Adults need 7- 9 hours of sleep every night to function optimally and there’s plenty of science to indicate that consistently getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night has pretty serious consequences for our physical and mental health. There are lots of things we can do to give ourselves the best chance of a good night’s sleep and some of my best tips are:
- Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bed and alcohol 2 hours before bed. Alcohol especially might help you sleep better in the first half of the night but then disrupts sleep in the second half of the night.
- Keep a consistent sleep and waking time even on weekends so your body learns to wind down at the same time every night. The consistent wake up time is especially important because if you have a bad night’s sleep, you’re more likely to ‘consolidate’ and catch up the next night if you still get up at your usual time.
- Keep the bedroom quiet, cool and dark like a cave. Optimal room temperature for promoting good sleep is between 15-20 degrees Celsius (60-67F)
- Have a routine for winding down and relaxing before bed. It might be a warm bath or shower, a cup of herbal tea, reading by a dim light or doing some meditation/relaxation. The most common causes of sleep problems are stress and anxiety so anything that helps you unplug from the day’s worries and stresses and get into a more calm, positive mood will help you drift off.
Which brings me to the single, most important thing you can do to get a good night’s sleep:
Shut down all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. Not only does the light from small screens send ‘alert’ signals to your brain and suppress the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) making it much harder to wind down, but the content you’re reading – whether it’s incoming emails or refreshing your social media feed – keeps your brain stimulated. Try to keep smart phones out of the bedroom completely so that if you wake up during the night, you’re not tempted to look at it. Do some deep breathing or meditation instead and you’ll have a much better chance of getting back to sleep quickly.
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