Some people underestimate the importance of sleep. Sleep isn’t just a time of rest for your body; it’s a time when your brain gets to work through everything that has happened during the day. Sleep regulates our memory, our hormones, our immune system…all of which are vital to our overall health.
Ever heard of "circadian rhythm"? The word circa in Latin means "about" and the word dian(dies) means "day", referring to a cycle that is repeated every 24 hours. It's our sleep-wake pattern, our "natural clock", that tells us when to eat, when to wake up and when to go to sleep. We may not look like it but our body is like a big clock, with internal processes that regulate how our body works. One very important aspect of it, is our sleeping pattern.
So, here are some tips on how to get the ultimate night's rest!
Don't do cardio right before going to bed. This doesn't mean you should give up on sports in the evening, but research suggests you should avoid strenuous activity at least an hour before going to bed. Cardio exercises energize you and it will take you a longer time to fall asleep, which in turn results in poorer sleep quality.
Do establish a sleeping routine. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. This will help your body to establish a natural rhythm, which means your body will know when to be tired and when to be alert. Waking up earlier in the morning won't feel as difficult suddenly!
Don't expose yourself to light! The absence of light gives your brain the signal that it is time to go to sleep! Looking at your phone before going to bed (most of us are guilty here) disturbs your "sleep clock" and you will find yourself having a harder time to fall asleep! Curtains and shades on your windows will block out any light that could interfere with your sleep. Consider using a nightlight such as "red light" (light that emits red light wavelengths), which doesn't harm your sleeping pattern.
Do try to disconnect before going to sleep. Put away your phone, don't look through your emails or your Instagram feed. Not only does the blue light emitting from the screen make you alert (read the paragraph above), but you also get sucked into scrolling down your feed, providing your brain with endless stimulation, and as such, keeping your brain active. This is true especially for young people who experience FOMO (fear of missing out), if they don't respond to notifications immediately. They would rather stay online, having their sleep compromised, than let go of their phones.
Don't eat just before going to bed. You mess up your blood sugar levels and your metabolism in doing so. It is recommended that you eat your last meal 3 hours before going to sleep, giving your body enough time to break the food down. If you do catch yourself having a small craving, why not opt for sleep-enhancing food, such as a warm glass of milk or a handful of nuts, both of which contain melatonin (a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle).
Do optimize your bedroom environment. Temperature, noise, even smell can all be important factors to getting a good night's rest! Try to minimize any external noises that might disrupt your sleep. Your "sleeping" brain continues to register and process any sound or noise, which will affect the quality of your sleep. The more noise there is, the more sleep interruptions you have, the less deep your sleep will actually be. Consider earplugs or rearranging furniture to block out any disturbing noise.
Don't sleep in a room beyond 20 degrees Celsius. Your body temperature slightly drops during your sleep, so any warm temperatures in the bedroom can cause your natural clock to be disrupted. Your body tries to cool itself down during sleep, so try keeping it that way by keeping the blinds shut so as to avoid an overheated room in the summer, for example.
Do consider aromatherapy because smell actually affects sleep. Essential oils such as lavender have been known to calm the nervous system and demonstrated a positive effect on sleep. Why not invest in a lavender spray to put on your pillow just before sleeping? Or putting in some drops in your bath before bedtime. Other oils such as Chamomile, Sandalwood and many others are also good alternatives to consider.