We spend almost a third of our time sleeping — so let’s make it good! Here’s how to get a great night’s sleep, every night.
- Stick to a schedule
The golden rule for consistently getting a good night’s sleep is to maintain a sleep schedule, even on the weekends and when you’re on holidays. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day regulates your body’s clock, and helps you fall asleep easily and wake up feeling refreshed.
- See the sun
Natural light exposure during the day promotes a healthy level and cycle of melatonin in our bodies, which helps us get to sleep at night. Go for a morning or midday walk or take your lunch breaks out in the sun — every little bit of sunlight helps. Aim for 30 – 45 minutes of sunlight. Try to leave your sunnies in your bag for some of the time, as the light hitting the receptors in your eyes is what schedules your body clock.
- Exercise early
Exercising in the morning not only encourages you to keep to your sleep schedule and exposes you to early morning sunlight if you’re training outside, it also helps your body feel ready for bed at night time. If you’re an afternoon trainer, make sure you finish up your workout at least 3 hours before bed time to give your body enough time to wind down.
- Wind down ritual
An hour or more before bed time is when you should start to relax. Turn down the lights, turn off your computer and TV and do some low-energy activities like reading (from a book or magazine) in soft light, listening to music or meditating. Find out what works for you and make it your bed time ritual.
- Create a sleep sanctuary
Your bed should be reserved for two things only: sleep and sex. Any other activity — reading, browsing the web on your phone or watching TV — should be done elsewhere. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet, and as free of blue-light emitting technology as you can make it.
- Keep it cool
Studies have shown that the majority of people sleep best in a room cooled to about 18C. You can amplify the feelings of sleepiness by having a hot shower or bath before bed, as the cool plunge from the bathroom to your bedroom will help you feel tired.
- Watch what you eat (and drink)
Large meals before bed may help you feel sleepy as your body digests, but they ultimately cause poor sleep. Try having your dinner early in the afternoon, and avoid meals that disagree with you, such as spicy, acidic or fatty food. The same goes with alcohol: while it may appear to help you go to sleep, it can drastically reduce your sleep quality during the night. Caffeine can affect your body up to 12 hours after taking it, so keep your coffee to the morning only.
- Work your legs
Just before you go to bed, do some light leg stretches or exercises to get your blood flowing away from your brain. Stretching your legs can also alleviate symptoms of night-time calf cramps and restless leg syndrome.
- Lie on your side
Research has uncovered that sleeping on your side is the best position to remove waste chemicals from your brain, and can reduce your chances of developing neurological diseases later in life. It makes sense — the majority of people find that sleeping on their side is the most comfortable and natural position. Side sleeping also helps to keep your airways open and can improve your circulation. Placing a firm pillow between your knees will help you keep your spine in alignment during the night.
- Try a nasal dilator
If snoring is interrupting your sleep, you could try a nasal dilator (similar to those worn by some athletes) to reduce your snoring and get more oxygen into your lungs and brain. An example is the Rhinomed Mute, a piece of medical-grade polymer plastic you insert into your nose at night, which claims to deliver an average 38 percent more air through your nose. It’s $19.95 and can be ordered online from rhinomedshop.com.