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In a world full of valuable objects including technology, money and fast paced fashion, perhaps the most valuable thing we own is not material, but how we feel. Something that can’t be bought is time and so often we feel there is never enough time in our busy schedules to finish our duties or have some time to ourselves.
Living in such a world where everything moves so fast, we find ourselves unable to switch off for a good night’s rest, waking in the morning unsatisfied with our mediocre sleep and the commitments of the day ahead.
Sleep is valuable to our brains and bodies. Not only do we rest when we sleep, but we are allowing ourselves to unwind and our bodies to heal. When we lack sleep, we lack energy, focus and the ability to get through the day smoothly.
Unfortunately, we could be hindering our sleeping success without even realising it, so take a look through our top tips to help you get a better sleep.
Give up the gadgets
Start to put away the gadgets before you get into bed. Reading from anything that has a backlight like your phone, computer, or tablet can suppress your melatonin production, which makes it harder to get to sleep. Turning off the TV and laying in your bed without the distractions makes it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Ditch the afternoon coffee
You might think you’re immune to caffeine by now, but it’s stopping you from getting to sleep. Snacks like chocolate also contain hidden amounts of caffeine, so avoiding dessert may actually help you sleep better.
Schedule in regular exercise
Regular exercise is proven to help you sleep better, as long as it’s not too close to bedtime. Morning exercise can help to wake you up and prepare for you for the day, but aim to finish intense afternoon exercise three or more hours before you’re due to call it a night.
Create a sleeping routine
Humans like to get into a habit, and sleeping is no different. Working with your routine, getting to sleep and getting up at the same time everyday can help you sleep better. This also includes limiting daytime naps to ensure that you can get a good quality sleep when you hop into bed at night.
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Isn’t it ironic how sleepy you can be throughout the day, only to find that when your head finally hits the pillow you’re miraculously (and frustratingly) wide awake. If you’re one of these people who finds it difficult to switch-off at bedtime, here are a few remedies that will help to calm your mind so you can finally get that good night’s sleep you crave.
Sitting down to a warm cup of herbal tea before bedtime can help you to unwind and relax as it raises body heat. Chamomile tea is a great option because it contains no caffeine and is reported to have a sedative effect – it also has a slightly sweet after-taste, so it’s the perfect post-dinner drink.
Start a journal
When you take your worries or to-do list to bed with you, you’re bound to be up all night stressing and over-thinking them. Try starting a journal and set aside 10 to 15 minutes each night before going to sleep to write down your thoughts and concerns. By making the time to address your thoughts, you’re mentally checking them off as ‘dealt with’ or ‘dealing with.’
Create a sleep schedule
Research demonstrates that getting up and going to bed at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends) promotes good sleeping patterns as it stabilises your body clock. And while it may take a few weeks to discipline your body, not only will it result in regular REM sleep, you will also be more productive throughout the day as a result.
Ban electronics from the bedroom
How many times have you been at the cusp of falling to sleep, only to be woken by an incoming text message or call? And how many times have you found yourself awake for an extra hour trawling Facebook or playing a game? Not only does late night interaction keep your brain stimulated, but the light from the screen actually keeps you awake, too. Several sleep experts say this is because exposure to bright and intense light late at night can inhibit the body’s secretion of melatonin.
Get in some exercise
Getting in some physical exercise throughout the day can significantly improve the ability to fall asleep, according to research. It decreases anxiety and depressive symptoms and can act as a stress-buster if you’re feeling under the pump. Also, if you workout late afternoon, the post-exercise drop in your body temperature is said to promote better sleep.
Image via the Huffington Post
A Japanese legend says that if you can’t sleep at night it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream.” – Anonymous
If you’re ever unlucky enough to suffer a serious bout of ongoing insomnia, you can see why sleep deprivation is such an effective psychological torture technique. For it’s debilitating, stressful and frustrating in the extreme – you’re desperate to sleep, but yet you just can’t. So, you have a glass of red, thinking it will help, and so the vicious cycle continues…
So, what is insomnia, you may ask? The Australasian Sleep Association’s definition of it is if you have difficulty “falling asleep, going back to sleep or waking too early” and you have periods in bed when you are awake for longer than 30 minutes.
And if you suffer from insomnia, you’re not alone – several Australian surveys have revealed up to one third of people reported having at least one insomnia symptom (such as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep) each month.
Of course, life throws you curveballs, so the widespread pervasiveness of insomnia is no surprise given many of us are battling major life stressors, such as separation, divorce or death of a spouse, partner or family member.
It’s been said that the cost of insomnia to the Australian economy is $220 billion annually in medical andlost productivity costs. For lack of adequate sleep doesn’t just make you feel shitty, it goes hand-in-hand with many health problems such as impaired concentration and memory and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and industrial and motor vehicle accidents.
What’s more, insomnia is also a risk factor for depression and anxiety, although it can also be a symptom of these conditions.
Now, all this is terribly depressing, so here’s a fun fact: some sleep experts say most patients with insomnia are not actually sleep deprived, but just perceive poor quality sleep. So, is it all in the mind, a lot of the time? Does stressing about not getting enough sleep, turn us into stressed-out zombies? Sleep experts say while the average night’s sleep for an adult is around eight hours, some people only need five. So, what seems like insomnia to one person might be considered a good sleep by another.
So, are there any miracle cures for insomnia? These expert-approved healthy sleep habits sure may help:
- Limit alcohol: Many people think grog can aid sleep. Bah-bum! While it can help you drop off to sleep by making your more relaxed, it f***s you up later as it fragments sleep, making you wake more often.
- Develop a wind-down routine, which you can use to relax you in the 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This could include meditation or having a drink of warm milk (the protein in milk can help bring on sleep).
- Avoid drinks containing caffeine (such as tea, coffee and some soft drinks) for at least three hours bedtime.
- Have a hot bath a couple of hours before retiring.
- Avoid exercise for the three hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dim and coolish. Being too hot prevents deep sleep.
- Expose your eyes to bright sunlight for 15 to 30 minutes without sunglasses when you first get up. This helps turn off the brain’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and so helps regulate your body clock. Ensure you are not exposed to bright light in the evening or when you are trying to sleep.
- Restrict your bedroom activities to sleep and sex. Don’t read or watch TV in bed.
- Once in bed, if you aren’t asleep in 20 to 30 minutes, get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel drowsy again. This may include reading a book, listening to music or doing breathing or relaxation exercises. Keep the light dim and do not smoke, drink coffee or tea, or use the computer. Then when drowsy, go back to bed and try again. If you still aren’t asleep again, after 20 to 30 minutes, repeat the previous step.
- A regular rising time – regardless of the quality of sleep the night before – is actually more important. That means avoiding sleep-ins while you’re trying to fix an insomnia problem.
- Only go to bed if you feel sleepy. Delay your sleep-time, if necessary.
Main image via www.blackswanwellness.com; secondary image via veryfunnypics.eu and final imafe via www.huffingtonpost.com
Having trouble sleeping? You may need to have a look at your diet. Healthy, varied diet is important for good quality of sleep and there are foods that can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Almonds and walnuts both contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps with the production of melatonin and serotonin (hormones responsible for regulating your sleep cycle).
Cherries, especially tart cherries or sour cherries, are a natural source of melatonin and also a good source of Vitamin C and potassium, which are nutrients promoting healthy sleep. A research from the Louisiana State University found that drinking tart cherry juice twice a day can help insomnia sufferers increase sleep time by close to 90 minutes a day.
Carbohydrates make the tryptophan available to the brain, that’s why a light carbohydrate snack before bed can make you sleepy. Try some oatmeal, an oat cookie, a bowl of cereal or whole-grain crackers.
Green leafy vegetables
Veggies like kale, broccoli and spinach are a rich source of calcium, another essential nutrient for good sleep, so don’t forget to add some salad to your dinner!
We all need time to wind down and a cup of herbal tea can be an enjoyable part of your bedtime ritual. Chamomile, passionflower and lemon balm are well known for their relaxing qualities.
When it comes to changing your diet to improve your sleep, also consider avoiding caffeine later in the day and large meals too close to bedtime. Avoid fatty processed foods at night, too, they put high demands on your digestive system and contribute to a restless night. Alcohol, contrary to the common believe is not a great sleep helper either. A drink or two may make you feel sleepy, but a few hours later it will cause wakefulness and discomfort.
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