Everyone knows that exercise and a balanced diet are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but arguably the most important thing you can do to maintain a healthy mind and body is to get a good night’s sleep.
Many people suffer from insomnia, either struggling to drift off to sleep or constantly waking up during the night. Poor sleep can lead to imbalanced hormones, anxiety, depression, weight gain, lethargy, and even heart disease. Getting plenty of rest on the other hand, can help you eat less, exercise better, and benefit your mental health.
Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to combat sleeplessness and ensure you get all the rest you need. Restful sleep is key to a healthy life, and here is what you can do to make sure you get enough.
Have a consistent routine
Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligned with sunrise and sunset. If you tend to head to bed and wake up at different times every day, that rhythm will be thrown off.
The day of the week when people tend to sleep best is Thursday, while the night people tend to sleep most poorly is Sunday. This is because people who work regular 9 to 5 jobs tend to go to bed and wake up at consistent times during the week, setting a healthy bedtime routine, then adopt a more irregular sleep pattern on Friday and Saturday, leading to a Sunday night where you’re ready to sleep, but your body isn’t.
If you struggle to sleep, try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. After a few weeks, you may find you don’t need an alarm to wake you up.
Create a relaxing environment
Turning your bedroom into a pleasant, relaxing environment conducive to rest is an effective way to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Furniture arrangement, décor, and colour all play a part (with cooler, gentle shades like pastel blue thought to be more restful), but the most important things to bear in mind are noise level, lighting, and external noise.
Try to minimise the amount of light in your bedroom before you go to bed. This can be done by using side lights instead of overhead lighting, but also by assessing light emanating from alarm clocks, televisions, and outside lights penetrating curtains.
Also try to block out as much noise as possible, from both inside and outside the house. Short of replacing windows, you may struggle to block all traffic noise, but thicker curtains can make a difference.
Lastly, keep your bedroom at a moderate temperature. We tend to make bedrooms as cosy as possible by raising the temperature, but a bedroom that’s too hot is actually harder to sleep in than a bedroom that’s too noisy. Similarly, a cold room can make getting to sleep more difficult. Around 20 degrees is the optimum temperature, adjusted for your preferences and habits.
Switch off electronics
Our eyes and brains love blue light. Like sunlight, it makes us feel more alert and focussed. It’s addictive, which is why smartphones, laptops, and smart TVs emit it in buckets.
However, also like sunlight, blue light can make it much more difficult to get to sleep. If you find yourself struggling to drift off after an evening in front of your television or phone screen, there are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure to blue light before bed.
The first is to wear glasses that block blue light, which can be found online. The second is to download an app on you phone or tablet that blocks blue light, of which there are several for both iPhone and Android models. The last, and perhaps most effective step, is to turn off your electronics 2 hours before you plan to go to bed.
Don’t eat late in the evening
Eating a large meal within a couple of hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep, as your body spends several hours producing hormones and energy to digest it.
Some sleep experts advocate eating your largest meals earlier in the day, and having your lightest meal in the evening: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper.
However, certain studies show that eating a meal rich in carbohydrates 4 hours before bed actually aids sleep, whereas high protein meals which produce their energy more slowly result in poorer sleep.
Essentially, try to avoid eating a lot before bed, but if you must, choose carbohydrates.
Cut down on caffeine
A small amount of caffeine is good for you, improving focus, boosting energy, and enhancing sports performance.
One thing caffeine is not good for is a good night’s sleep. That’s because caffeine stimulates your nervous system, making it more difficult for your mind and body to relax. It can also stay elevated in your blood for 6 to 8 hours, meaning a cup of tea or coffee at 6pm could prevent you from falling asleep at 11pm.
That said, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. One person may not be able to drink tea after 4pm if they want a restful night, whereas another may have an espresso at 11pm and be fast asleep by midnight.
If you think you may be sensitive to the effects of caffeine, try to avoid it after mid-afternoon.
Many people who struggle to get to sleep turn to alcohol as an effective way to help them pass out.
While it may help you drift off, alcohol negatively affects the production of melatonin, a chemical which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm. This can increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns.
A couple of glasses of wine in the evening may help you get to sleep, but it won’t give you the rest you need.
Use an online pharmacy for health concerns that keep you up
Relying on pharmacies and being able to get hold of your prescription for sleep medication – or medicine for any health concern that might be keeping you up at night – can cause unnecessary stress and therefore unnecessary insomnia.
Switching to an online pharmacy can help you get the rest you need by delivering all prescriptions direct to your door when you need them, without worrying about stock or opening hours. Online pharmacies like Post My Meds offer Viagra for men are convenient and discreet – which is particularly important if your ailment is a sensitive issue.
All online pharmacies in Britain must meet the same standards as physical ones, so you get the same service, only more catered to your needs.
Increase light exposure during the day
Daily exposure to bright light is essential for a healthy circadian rhythm, and therefore healthy hormone production, energy levels, and of course, healthy sleep.
Daily bright light exposure – of at least 2 hours duration – improves both sleep quality and duration in people with insomnia.
You may have noticed you tend to sleep better after spending the day outdoors. While some of this may be down to exercise, exposure to sunlight also plays a part. Try to get at least 2 hours of sun exposure every day or, if this is not practical, invest in a bright light device or brighter bulbs.
A long, restful night’s sleep is within your reach. You just need to make it your top priority.