Written by Mituri Pradip Sharma
There’s no doubt that sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes far beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn and get along with others.
Given the importance of sleep for every aspect of your health and wellbeing, it is essential to ensure you and your family are making the most of your time in bed. Your behaviours can have a major impact on your sleep and can be the difference between a restful or restless night’s sleep. Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep hygiene and promote a restful night’s sleep:
- Have a regular sleep pattern: Try to go to bed at the same time each evening and get up at the same time each morning.
- Spend the right amount of time in bed: Most adults require an average of 8 hours of sleep each night. Unless you have lengthy sleep requirements, try to limit your time in bed to 8.5 hours.
- Wind down and relax before going to bed: In the lead up to your bed time, establish relaxing bedtime rituals such as meditating, reading a book or listening to gentle music.
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing: Ensure your bedroom is a quiet, dark room with a comfortable bed and good temperature control.
- Use your bed for sleeping only: Television, computers and other distractions can interfere with your sleep and they should not be used in the bedroom.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve sleep quality and quantity.
- Avoid daytime naps: Naps during the day will make falling asleep in the evening more difficult. If you absolutely must have a nap, limit the time to twenty minutes.
- Don’t watch the clock: Clock-watching will make you anxious about not falling asleep and this will hinder your ability to fall asleep. Take the clock out of the room or if this is not possible, turn it away so you cannot see the time.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine: Alcohol may help send you to sleep, but it will disrupt your sleep during the night. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that will keep you awake.
- Make sure you eat enough protein: Include a source of lean protein with each meal. This could include eggs, fish, poultry, lean red meats, nuts/seeds or beans/legumes.
- Eat the right type of carbohydrates: Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice. Instead focus on consuming your carbohydrates through fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime: Large meals can make you feel uncomfortable and overburden your digestive system, each of which will prevent you from falling asleep. If you are hungry before bed, eat a light and healthy snack.