Ask yourself this question. When was the last time you had a phenomenal night of sleep? A night that included going to bed on time, sleep without interruption, and waking up naturally – feeling rested – and not relying on an alarm clock. Sound like an impossibility? Possibly yes, especially if there are other people who depend on you through a night. Often enough though I hear about what keeps people from having a good night of sleep – pain, discomfort, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, worrying, needing to use the washroom, and more.
Sleep is an essential part of our health. It is a time when our body shuts down to outside stimuli and takes an opportunity to heal from the stresses of our day to day lives. Your blood pressure goes down, your heart rate lessens, your breathing rate drops, your digestive abilities decrease, and essentially your body works to repair the damage we do daily. So, knowing that sleep is so essential to your health, it can be even more frustrating when someone wakes up multiple times through a night.
A healthy night of sleep should be about seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. Each person is unique on truly how much sleep they require, and of course this will vary by day based on the activities of the day. People who are either young or elderly will require more sleep, but a good general rule is to aim for seven to nine hours per night.
Provided you are capable of achieving a full night's sleep, there are some very simple tips that can help you get your sleep if you are not already doing so.
- Check the life of your mattress and pillow . Your mattress needs to be replaced approximately every eight years and ideally, a mattress that is made of foam is the best choice. Your pillow should be changed every two years to provide maximum comfort and support. A foam pillow that supports your head and neck in all sleep positions is best.
- Use your bed for sleep (and sex) only . Far too often, we use our bed to read, watch TV, or have long conversations before going to sleep. When you go to sleep, you want your mind to think “bed = sleep”. If it is distracted by other activities, then it will get confused when you lie down and think of other stimuli instead of sleep.
- Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime . Digesting our food requires a lot of work and as the food is broken down, it can make sleeping uncomfortable. Plus, if our food or drink has sugar or caffeine, we may be just too wired to sleep. Slowing down with liquids an hour before bedtime will also help your bladder get through the night.
- Establish a bedtime routine . Remember the routing you put together for your kids? Consider the same for yourself. Starting after dinner, have a similar routine that you go by each night – a shower, reading a book, meditation – in order for your body to see a consistency and get ready for sleep.
- A conducive sleeping environment is key. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and kept cool – about 68 degrees – for the best sleep. Your natural diurnal rhythms rarely on a darkened room while we sleep. Think of nature in general – most animals will go to sleep when it is dark and wake up when it is light. Humans have adapted to our own schedules and ignore that natural rule so blocking out outside lights will help your sleep.
Assuming you already have healthy habits like not smoking (nicotine will affect sleep negatively as through the hours, smokers will go into withdrawal causing the urge to wake up) and limiting alcohol in your life (alcohol will cause a change in dreams which can be disruptive to sleep and can cause you to wake up multiple times throughout the night), the above mentioned tips will help significantly with your sleeping patterns.
Above all, listen to your body. If your body is telling you that it is tired at 8PM, go to sleep. Do not fight through two hours of television just so that you can see your favorite shows. Tapping into your body's signals and honoring its request for rest is the best gift you can give yourself. Waking up feeling energized, rested, and ready to take on the day is the gift your body will give you in return. We all deserve a phenomenal night of sleep but sometimes we have to work for it.