Many of us are not getting enough sleep which is probably a consequence of scrambling to meet the countless demands of our day. Unfortunately a lack of sleep can have short and long term effects on our health. Besides making us moody and grumpy, a bad night’s sleep can cause fatigue, poor concentration and memory, impaired judgement and reaction time, and poor physical coordination.1
If a bad night’s sleep turns into a bad week or month of sleep, it can result in a whole range of health problems. If you are struggling to get to sleep, stay asleep or wake refreshed you may need to make some simple changes to your sleep habits. With a little effort and planning you should be able to get your sleep routine back on track.
- Make sleep a priority. Instead of scrimping on sleep to tackle your daily tasks, put it on the top of your to‐do list. After all, sleep is up there with food and water as one of the cornerstones of good health. To ensure you get enough, stick to a sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night (preferably before midnight) and waking up at the same time each morning, even on weekends. This will help you develop a natural sleep/wake cycle and may even eliminate the need for that loud and disrupting alarm.
- Create a sleep sanctuary. The ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui, recommends that the bedroom should be for sleep, and relaxation. If you associate the bedroom with work or watching TV, it will be harder to wind down at night. One of the biggest sleep distractions is the internet and texting, which isn’t hard to believe considering many of us are guilty of bringing our smart phones to the bedroom! Leave your smart phone in another room so you won’t feel tempted and get rid of the bedroom TV. Use a good old fashioned alarm clock, rather than your phone, but keep it out of view so it doesn’t add to your worries if you can’t get to sleep. Create a sleep sanctuary by keeping your bedroom dark, cool, quiet and conducive to sleeping.
- Do something relaxing before bed. It is important to wind down after what was likely to be a hectic day. Have a warm bath with your favourite essential oils, read under a soft light or do some deep breathing or gentle yoga postures. If you are prone to worrying, write a list of your problems and possible solutions that you can address the following day. That way you will be ready to sleep when you hit the pillow, rather than being hyped up or anxious about tomorrow’s deadlines.
- Limit stimulants before bedtime. Caffeine is a known stimulant found in coffee, tea and Coca‐Cola and may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep if consumed close to your bedtime. As an alternative try a relaxing herbal tea like chamomile to help you unwind. Strenuous exercise before bed has a similar effect to caffeine. Try to avoid exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime or if this isn’t possible, make sure you wind down with one of the tips from point three before hitting the sack.
- Try a herbal sleep support remedy. Nature has provided us with a number of herbs that have a gentle sedative effect and may help calm your mind and achieve a good night’s sleep so you can perform at your best.
- Better Health Channel, “Sleep”: Fact Sheet, Accessed April 2013, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcpdf.nsf/ByPDF/Sleep/$File/Sleep.pdf