Maintaining good sleeping habits can help to improve your general health by reducing fatigue and boosting concentration, mood, memory and coordination. Sleep is your body’s chance to recharge and repair. However, getting the right amount of sleep can be difficult for many people, as we lead busy lives full of work (shift work can be extra detrimental to health), stress and children. The lifestyle of a university or college student is often just as unhealthy, with odd sleeping hours, all-nighters rushing to finish assignments and late nights due to work or social outings. Too much sleep can also be problematic, as it makes your prone to being more tired. Oversleeping can be due to factors such as depression, illness or just tiredness.
So how much sleep should you be getting? For an adult the recommendation is around seven to eight hours a night.
The complex science behind sleep is fascinating enough to deserve it’s own post; today’s post, however, covers tips on getting a better night’s sleep.
So what can you do to stop being sleep deprived and, in turn, feel better mentally (and physically)? Take note that might take a few weeks to work out your ideal sleep schedule.
- Go to bed at the same time every night. This can be a tough one, but it’s probably a good start for getting into go habits. Choose a time when you’re naturally quite tired, and make sure to try and stay in routine, even on weekends when you might be tempted to stay up late.
- Also, try to wake up at the same time every day. Your body will start to wake up naturally without needing an alarm.
- This was covered in the last post, but it’s ok to take a nap during the day as long as you nap smart.
- Get plenty of light during the day – open windows and let natural light into your house, or try and spend more time outside. As a bonus, exercise will also help you to sleep better.
- Stay away from the caffeine. This seem like an obvious one, but lots of people still ignore this rule. Sugar and alcohol are also bad.
- Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation were also discussed in the last post – they can help to reduce anxiety and stress. If you’re lying awake at night, try not to think about it too much, and try one of these techniques instead, or listen to some relaxing sounds. There are lots of free apps available with white noise and binaural beats (my personal favourite is Sleep Stream 2).
- This one is important: try and associate your bedroom, or at least your bed, only with sleep! Lounging on your bed in the dark staring at your laptop or TV late at night is definitely going to keep you awake when you do decide to go to sleep. So get rid of the electronics and bright lights before bed time. Take time to wind down and try listening to music or reading a book instead (unless you’re the kind of person who gets caught up in a good book!).
- Make sure you’re comfortable. A room that’s the wrong temperature or bedding that causes pain can all contribute to a bad night’s sleep.
- Melatonin – the body’s sleep hormone. This is getting a little more medical, but I have a friend who swears by this to help her sleep. It’s especially good for situations where you might not be at home and there is extra noise or anxiety associated with the situation. You do need a prescription to get it in Australia, however, so talk to your doctor to work out if this is right for you.
Of course these suggestions won’t work for everyone, especially those who struggle with sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnoea or snoring. In these cases, or if you’ve been trying to sleep better and are not improving, you should go and speak to your GP and see if there’s some other solution to help you.
Do you think your sleep habits are good or bad? How do they affect your life? What’s your bedtime routine to wind down for the night?