Tell the truth; can you remember when last you actually had a good night of sleep? If you can remember and the answer is last night then be grateful, you are one of the lucky ones. Let’s go a step further and pose an even harder question to answer then: when was the last time that you had a good night’s sleep every single day for an entire week?
Now that is truly a difficult thing to remember; far too many people will say that has never happened to them, it is and impossible feat to even think of achieving.
In a recently updated study that was conducted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) it was approximated that at least 50 to 70 million US citizens have some form of sleep related disorder. For this reason, among others, inadequate sleep is categorized as a growing public health epidemic.
However, despair not for there are certain things that you do to augment your daily life that will accordingly have a direct effect on your sleep habits – putting that much closer to attaining a good night’s sleep. While you will most surely see the short-term benefits of this within a couple of days; to see long-term benefits you will have to apply yourself to these practices for a couple weeks to see results. However, it is all worth it.
One thing that you will hear doctors and sleep experts telling you to focus on is your circadian rhythm. By focusing on this circadian rhythm you are focusing on the portion of your brain that is responsible for the natural sleep cycle of your body. Here are a few ways that you can improve and maintain the quality of the sleep that you get each and every night.
Meet the daylight. As you get out of bed, one of the initial thing that you should do is pull back your curtains and let in the early morning daylight. This is very beneficial right off the bat, since it awakens your body and helps to adjust your body’s biological clock.
Protein and carbs.
Your first meal of the day should have that kick to get your body started and give you that boost of energy to keep going throughout the day. Your protein can be obtained from easy to digest sources such as milk, eggs, yogurt, and nuts. You can obtain the needed carbs from sources such as oatmeal, cereal (whole grain), and bread (whole wheat). By combining the protein and carbs before you get your day started, you are ensuring that your body stay fuller longer and your energy reserves will be topped up.
Take your caffeine early.
A great majority of American adults need their coffee to get through their hectic day to day lives. While there is nothing wrong with this, medical experts will all come to an agreement that if you have problems sleeping (or simply want to improve the quality of the sleep that you are getting) then drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages when you have six or less hours before hitting the hay will negatively affect your sleep habits.
After 11am or so your body will start to require more protein to keep you supplied with enough energy to manage the day. Adding foods that are rich in protein to your lunch and snacks in small portions will greatly help you. Foods such as; fish, soybeans, nuts and poultry can make all the difference.
No shame in napping.
If you have the freedom and spare time to take a short nap during the day then by all means go right ahead. You should just be mindful that it does not exceed half an hour; also, if you can, try to have it after 12pm but before 3pm. A power nap like this can keep you rested in the day and have you sleeping like a baby when night comes.
While there is no fixed consensus on when exactly you should squeeze in your workout session; all experts will agree that it is best done somewhat close to dinnertime (late afternoon). This gives your body time to return to its normal state (muscles relaxed, etc.) and you get to build up back your body with a healthy meal.
Limit your alcohol intake.
Once you have given yourself a set bedtime you should then make sure that you don’t consume alcohol at least four hours before going to sleep. While alcohol has been known to give a relaxing feeling and even induce drowsiness, it does not provide us with the high quality sleep that we are seeking. It can lead to tossing and turning, abrupt awakenings and bad dreams.
Get a balanced meal for dinner.
Yes your dinner should be balanced, but it should also be light enough to not burden your digestive system while you are sleeping. Brown rice or whole wheat pasta are great places to start when it comes to carbs. Adequate healthy vegetables are a must, as well as a reasonably sized portion of lean protein that will sate your hunger but not leave you bloated like a balloon. If you really need a light snack before bed after dinner, you can consider getting a small bowl of oatmeal or cereal, fresh fruits, or nuts.
Calm your mind and body.
This is logical enough since over the course of your hectic day you are bound build up great amounts of tension in your body and mind. Herbal teas, warm baths and best of all meditation; are some of the ways that you can achieve this without overexerting yourself before bed (since overexertion would defeat the whole calming process).
Set the “mood” and crawl into bed.
Take the time to adjust your surroundings to the optimal conditions for YOUR sleep needs. Make sure the area is: just as dim as you want it, the correct temperature, and quiet enough (dead silence is not necessary as some of us need a bit of ambient noise to feel comfortable). Power down all devices that can become distracting during the night and especially try to stay away from excessive texting, browsing and messaging shortly before trying to go to sleep (blue light emissions suppress production of melatonin, preventing healthy sleep).
These tips should help you optimize the sleep you are getting to prepare you for the day ahead.