Personally, sleep has always been a ‘Will I/Won’t I’ situation. I’m a creature of the night. More commonly known as ‘A Night Owl’. Apparently, I’m among twenty percent of the population who prefer the absence of the sun, as opposed to watching it rise. We would much rather go to bed well after Cinderella’s dress turns back to rags, and wake sometime after lunch.
This has been a constant throughout my life. What I thought was a “teenage phase” is actually just my personality. I’ve gotten better with the help of various things, the most effective being cutting out caffeine after four in the afternoon. However, due to my elevated levels of anxiety and my tendency to have nightmares, medication was once my saving grace. I’m glad to say that this has since changed, and I fall asleep naturally far more often than not.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Sleep is essential for not only our physical health but also our mental health. It’s just as important as eating, drinking, and breathing! And, unsurprisingly, sleep and poor health are strongly related. Without enough of it, you can find yourself suffering from some serious side effects. And yes, you may even die.
While we sleep our body recovers from physical and mental strain. We go into a hyper-relaxed state where our tendons, neurons, brain cells (etc) can all repair themselves in peace.
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Set yourself a time to go to bed each night and stick to it. Night owls are usually attracted to the night, and that’s fine, but you can’t be in a relationship with it. We’re diurnal mammals by nature after all.
Regular sleeping and waking times have been proven to be beneficial to our bodies and help prevent chronic sleep issues. In order to keep a regular schedule determine how much sleep you need. Think about when you need to get up for work in the morning, and then work your way backwards by eight hours. Whatever you come up with is the time you should be going to bed at. Bear in mind the time it takes to get ready for bed and the wind-down period in between.
This whole schedule also applies to your days off. Don’t go thinking you can stay up late and then just lie in the next day. Once you get out of the routine you risk a sleepless Sunday night, and there’s nothing worse than pre-Monday insomnia.
Learn to shut down.
There are many ways to wind down in the evening. You could try bedtime meditation, yoga for sleep, a warm bath, nature sounds, white noise, or simply deep breathing.
It’s also suggested that you completely switch off from emails, phone calls, text messages, etc a few hours before bedtime. This is to reduce the levels of interference from technology.
A great way to shut down is reflexology. No matter what time of the day, reflexology can be an excellent way to decompress and target conditions such as insomnia. And it’s not all about your feet, you can do reflexology on your hands too! Check out this post for more information!
Make your bedroom a ‘sleep-friendly’ haven.
This is a personal failure on my part. I raise my hand up and say ‘Oops!’ wholeheartedly. Apparently, if we remove electronics from the bedroom we’re more likely to get a healthy night’s sleep because we’re free from distraction. Who knew?!
You should also ensure that the bedroom is kept as dark as possible to aid in the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone). Some would go as far as to say that the room should be kept cool as it promotes healthy sleep.
I have a different idea in regard to the light and temperature of the room, but this is just a personal preference. I don’t like the cold, so I always go to bed with a hot water bottle.
The lighting situation is a tough one too. I prefer a dim light in the bedroom as opposed to complete darkness. Yes, I know, grown-ass woman scared of the dark? What!? I’m not scared, just apprehensive. Having a dim light on in the bedroom makes me feel safer mostly because sleep paralysis is a very real fear of mine.
Struggling to get to sleep? Check out this article to discover Simona’s secret weapon against insomnia!
Keep an eye on your intake before bed.
Limit your caffeine well before your bedtime. I try to cut myself off at four in the afternoon at the very latest. In fact, my mother, who also has issues with sleep, recently took the plunge and switched to decaf. She’s told me that since giving up caffeine on a daily basis her sleep has been somewhat regulated for the first time in years.
You don’t have to go cold turkey on the caffeine. Switch to decaf at about three in the afternoon before going any further. Fight the early evening lull (which we all get, it’s chemistry folks) with a few stretches or get some fresh air.
Keep your workouts as early in the day as possible.
You would think getting in a late gym session would tucker you out but no, quite the opposite. Working out provides adrenalin and stimulus to your brain neither of which sit well when trying to get over to sleep.
If possible keep the workouts for the morning hours or early afternoon. Don’t head to the gym at eleven-thirty if you can’t sleep. I’ve made that mistake so you don’t have to!
Remember; Rest is important.
I get it. The world is full of distractions. Just look at Netflix; You could sit down with the intention to watch one episode of Friends. Next thing you’re eight seasons in, and you’ve just found out Rachel is pregnant.
Rest is more important than Rachel’s baby daddy (spoiler; It’s Ross). You need to remind yourself that taking the time to wind down and rest is good for you. Feeling fatigued due to inadequate sleep is a real mood killer, and can impact many other areas of your life. Your productivity, appearance, social skills and ability to handle difficult situations all suffer when you’re chronically fatigued.
Make sure you get enough rest.
So, you stayed up to three watching the latest Louis Theroux documentary and still have to get up at seven for work? No biggie. Right?
If this is consistent in your life, it can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. Although it’s tempting to think you can just catch up on sleep during your weekend, the truth is you can’t. The body doesn’t work that way.
On average you need at least seven hours of sleep each night or eight for good measure. If you’re a particularly active adult you could need even more than this and if you’re still within the teenage bracket it’s thought you need at least ten hours!
Have you any more tips to help those of us who have a rocky relationship with sleep?
Sleep isn’t for the weak. You can’t just sleep when you’re dead or catch up on it at a later date. Sleep is important to not only our mental health but also to our physical, emotional, and social well-being.
If you’re having problems getting over to sleep speak to your GP. Together you can hopefully come up with a plan to try and combat negative patterns without the use of harsh medications. However, if medication is the only option, remember to take responsibility.