A good night’s rest does wonders for everyone. When your mind and body aren’t getting enough rest, it really takes a toll on your productivity levels and makes you feel irritable and anxious. However, studies show that there is a way to get a good night’s sleep every time.
How to sleep well every time
Nothing is wrong when we haven’t had enough good sleep. The brain is sluggish and foggy, the mood is irritable and the mind is restless. For a body deprived of its time to rest, recover and heal, insufficient sleep can have serious consequences for all its systems, from the heart to the endocrine.
A good night’s sleep is always desirable, and it is common to feel lucky if we wake up in the morning refreshed and ready for action. However, sleep studies show that regular restful sleep can be intentional—well planned and well executed.
Today, we lead the most stressful lifestyles in human history, and our sleep has decreased in both quality and quantity. Adequate, restful sleep is just as important to our health and wellness as a balanced diet and regular physical activity, and deserves an equal share of our attention. Just as we make sure we eat well every day and schedule our exercise time, we need to adopt a routine at night that allows for a healthy sleep pattern.
Michele Carelse, founder and CEO of Feelgood Health, South Africa’s pioneering online health store, says: “Interestingly, although most parents prioritize their children’s sleep behaviour, we as adults often think that our sleep is left to chance. Day after day we just get as much sleep as we can get. We may fight fatigue on weeknights to squeeze in a few more hours—working from home, watching late-night TV, or scrolling through our phones. We think, “I’ll make up for it and sleep in the weekend.”
“However, you never make up for lost sleep and there is considerable evidence to show the benefits of following a sleep pattern as strictly as possible, 7 days a week.”
Sometimes late nights and too little sleep are not optional. Anxiety, worry, and depression can disrupt our sleep, even though we’ve made sure we’re ready for bed at a reasonable time. Michele says, “Preparing our minds for sleep is a vital component of sleep. Just as we relax our bodies, we also need ways to de-stress from the day and relax our minds.”
Here are Michele’s top tips for a healthy vacation:
Set yourself up for success in your sleep – “There are two things you can do during the day to support a restful night’s sleep. It may not always be possible on weekdays, but if you can, try to get outside in bright, natural daylight for at least an hour or preferably two. Your body’s innate timekeeping is known as the circadian rhythm, which affects your hormones and regulates daytime energy levels and nighttime sleep duration. Daily exposure to bright light helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. Also, try to plan physical activity during the day. If you can’t go to the gym or exercise, try to take a daily walk.
Avoid caffeine from late afternoon onwards – “Enjoy your coffee or tea in the morning when you can benefit from the stimulating effect of caffeine on your nervous system. After 15-16 hours, you’d better switch to decaffeinated coffee or fruit, herbal and rooibos teas.”
Set bedtime and wake up time – “Our bodies thrive on a good routine. Set both a bedtime and a wake-up time and be consistent even on weekends. Adults generally need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Avoid alcohol before bed – “Alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythm, which triggers the nighttime production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. A few drinks at night can lead to restless, even interrupted sleep and also cause snoring.
Make your bedroom a room for good sleep – “Keep your bedroom free of electronic devices – laptops, phones and TVs that emit blue light from their screens and stimulate the mind. Your bedroom is ideally your quiet, private space to relax your mind, rest your body and enjoy a good night’s sleep, while work, entertainment and online communication are more likely to happen in your living area. This helps you avoid mental stress and distractions when you’re getting ready to sleep.”
Free yourself from strong emotions and worries – “Even when we’ve slowed down, softened and relaxed our bodies, racing thoughts can plague our minds. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the day’s events or the anticipation of the next, you should consciously redirect your thoughts as you prepare for bed. Interrupt stressful thoughts by reminding yourself of your important goal of relaxing the mind. Celebrate your accomplishments for the day instead of focusing on the problems. Spend a few minutes thinking about a few things you are grateful for. Use deep breathing techniques or try a calming guided meditation.
If you need some extra help calming your mind and calming your emotions, but don’t want to use sleep or anti-anxiety drugs, there are effective, non-addictive natural options you can make part of your bedtime routine.
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