‘Staying up till 1 a.m., only trying harder to sleep?‘ or ‘Spending the night tossing and turning all the time?‘ or ‘Waking up distressed, wishing to doze off as we hit the bed?‘ If any of these sound similar, welcome to the majority! Falling asleep has become a task for many of us. Gone are the days when we would fall on bed, and the magical world of dreams would take-over for a nice ride through the night. Even after long, hectic schedules, sleep deprivation has become common. We have all witnessed a decline in both quality and quantity of sleep.
All we desire is a restful slumber, but what we get up with is restlessness.
A good sleep affects our mental and physical health. It is as important as regular exercise and proper nutrition. Anything short of a proper ‘sleep hygiene’ affects our daytime energy, emotional balance, mood, immunity, creativity and productivity.
The good news is – good sleep is under your control, just with a few changes around. PathFinder suggests you to experiment with routine changes to snooze better, improve your day time and boost your lifestyle. It is not ‘all-or-none’ rule; you start with small changes and make your way towards healthier sleep.
To make these sleeping pattern improvements easy to practice, we’ve broken them into Six categories:
- Create a Sleep-Inducing environment
- Club some physical activity, fun games or exercise
- Control evening meal in-take
- Craft a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
- Clear your mind before bed-time
- Consistent Sleep Schedule
1. Create a Sleep-Inducing environment
An ideal peaceful slumber would be a dark, quiet and cool environment. Achieve the darkness easily by using heavy shades, blackout curtains, even a simple eye mask. Adjust the outside noise as much as possible, or use ear plugs to block the sound. Provision for slow music is an add-on. Keep the room well ventilated and temperature comfortably cool. Not to forget the main equipment – bed mattress and pillows. Poor bedding could be a cause of lower back pain and struggling awake. The choice of bedding is purely subjective – choose what suits you best. In the era of binge-watching, it may sound difficult, but avoid TVs and laptops inside the bedroom – this aids strengthening the mental connection between sleep and bedroom. Always remember, it’s your bedroom and not office cubicle. Do not take work materials and assignments on the bed, and then keep complaining of deadline dreams.
2. Club some physical activity, fun games or exercise
Physical activity can surely tire your body, help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a sound sleep — but only if it’s done at the right time. Your idea of exercise must aim at finishing at least three hours before bed, even better if you work out earlier in the day. Exercising later in the evening leads to simulator effect of cortisol, increasing alertness and affecting your sleep pattern.
It is an established fact that exercise speeds up metabolism, raises the body temperature, and stimulates hormones. This is a blessing when exercising in the morning or afternoon, but trying it too close to bed can interfere with sleep.
Simply try some fun activities with family members, engage in brisk walking before bedtime. Keep gym and vigorous workouts at least three hours before napping. Relaxing, low-impact exercises, gentle stretching or yoga in the evening helps promote sleep.
3. Control evening meal in-take
The preparation for sleep begins 6 hours prior the nap time. Avoid chemicals like Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine that interfere with sleeping – at least 4-6 hours before your bedtime. Never hop into bed immediately after food. Schedule dinner time earlier, keeping it light, and avoiding spicy foods. Make sure to balance your Fluid Intake. Drink enough fluid to avoid waking up thirsty—but not so much or so close to bedtime that may lead to frequent urination trips through the night.
4. Craft a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine
Experiment and figure out some relaxing activities around an hour before bedtime that prepare your body for the transition from awake to sleep. You may choose from a varied list – a warm shower, reading a book or relaxing massage, listening to soothing music, meditation or ritual prayer. Try out different ways to find what works best for you.
A major alert – Disconnect from Devices! Be it scrolling social media on mobile phones, playing games on Tablets, or finishing an interesting series on laptops – all of this keeps your brain wired, making it tough to unwind. Not forgetting the light from these devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin, hindering your sleep. Make it a point to disconnect at least 30 minutes prior going to bed.
Adopting a deep breathing exercise helps you sleep better. It aids in activating body’s relaxation response and lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels that help you drift off to sleep. You may try and find what suits you best.
5. Clear your mind before bed-time
This may seem to be the most difficult part – avoiding stressful, brain stimulating activities or discussing emotional issues. The moment we lie in bed, the entire day’s virtual recap turns on like a rolling banner in our minds. The good, the bad and the ugly – all incidents revisited. Residual stress, anger and worry from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. It works in the same way as strenuous exercise, releasing stress hormone cortisol, which leads to increased alertness.
Amendments to this pattern are the most crucial and equally difficult part for healthy sleep regime. Start with writing your worries down—and then putting them on the bedside. Postpone your brainstorming till the next morning. Waking up anxious about something won’t change a bit overnight. Instead, make a brief note, and resolve it as the first thing in the morning. Likewise, if you strike a Eureka moment in the middle of the night, finding a great strategy for your work assignment, make a note on paper and fall asleep hoping to wake up more productive after a proper sleep.
6. Consistent Sleep Schedule
As tough it may sound, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is certainly important. Accepting the WFH and shift-working schedules, it is tough to follow a synchrony. But try not to mess with the sleeping cycle as much as possible. A disturbed circadian rhythm can lead to insomnia and related sleep disorders. There are many Sleep cycle Apps available, that track your sleeping pattern and assist in following a cycle.
Fix your power nap plans: Nap Early — Or Not at All. For many of us, napping is a part of routine. But for some, delayed napping could be a culprit. Late-day napping decreases the night sleep drive. Better to plan a short nap, before 4 p.m.
It is best recommended not to be a ‘Night-time Clock-Watcher’. Simply staring at a clock, either trying to fall asleep or waking in the middle of the night, actually increases stress, making it harder to doze off. Struggling to fall sleep just adds to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes into bed, it is better to get out of bed, go to another room, and try something relaxing, until you are tired enough to sleep.
The Health triangle
Nutrition, exercise and sleep – that’s a complete cycle for healthy mind and body. In the clear daylight, we often focus on proper diet and work-out schedules. But we forget the fact that darkness of night can never hide the significance of proper sleep.
Your goal must be relaxation – not sleep. Sometimes a short peaceful nap is more rewarding than long hours of lying in bed. Our body needs the right amount of rest to rejuvenate. Make the most important choices to ensure your body gets the sleep it deserves.