When the subject of health crops up in conversation, we tend to think about eating well and exercising. While an active lifestyle and a balanced diet are incredibly beneficial, they are not the only components required for optimal health and wellbeing. Sleep is essential, but often, it is overlooked.
If you don’t get enough sleep, or you struggle to switch off even though you’re tired, these simple sleep hacks should come in handy.
Adjusting Your Sleep Routine
If you’re a parent, the chances are that you’ve spent days, weeks or even months trying to get your children into a routine. The truth is that everyone can benefit from a set regime. Adults have internal body clocks too, and getting used to patterns can improve sleep quality, as well as increasing the chances of getting enough sleep. If you tend to fall asleep on the couch, or you go to bed at 9pm one day and 1am the next, now is the time to modify your routine and start setting sleep times. Aim to get into bed and get up at a similar time each day. This will enable your body clock to adapt, and you should find that after a few days, you start to feel tired as your bedtime approaches and you feel more alert when your alarm goes off.
Another crucial element of your sleep routine is the window before you get into bed. How do you normally fill your evenings? If you’re lying in bed scrolling through social media or checking emails, or you’re rushing around trying to rustle up lunches or get school uniforms ready for the next day, take some time to relax, unwind and prepare your body and mind for sleep. Even if you only have half an hour, use it wisely. Run a bubble bath, listen to soothing music, meditate, read a book or call a friend for a quick chat. Avoid taking tablets or laptops into your bedroom with you, and leave work at the office. It’s critical that you are able to switch off so that you can drift off to sleep. If you’re thinking about meetings, or your mind is stimulated by social media content, you’ll struggle to get to sleep.
You can also improve your routine by cutting out caffeine in the evenings and eating early. Going to bed after a coffee or a heavy meal can make it difficult to sleep. It’s best to avoid caffeine after 4pm and to eat your main meal before 8pm if you go to bed at 11pm, for example.
Creating a Tranquil Sleep Environment
Some people can sleep anywhere, but most find it difficult to snooze peacefully if the environment isn’t quite right. If your bedroom isn’t a calming, serene haven, take steps to induce calmness and create a peaceful, relaxing space. Clutter and mess can contribute to stress and make it difficult to feel at ease. If your room is full of stuff, or you can barely see the floor for clothes, kids’ toys or shoes, make it your mission to tidy up and declutter. Many of us are guilty of hanging onto stuff we don’t want or need, and before we know it, our closets and bedrooms are packed to the rafters. Storage is your best friend if you have a small bedroom, or you own a lot of clothes, shoes or accessories. If you don’t already have chests, wardrobes, racks and rails, it’s worth looking into storage solutions and considering investing in new furniture, which will enable you to store all your stuff neatly. Have a look online for the best deals on bedroom furniture and make the most of your closet space. You can maximize wall space by hanging rails and shelves and adding racks on the floor to keep your shoes tidy. It’s also a great idea to put pegs on the back of the door for scarves and coats.
Once your bedroom is tidy and free from clutter, and you have all the storage you need, turn your attention to sprucing up the aesthetic of the room. Changing the color of the walls, using accessories and adding soft furnishings and low-level lighting can help to create a cozy, calming space. Opt for colors that are proven to facilitate relaxation, including neutrals, pastels and muted tones of gray, blue and green. If you don’t like the idea of a white bedroom or a simple monochrome palette, you can lift neutral walls with rugs, cushions, and blankets, bedding and curtains and finishing touches like wall art, plants and ornaments.
The lighting you choose for your bedroom can also have an incredible impact on the feel and ambiance of the space. Avoid harsh, bright lighting. Soft lighting will help you to relax and it also mimics the natural loss of sunlight as day turns into night.
Stress is one of the most significant barriers to restful nights. If you’re stressed out, you may experience symptoms of insomnia and you might find it difficult to wind down and relax. Stress affects us all at points in our lives, but prolonged periods of intense stress can take their toll. If you’re finding it hard to manage stress, your physical and mental health will suffer. Work is one of the most common sources of stress, with 83% of US workers admitting that they experience work-related stress. If you are anxious about your workload, or you’re not enjoying work, there are solutions. Talk to your boss, try and manage your time more effectively and consider other options if you dread going to work every morning. There’s no harm in looking for other opportunities or even thinking about setting up your own business or going freelance to try and find a better work-life balance. Take time out if you have leave left, and schedule time to catch up with friends, relax, and indulge hobbies and interests. Many people devote so much time and energy to work that they miss out on the joys of socializing, pursuing pastimes, traveling and enjoying time off to read, write, take a hike, watch movies, bake or sit back and listen to a brilliant new album.
It’s so important to find a balance between work and play, but it’s not always easy. If stress is getting the better of you, or you’re prone to bouts of stress, there are self-help techniques you can try. Make time for yourself, spend time doing activities that help you unwind and feel calm, surround yourself with people who make you feel good and learn to say no. Exercise, meditation and spending time in the open air can be beneficial for mental health, and it’s also essential to take good care of yourself. Rest, eat well and talk to somebody you trust if you’re struggling with anxiety or stress, or you don’t feel yourself. Creative activities can be hugely cathartic if you find it hard to open up and speak out.
Adopting an Active Lifestyle
Increasing activity levels is one of the best ways to improve sleep. If you have an active lifestyle, you should find that you sleep better. Exercising offers an array of benefits for your health and wellbeing, including reducing the risk of severe illnesses, such as heart disease, some types of cancer and type 2 diabetes, and it can also reduce stress and anxiety. Working out makes you feel good because it elevates the levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain and triggers the release of endorphins, and it can also affect body temperature. When you train, your body temperature increases. As it drops, this replicates the natural fall in temperature during the day, which prepares the body for sleep and makes you feel tired. If you suffer from anxiety, or you feel stressed, exercise is a powerful natural remedy, which can help to clear your mind and feel calmer. You can use exercise to channel emotions and express yourself. If you’re angry or you feel restless, for example, try boxing, kickboxing, spinning, golf or a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session. If you’re exhausted and lethargic, relax and unwind at a Pilates or yoga class. If you’ve had a bad day, and you need cheering up, why not go for a bike ride or go to a Zumba or street dance class with friends?
For improved sleep, it’s best to exercise in the mornings or early in the afternoon. Exercise is a natural stimulant, which can often boost energy levels and make you feel more alert. If you only have time to exercise in the evenings, opt for low-intensity activities like walking, Pilates, yoga or swimming.
A lack of sleep can put you at risk of mental and physical health issues. If you struggle to sleep, or you feel like you’re always tired, it’s a good idea to have a look at your sleep routine, your lifestyle habits and your sleep environment. Making simple changes to your daily regime, designing a calming, soothing bedroom and adopting a healthier lifestyle can all make a hugely positive difference. It’s also crucial to recognize signs of stress and to try and manage stress using self-help techniques like exercise, meditation and taking time out. Don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if you continue to struggle with sleep problems after trying these tips and tricks.