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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.
Image via cherryflex.com
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
Ros Layton, Travel Editor
In for the long haul…
The numbing fatigue and exasperating insomnia caused by jet lag can spoil, if not ruin, your long-awaited trip. But there is hope. These strategies can make a difference, not just to your jet lag, but to your wellbeing.
Why do we get it?
Crossing time zones throws the body’s circadian rhythms (the internal clock that tells us when to get up, eat, and when to sleep) out of whack. Without stimuli of light, darkness, or meeting friends for a drink in the evening, our circadian rhythms run on roughly a 25-hour cycle. When this is disturbed by crossing at least four time zones, your body clock will be out of sync with its destination which is why we wake up starving at 3am and are craving sleep at lunchtime. As a general rule, it takes one day to recover from each hour lost or gained.
Moreover, a plane is a very bizarre environment – it’s usually too cold, there’s less oxygen, the air’s dry, you’re sitting for agonisingly long periods of time, stuck next to strangers who usually have chronic BO or a nervous tick, or worse, want to talk to you. Plus we’re reduced to the level of children under the complete control of men and women in bad uniforms, like nannies with trolleys who dictate when we eat, sleep, and watch movies.
The first time most travellers think about the time in their destination is when the captain announces it when the plane’s commencing its descent, but you should start thinking about it way before that. Try to get into sync a few days prior to leaving. This could mean wearing two watches; one set to local time, the other to the time of where you’re going. Live, sleep and eat in the destination time as much as you can. If you find it hard to sleep on the plane, try getting more sleep for couple of days before travelling. If you normally need seven hours a night, try and get nine. That way, you’ve got sleep bonus points you can draw on if you can’t sleep on the plane or when you arrive. Failing that, set your watch to your destination when you get on the plane, and use your imagination to pretend it’s morning when it’s pitch black outside the window.
If you usually have little trouble sleeping on a plane, it might make sense to choose one that’s in the air during your destination’s night, so that when you land you’re ready for a full day. If you find sleeping impossible, fly during the daylight hours of your destination. Flying east generally causes more jet lag than flying west: the body seems better able to cope with a longer day.
Not only is the cabin air low on oxygen, it’s also desert dry, so it is essential to drink litres of water (some believe jet lag is caused by dehydration rather than disrupted circadian rhythms). Take your own bottles to gauge how much you’re drinking. If you don’t drink enough, take re-hydration salts (from chemists) after the flight. If you find plain water boring, try herbal teas such as chamomile and valerian root, which help induce sleep. Many QANTAS flight attendants add a few drops of apple juice to their water, which makes the water taste more interesting and prevents the need to pee all the time as the body absorbs the sugar in the juice.
You probably know that you should avoid alcohol on the plane because it worsens dehydration (one drink in the air is equivalent to two on the ground, according to cabin crew). But flying really is so tedious and just one little drink surely can’t hurt. Drink red wine and brandy, which have a soporific effect.
The lunchbox has landed
Many travellers take their own food, like that annoying guy on the Helga’s bread ad on TV. It does have its advantages: you can eat when you want to; you eat better if you pack a lunchbox full of fruit and vegetables (on some airlines such as Singapore Airlines, you can order a fruit platter in advance), or take carbohydrates such as cereals, which are sleep-inducing. One long-haul traveller swears that the carrot juice she takes with her combats jet lag. Carrots offer the best resistance to oxygen deficiency, but they’ve got to be fresh not betocarotene supplements from a health food store. Some travellers say spirulina, the so-called ‘green super-food’ also works as a jet lag remedy.
Potentially the most useful jet lag aid is one we naturally possess. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain as darkness falls. A synthetic form is sold in US health stores as a food supplement, but it’s not available here in Australia (except on prescription under certain circumstances) so some travellers stock up in the US. If taken just before bed, it can encourage sleep but, more importantly, it seems to speed up the rate at which the body adjusts to its new time zone. Note: not everyone is convinced. Some women find it disrupts their periods and others are not comfortable taking a substance that is not licensed.
Temazepam, a short-acting sleeping pill available from your doctor, works well, as does aspirin, which can promote deep sleep. These must be used with caution on the plane as lower oxygen levels increase the potency of drugs. Don’t mix with alcohol, or it could lead to embarrassing Valley of The Dolls-style behaviour! Many flight attendants take supplementary vitamins and vitamin C to counteract jet lag. Others swear by arnica – a homeopathic remedy for bruising.
Getting quality sleep on a full plane is tricky, particularly if you’re in cattle class. The pillows are teensy and are usually nasty synthetic ones, so take at least two small pillows, one for the small of your back, the other for your neck. Alternatively, grab one of those unglamorous (but effective) inflatable pillows to support your neck, and a set of earplugs to block out engine noise and to prevent the passenger next to you trying to strike up a conversation. Then take your sleeping draught of choice, stick the Do Not Disturb sticker on your forehead or jumper, and settle down. If you prefer to avoid drugs of any description but desperately need sleep, spray your pillow with sleep-inducing lavender, such as Jurlique’s. To keep warm, invest in a pashmina wrap. Yes we know they’re on the fashion ‘out’ list, but they are a traveller’s best accessory; they keep you warm, they look good, they make you feel good, like Linus’ security blanket, and they fold up small enough to slip in your handbag.
If you feel sleepy but need to stay awake to get in sync for the time of your destination, a double espresso should keep you going for couple of hours. But if you’re used to drinking lots of caffeine, it won’t have much effect, so cut down the week before you fly, don’t have any on the plane, and then drink it once you reach your destination. The best therapy for staying awake when your body is begging for sleep is to get plenty of light as it helps the body adjust to its new time zone. So if you’re exhausted after flying to London, for example, go for a walk, a run, a swim, or book a massage as soon as you arrive. If that’s not practical, switch on all the lights in your hotel room and put some upbeat music on and turn it up.
Sitting immobile on a cramped plane slows blood circulation, so keep moving as much as you can. Walk up and down the aisle and follow the ankle and neck exercises in the in-flight magazine. You may feel like a goose, but you’ll be glad you did them. This travel editor always asks to visit the cockpit (and hasn’t been refused yet). The view’s amazing from up there; especially the captain and co-pilot who have hot uniforms. Thanks to auto-pilot they are usually bored stiff and keen to chat (you up), and flirting can be counted as exercise. Just don’t touch any of the switches!
Use the In-flight Kit
Today’s amenity kits are much more than nifty little bags with a fold-up toothbrush, plastic comb, socks and Zorro eye masks. The bag that designer Anya Hindmarch put together for British Airways contains Aroma Therapeutics’ Sleep Enhancer spray. This airline also offers cute little Male Comfort Kits with Body Shop shaving cream, aftershave gel, lip balm, mouthwash as well as the usual toothbrush and comb. Air New Zealand and Malaysia Airlines provide passengers in First and Business Class with kits containing Daniele Ryman’s Awake and Asleep. You can personalise the existing kits with new jet-lag specific products, such as Crabtree & Evelyn’s pulse point balms, incense sticks, and candles which contain lavender, like Bloom travel-sized candles.