The Importance Of Sleep

June 25, 2010

The Importance of Sleep

Good sleep hygiene involves creating a peaceful environment and adhering to a sleep routine. Adopt the following snoozy strategies to help you avoid wakeful nights:

Become a creature of habit: As much as possible, aim to rise and retire at the same time every day (and avoid a siesta if you had a late night). A predictable sleep routine helps synchronise your body’s circadian rhythm to light and dark. This ensures that at sleep time your body temperature is dropping (making it easier to fall asleep) and rising again at the right time in the morning (when you need energy to face the day). Avoid exercising two hours before bedtime as this will elevate your body temperature when you want it to drop.

Set a meal curfew: Don’t eat a meal later than 8pm or you will kick-start your metabolism, which might keep you awake later. Before bed, enjoy a tea of nervine herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm or skullcap, which act as calmatives. Or drink a hot cup of milk with honey as this contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body produce a natural relaxant called serotonin.

Avoid mother’s little helpers: Although a few glasses of wine might help you drop off to sleep, alcohol causes rebound wakefulness later. Think twice before reaching for sleeping tablets, too. They may help you fast-track to sleep, but they could end up creating problem such as depression, daytime drowsiness and withdrawal symptoms from addiction. For a healthier sleep-inducer, try valerian tablets. Or slip on light cotton socks for 10 minutes. Swiss research has shown warming the feet before bed dilates blood vessels, which promotes faster sleep onset.

Chill out: Some health practitioners recommend Knapp’s cold cure, which involves briefly applying cold water packs to the back of the head, without drying, just before you’re ready to turn in for the night. This slows blood circulation to the brain and may help put your mind into go-slow mode at the same time.

Put down that book: Avoid activities such as reading or checking emails on your laptop in bed as these stimulate wakefulness (research now shows that light from the screen interferes with sleep hormones and sleep onset). Can’t sleep? After 15–20 minutes, relocate to the lounge room and listen to music by lamplight or candlelight until you start to feel drowsy. Don’t turn on bright lights.

Banish sleep thieves: To promote rest, your bedroom needs to be sleep-friendly. Turn your alarm clock so you can’t see the time, put pets in the laundry so they can’t scratch at your door and banish snoring partners. Wear a sleep mask and earplugs to enhance sleep quality and, if necessary, install new curtains to make sure your room is dark.

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