Research shows that sleep quality may be the new frontier in health and wellness, as not getting enough sleep (most common problem), or getting too much, increases our risk of weight gain, lowers immune function, causes memory issues, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and even stroke.
In our last article we talked about how sleep influences our health and wellness. In this article we’ll provide 8 practical steps you can take to improve your sleep quality. These tips are scientifically proven facts taken from a study carried out by Ron Kessler and his team at Harvard Medical School.
1. Remove Electronics
If you have the TV, your ipad and smartphone nearby, it’s not conducive to a calm mind or good sleep. Not to mention, some studies have shown electronic magnetic frequencies (EMF) interrupt neurotransmitters and hormones, which may affect sleep.
2. Control Noise
Quiet space creates room for you to dream. Close the doors and windows, use heavy curtains, earplugs if you need to, and fans or sleep machines that create gentle white noise have been shown to be helpful for some people.
3. Turn Down the Lights
Dim your house lights at night – especially in your bedroom – or use lamps, because bright light interrupts a neurotransmitter called melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Dimming the light also helps our bodies natural body clock – known as the circadian rhythm – wind down so we’re naturally ready for bed.
Also, try to switch off from watching TV or using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. These submit both bright light and EMF, which we don’t need right before we go to bed. Why not revert back to a good old fashioned book!
4. Be Comfortable
Bedroom temperature is best slightly cooled so be sure to replace pillows and blankets to suit temperature changes. And keep a window slightly ajar for a little fresh air flow.
5. Have a Relaxation Ritual
Our thoughts have a powerful effect on the physical body and influence our nervous system. Therefore, schedule time for yourself to relax. Things like massage therapy, yoga, tai chi, nature walk, mindfulness meditation and different forms of breathing exercises are very effective for promoting better sleep quality.
6. Stick to a Schedule
Humans are creatures of habit. And referring back to our circadian rhythm – sleep/wake cycle – so are our natural cycles. Aim for a similar time for bed and waking time in the morning.
Research shows people with regular habits have fewer sleep related health issues.
7. Watch Your Diet When and What’s
A grumbling hungry stomach can keep you awake, while an overfull belly can do the same. Eat a small snack before bed if you’re feeling hungry. And avoid eating a big meal within 2-3 hours of bed. Also be wary of acid forming foods such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, peppermint and fatty foods. With these foods, reflux issues can become worse once you lie down and prevent you getting to sleep.
8. Exercise Regularly
Research shows exercise that gets your heart pumping helps you get to sleep faster and promotes more time in a deep sleep. And in relation to sleep, exercise is particularly beneficial for promoting sleep quality in older people. Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio per day – walking, jogging, swimming and so forth.
Of course there are many other things we can do. But when it comes to improving sleep quality, often the small things make a BIG difference!