It is a dream for many people to have quality sleep every single night. Although this is not the reality for many. Studies have found that 1 in 3 Australians are not getting enough sleep.
Poor sleep can lead to negative effects such as weight gain, increased risk of disease and reduced brain function such as difficulty concentrating.
Optimal sleep lies between 7 and 8 hours per night. Sleep is essential for our brains to function throughout our day. Quality sleep can improve focus and increase our energy levels.
So how can we improve our sleep?
Here are some healthy habits you can implement into your daily life to ultimately improve the quality of your sleep. These ideas are broken down into daytime and night-time factors that you can adjust and become more conscious of.
Day time tips
- Spend some time in the sun!
Getting outdoors is a great way to improve sleep. Our internal body clocks are regulated by light exposure. This means that when our bodies are subjected to sunlight, our brains also turn on the lights and become awake. Sunlight reduces our melatonin and normalises our circadian rhythm which is important for sleep. Studies have shown that individuals with insomnia who were exposed to daylight had an 83% reduction in the time it took to fall asleep!
- Avoid that afternoon coffee break!
This is the tip that many people do not want to hear! We all know the feeling of having that warm cup of coffee in the workplace which can increase your performance, uplift your mood, and increase your energy! However, drinking coffee late in the day can affect your sleep. Caffeine in coffee, tea and soft drinks can stay in your system for up to 8 hours! Try to have coffee in the mornings only. Alternatively, you can have decaffeinated coffee in the evenings to satisfy that craving.
- Go for a walk!
Daily exercise can boost your sleep quality. Finding the right exercise for you can increase your motivation to exercise regularly. Whether it is going for a walk or run, heading to the gym, or joining a Pilates class. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce insomnia by decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. So, what are you waiting for, make some time to get those steps in and get your feel-good endorphins running!
- Be mindful with napping!
There are numerous misconceptions around the benefits of napping. We have all found ourselves guilty of an afternoon nap after a stressful day or a night of tossing and turning in our sleep.
Power naps can be beneficial when kept between 15-20 minutes. However, napping for more than 30 minutes can negatively affect our sleeping patterns. This effectively makes us more tired during the day and becomes harder to sleep at night. Try to avoid having long naps that are late in the day.
- Turn off your phone!
Easier said than done, I know! As we learnt earlier, light exposure tells our brains that we should be awake. Blue light exposure from our phones, laptops and tablets keeps our brains from winding down by reducing the production of melatonin. Melatonin is an important chemical that our body generates in order for us to feel tired and eventually doze off. Aim to disconnect from technology at least an hour before bed to get your body prepared for sleep.
- Take the time to wind down!
Having a night-time routine is a good way to train your brain to be ready for sleep. Winding down for 20 minutes before bed can help you feel more relaxed. Explore a light activity such as stretching, reading a book, listening to music (classical works best!) or even closing your eyes to a guided meditation. These activities can distract you from scrolling on social media and watching endless YouTube videos right before bed. Find the thing that works for you and stick to it!
- Create a relaxing environment!
Make your bedroom as comfy as can be! Our sleep environment has a lot do with our quality of sleep. We all know the difficulty of falling asleep on a hot summer night where we wish it would just cool down! Studies have suggested that cooler rooms lead to better sleep. Investing in a good mattress and pillows to support your neck and spine can also help. You can also try using essential oils, candles, or diffusers to create a more calming ambience.
- Plan a sleeping schedule!
Having a consistent sleep-wake cycle is vital in maintaining a good sleep routine. Scheduling a wake-up time each morning and time for bed each night can regulate our circadian rhythm. Our body clock will then create a habit for itself. Ensure you are getting to sleep early enough to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Consider some extra time to wind down before getting into bed. Consistency is key to achieving results for longer and deeper sleep.
Overall, sleep is vital for our mental health and optimal brain function. Having a consistent sleep schedule with around 8 hours sleep is important for us to get through our daily lives. Think of the tip that resonates with you most and try to make that change today! If you find you are still having difficulty with sleep, you may consider getting some professional advice from a GP or Psychologist. Professional guidance can help with sleep issues such as anxiety, insomnia, sleep apnoea or any other concerns you may have.