Sleep, regardless of whether you are a teenager or over 60, is vitally important to maintaining good physical and emotional health. It is widely accepted that the average adult needs approximately 7.5 to 9 hours sleep per night. However our bodies do not always allow for the deep, undisturbed sleep we used to enjoy in our youth.
The difficulties associated with falling asleep and staying asleep is not only due to natural ageing, but also our environment and daytime behaviour. Fortunately there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve general sleep and repair bad sleeping habits developed over the course of adulthood.
Daytime habits to improve the quality of sleep
Exercise is very important to getting a good night’s sleep. It releases endorphins to boost your mood and reduce stress, as well as releases chemicals to promote a better sleep.
Exercising your brain is equally as important as exercising your body. By keeping your brain engaged in the community, in your home or family for example, helps keep your mind alert and prepares your body for a better sleep.
Expose yourself to sunlight
Sleep for humans are regulated by their exposure to light and dark environments. Sunlight is very important for the regulation of melatonin level during the day and allows us to establish positive sleep/wake cycles. Getting a couple of hours of sunlight help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Reduce harmful stimulants
Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine. We are all aware that these substances alter our natural state of being. By reducing these substances late in the day or eliminating them completely, will greatly reduce their interference and help you get to sleep naturally.
Evening habits to improve the quality of sleep
Increase your melatonin level
Melatonin is the hormone in your body that makes you sleepy. Artificial light greatly affects the production of melatonin in your body. Simple steps such as using low wattage bulbs in the evening and turning off televisions, computers and backlit devices (such as an iPad or smartphone) an hour before bed will help boost your melatonin production.
Establish the bedroom as place for sleep and sex
The bedroom needs to be established as a place for sleep or intimacy. Eliminating items from your bedroom such as computer or television will help create an association with your brain that it is either time to go to sleep or to get romantic.
Practice mindful breathing and meditation
Creating a focus on your mind and body through slow breathing allows your whole system to calm. There has even been evidence published that establishes that deeps breaths allow the system in your body responsible for relaxation to override the system responsible for stress.
Mindfulness and mediation, whereby a person concentrates on how the rise and fall of your breath affects the body, allows you to relax and release tense muscles. Following the physical change, the mind is able to let stressful and negative thoughts flow from the mind, as you remain connected to a slow rhythmic breath. Mediating for 8 to 10 minutes has extremely beneficial affects on sleep.
Consider your eating and drinking habits
As we begin to wind down in the evening, eating and drinking should be kept to a minimum. To avoid discomfort or indigestion it is best to eat a two to three hours before bedtime and avoid any spicy or really heavy foods. If you are still hungry following dinner, satisfy your hunger with a light snack such milk, crackers or yoghurt.