Sleep plays an important role in physical health, brain function and emotional wellbeing. How you feel when you’re awake is partly due to your quality of sleep. While sleep may seem like a long stream of unconsciousness, your body is actually replenishing nutrients and processing information that your brain was too busy to analyze during the day.
In addition to following the micro Habits of Health such as getting between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, here are some tips to improve overall sleep habits:
- Stick to a schedule. Sticking to the same sleep schedule helps the body find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular cycle, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up. An irregular sleep schedule can cause irritability, drowsiness, and mood swings. It’s important to stick to the same schedule on the weekends as well—your body has a difficult time adjusting if your weekend schedule is drastically different from your weekday routine.
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and promotes alertness, so naturally it would make it more difficult to go to sleep after enjoying a cup of coffee. It can also affect the quality of your sleep.
- Eat at least two hours prior. Just like caffeine, certain foods act as stimulants which can make it harder to transition to sleep mode if you eat too late. Eating right before bed can also cause reflux or digestive discomfort the next morning.
- Relax before bedtime. Take a bath or listen to soothing music to activate relaxation and prepare your body for bed. Try to avoid electronics, including texting and using the computer.
- Create an optimal sleep environment. Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and a moderate temperature. Use white noise to mask ambient noises.
- Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Sometimes the anxiety of not being asleep can make it harder to fall asleep. If you’re still awake after a half hour of lying in bed, get up and do a relaxing activity until you start to feel sleepy.
If you often feel tired during the day or don’t wake up refreshed, it may be helpful to keep a sleep diary to track these patterns and consult your doctor for professional advice. Keep in mind that along with nutrition and exercise, quality sleep is a pillar for achieving Optimal Health.