Part 2: Improving the Quality of Our Sleep

We know that a good night’s sleep is essential to our health, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, it is common for many of us to struggle to fall asleep.

Are you tossing and turning and finding it difficult to wake up in the morning? This can often lead to tiredness and feeling lethargic for the rest of the day. Sleep is proven to play a significant role in repairing and healing the heart and blood vessels, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling blood sugar levels. Regular sleep is also vital for cognitive performance, helping us learn, remember, problem-solve, make decisions, and safeguard against stress, mood swings, and depression.


Here are 5 ways to improve your sleep:

Regular Exercise:  

As little as 10 minutes of regular aerobic exercises, like walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration. Exercise is a natural stress reducer. It can help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep.

On the other hand, vigorous exercise too close to bedtime may be detrimental to falling asleep straight away. This is because of the stimulation of the body and the release of endorphins. Take a look here for more insight on the best time to exercise when it comes to a good nights sleep: www.sleep.org/exercise-time-of-day

Reduce usage of devices before bed:

Electronic devices like mobiles keep your brain alert, making it hard to truly wind down for some time. The blue light from these devices can suppress your natural production of melatonin. This hormone helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and synchronize your sleep-wake cycle with night and day. We often take the information from the device to bed with us, whether work emails or social media, which may keep us over-thinking about specific things.

As much as possible, try to disconnect for 60 minutes or more before going to bed. Even try to keep devices out of the bedroom where possible!

Reduce caffeine intake:

Caffeine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in coffee beans and tea leaves. It is also synthetically used in beverages such as energy drinks. Caffeine is known to block a sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine, which as it builds up during our waking hours, makes us sleepier. As caffeine blocks this process, the effect on us is more alertness and wakefulness. The recommended cut-off time for caffeine use is a minimum of six hours before bedtime. For example, if you typically go to bed at 10pm, avoiding caffeine after 4pm can help minimize sleep problems. This is also dependant on many other factors we face individually, so it’s worth trying it out, and pulling that final coffee earlier if necessary.

De-stress before bed:

Stress and anxiety are common issues when it comes to difficulty sleeping. During times of tension our brain, wanting to keep us safe and prepared, triggers the stress response which includes faster heart rate, rapid breathing, contracted muscles, and a release of hormones to keep us alert – all things not conducive to drifting off.

Mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises are proven to activate the relaxation response, calming the mind and body to prepare for sleep. Here are some relaxation techniques which may help you get a better night’s sleep:Relaxation Exercises to Help Fall Asleep | Sleep Foundation  

Create a sleep routine:

Begin by setting a wake-up time and as best as possible, sticking to it (even on weekends!). This is the start of training the body to become accustomed to a routine. Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep to be optimum (give or take depending on the person), and so planning this much time into your schedule is a good idea. Working backward from your wake-up time to come to an approximate bedtime. Understand that this is a gentle process, and it will take time to adjust the body to the new schedule, but the reward is worth it!

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