Shakespeare was in no doubt about the importance of sleep for sustaining a healthy mind; his tragic hero, Macbeth, ‘murders’ his ability to sleep when he kills king Duncan. Now, hopefully, none of us have the killing of a king keeping us awake at night, but this year has been one of high anxiety and one of the casualties of anxiety is sleep. Sleeping well is a key component of good health and you owe it to yourself to ensure that you’re getting a good night’s sleep every night. Healthy sleep is as important as a healthy diet and exercise, so here are some tips to help you get the snooze you deserve.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine late in the evening
Having a ‘nightcap’ has long been considered a reliable way to ensure a good night’s sleep but its benefits are illusory. Although the consumption of alcohol will enable you to fall asleep easily, it impairs the quality of that sleep. Alcohol reduces REM sleep, the important dream state which occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. So, although you will fall asleep swiftly the quality of your sleep, particularly during the second half of the night, will be poor and you will not wake feeling refreshed, as you should. Likewise, an after-dinner coffee may be a fine way to end a meal, but the stimulation which caffeine induces will result in unsettled sleep. Remember that tea, including certain types of herbal tea, also contains caffeine and will have the same effect on your sleep as a late- night cup of coffee.
Banish electronic devices from the bedroom
The bright light emitted by screens reduces the activity of melatonin, the hormone which regulates sleep. So, if you are in the habit of catching up on Instagram, checking emails or watching T.V. in bed then you are setting yourself up for a night of poor sleep. You are much better off with an old- fashioned paper book and reading until your eyes grow heavy.
Create a calm environment
Your bedroom should be a soothing environment, so avoid flame red walls and stridently patterned curtains. It should be an environment that makes you feel calm and relaxed. An overheated bedroom is just as detrimental to a good night’s sleep as is a freezing one. Invest in blackout blinds an ensure that your room is dark and if noise is a problem, why not invest in a pair of ear plugs. It’s also well worth buying a good pillow, after all, you’re going to spend a third of your life with head on a pillow, so make sure it’s a comfortable one.
Try to keep to a regular sleeping pattern
Of course, this is not always possible, especially if you have a baby, but going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help you achieve a refreshing night’s sleep.