’s and radios remain out of the bedroom to provide a quiet and calming environment, free from noisy distractions.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
The internal body clock that regulates sleep works best when we maintain a regular routine in our lives. It is recommended that you get up the same time each day and go to bed about the same time each night when you are sleepy. It can also be helpful to keep regular meal times about the same time each day too. While an extra hour sleep in on weekends is fine, sleeping in late or having long naps during the day can affect sleep the following night.
These tips won’t necessarily cure your insomnia, as there may be other factors causing the problem, but it would be wise to get the foundations right before moving on to other treatments.
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You can find more information about insomnia here. And you can learn more about the influence of thinking on sleep in the related articles When the mind won’t stop thinking, just sit back and watch and Are you stuck with insomnia, chronic fatigue or anxiety?