Getting enough sleep is not always easy, constant pressures and demands from work, family and our social circle can cause us to push sleep down our list of priorities. Even something as simple as the latest episode of our favorite series can have us compromising on how many hours of rest we get each night. But if we aren’t prioritizing sleep, then we’re not prioritizing our health either, so here’s a few tips on how you can get better sleep this year – starting tonight!
Why is sleep important?
Sleep plays a major role in physical and mental health. While we sleep our body gets on with a range of vital functions that prepare us for the next day and repair any damage from the day we’ve finished. As we drift off a variety of hormones and chemicals are produced that aid the healing of damaged cells, boost our immune systems and aid muscle growth and development.
Sleep is made up from two phases. 75 – 80% is NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and the other 20 – 25% is taken up with REM (rapid eye movement). Each of these phases is essential for differing aspects of our health. NREM is associated with physical health – tissue growth and repair, energy restoration and the production and release of hormones essential for the normal function of our immune system. REM sleep, when we dream, is more aligned with our mental health. It’s when our minds process and consolidate emotions, memories and stress. It’s also considered vital for learning as it stimulates regions in the brain used for learning and developing new skills.
Tips for getting better sleep this year
Improving your sleep takes consistency, and a few changes to your routine and environment.
Routine is one of the first steps to getting continued good night’s rest. Waking up and getting out of bed at the same time each day is the place to start. Having a fixed wake up time stabilizes circadian rhythms and helps in getting to sleep at night as well as sleeping better when you’re in bed.
Don’t nap in the day. Daytime napping might be tempting – especially if you’ve had a poor night’s rest but napping for more than 20 minutes in the day can adversely affect your next night’s sleep and so on, creating a cycle of poor un-restorative sleep. If you feel tired in the afternoons, try taking a walk in the park to increase your heart rate and perk you up.
A relaxing bedtime routine can do wonders for getting a good night sleep – just ask any parent of small children! You don’t have to be a child to have a relaxing bedtime routine; creating one for yourself that includes a mindfulness practice, avoidance of blue light or even a warm cup of milk and bedtime snack that includes natural compounds like tryptophan and melatonin will help you drift off and sleep well through the night.
Sticking to these changes and committing to your personal bedtime routine will enable you to get to sleep easier and sleep better through the night.