We are often told about the “early to bed, early to rise” philosophy and how it can help us lead a healthy life. Unfortunately, everyday commitments can make it very difficult for us to adhere to it. In a perfect world, we would go to bed early in the evening and wake up at the break of dawn, to make the most out of a long day, but that is rarely possible in the 21st century.
Your internal clock works based on the sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm and is located in the hypothalamus. Its purpose is to respond to external stimuli and tell your body when it’s time to go to bed or wake up. Sometimes, however, your circadian rhythm is thrown off by daily activities.
Here is how to improve your sleep hygiene and give your internal clock a reset.
Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques can help you get in a deep state of calmness, which promotes better sleep. There are plenty of methods you can apply to relax both your mind and body, reducing stress and helping you fall asleep much faster.
Some of these methods include:
· Deep breathing
You don’t need to be a master yogi in order to practice meditation. All you need is a quiet place, a comfortable position, and some patience. With practice, you will learn how to meditate and put your mind to rest.
Try a simple breathing exercise at first, and once you master it, you can move on to more complex practices. Find a quiet place, turn off all disturbances, and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and start taking deep breaths. As you breathe, focus on the air that comes in and out of your lungs. The purpose is not to stop your thoughts from coming, but to allow them to pass freely through your mind. Acknowledge these thoughts, but continue to shift your focus towards your breathing. Soon enough, you will learn how to let your thoughts pass and fully relax.
Adjust your sleeping position
Your sleeping position can greatly affect sleep quality. Sleeping on your belly, for example, can help those suffering from sleep apnea, but may cause neck and lower back problems, whereas sleeping on your left side can help prevent heartburns and acid reflux.
The mattress you use is also important for your sleeping position. For example, if you like sleeping on your side, you should invest in the best mattress for side sleepers, to make your sleep more comfortable during the night and prevent joint or back pain.
A comfortable sleeping position and environment are paramount for a good rest, so don’t hesitate to invest in a good bed, a new mattress, and some comfortable pillows. Experts suggest you should change your mattress at least every 10 years and pillows at least every two years to ensure you don’t end up with back or neck pain. The firmness of your mattress and pillows depends on your needs, but do make sure you stay away from lumpy pillows and saggy mattresses.
Get regular exercise
Sometimes, the reason you can’t fall asleep is that you have too much energy that needs to be consumed. Your muscles and skeletal body are linked to your biological clock, meaning your body will start responding to your circadian rhythm when you work out.
Try working out at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, to promote melatonin production and burn out that extra energy. Remember, however, that working out in the evening can overstimulate you and result in poor sleep. Aim to work out at least 2 hours before bedtime, if not earlier.
If you want to work out right before you go to sleep, try to stick to simple workout routines, such as yoga or light cardio exercises. Don’t exhaust yourself, even if it seems you need to tire yourself in order to fall asleep. Remember that, when you are too tired, you may experience sleeping problems as well.
Too much noise and light can prevent you from falling asleep at night. When you are exposed to light, your brain does not produce melatonin (the sleep hormone), which makes you feel alert and awake.
If you live in a busy area, where there is always noise, white noise can help you fall asleep better. There are plenty of ways to create it. You can use a fan, a humidifier, an air purifier or even a white noise device to help you block outside sounds.
At night, try to turn off or dim any bright lights, including those coming from electronic devices, to prevent them from overstimulating your brain. This will tell your brain it’s time to produce more melatonin and you start feeling drowsy.
In the morning, on the other hand, open the curtains and expose yourself to light, in order to help your body and brain wake up. Take a walk, drink your coffee on the balcony or relax for a few minutes on the porch. This way, you will allow your brain to become awake and start your day in a more productive way.
Keep a cool temperature
To prepare for sleep, your brain dictates your body temperature to drop in order to feel comfortable. You should aim to do the same in your room as well. Try to keep the room temperature around 67°F (about 19°C), as it is the recommended temperature for a good rest.
Studies show any temperature below 54°F and 75°F are going to become uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep, so pay close attention to it. Use an air conditioning or fan during warmer days, to balance out the temperature. They also provide the benefit of creating white noise, which is known to help you fall asleep.
During colder days, use a space heater or your air conditioning to warm up the room and ensure you get a good sleep. If you have a thermostat, adjust it so that the temperature falls between the recommended numbers.