You likely know that lack of sleep makes you feel grumpy or unfocused, increasing stress levels and creating errors of judgement, mishaps or even accidents! It’s undeniable fact that lack of sleep is detrimental for both your physical and mental state. How to sleep better?
Some effects of prolonged lack of sleep
- Your cognitive processes are affected – your attention, concentration, reasoning and problem solving skills are impaired.
- Increased risk of health problems as your body’s ability to defend itself is compromised.
- Over time symptoms of depression may develop – people with insomnia are considered 5 times more likely to develop depression.
- Forgetfulness – information from short-term memory is transferred to long-term memory during deep sleep.
…and much more.
Here are 6 things you can change in your life to improve your sleep and reduce stress.
1. Sit less
Research from the US National Sleep Foundation reports that people who exercise regularly, sleep better. They found that simply sitting less and being moderately active, dramatically improved sleeping patterns.
To improve your sleep, try to sit for less than 6 hours a day, and regularly stand up and walk around. The more hours in a day you sit, the more difficult it will be for you to sleep deeply and well.
2. Only use your bed for sleeping and sex
It’s simple psychology! We tend to associate places with emotions and actions. When you use your bed only for sleeping and being intimate, then you’ll be more prone to falling asleep quickly and sleeping better.
Just like Pavlov’s dogs who associated a ringing bell with food, you can train your body to associate your bed with sleeping.
3. Expose yourself to light
Our bodies have circadian rhythms, on a 24 hour cycle, that our bodies are used to. These built-in rhythms respond to your environment, including light and temperature.
When there is no morning daylight, your body doesn’t automatically know to wake up. Being exposed to morning light creates your rhythm for the next 24 hours causing you to feel awake in the morning and sleepy in the evening.
4. Reduce time watching screens
TV, laptop, smartphones, tablets… All emit blue light that during the day help us to be more attentive, react quicker and improve our mood.
But during the evening and at night this blue light suppresses your secretion of melatonin, the very thing that naturally helps you to sleep.
Your grandparents didn’t spend their evenings in front of an electronic device and many researchers believe increased stress levels are linked to this prolonged exposure to ‘daylight’. When the sun goes down, then the ‘blue lights’ should also be switched off.
Less screen time before bed will help you to fall asleep sooner and stay asleep for longer.
If you have light shining into your bedroom, consider using an eye mask to block it and enable you to fall asleep more easily.
5. Avoid the “snooze” button in the morning
When you hit your alarm snooze button and drift back to sleep, you start a new sleep cycle that you are unable to finish during a 10, 15 or even 30 minute nap.
Incomplete sleep cycles leave you feeling tired and less productive during the daytime, slow down your thinking ability, impair your memory and even disrupt your sleep the following night.
Even though it’s tough, resist the urge to snooze! It may help to put your alarm clock further from the bed, so you have to stand up and walk across the room to turn it off.
6. Stick to a routine
If you slept yesterday at 10pm, today at 8pm, tomorrow at 11pm, your body will be totally confused at what time to go to sleep and when to wake up.
Keeping a daily routine of sleeping and waking at the same time, helps to keep your natural circadian rhythm in balance and as a result, you will fall asleep more easily.
If you read a book before bedtime, do it every day for the same length of time and remember, the less screen time (TV, smartphone etc) before sleep, the better!