9 strategies for better sleep
1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day sets your body’s internal clock to expect sleep at a certain time every night, as well as wake up at a certain time. This can help you to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up more rested.
2. Get some sun everyday
Regular sun exposure is key to regulating your daily sleep patterns. Aim for at least 30 minutes of sunlight each day, ideally in the morning time. Best practise is to wake up at sunrise, get some sun and aim to go to bed a few hours after sunset.
3. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
A relaxing bedtime routine, such as light reading, listening to music or meditating, right before going to bed is a recommended practise for conducing better sleep. As opposed to stimulating activities such as working, studying or watching television.
4. Limit your screen time
Phones, ipads, computers and televisions all emit blue light, a type of light that promotes wakefulness, even more so than natural light. Aim to avoid screens for at least 1-2 hours prior to going to bed and instead practise your relaxing bedtime routine.
5. Avoid caffeine after 2pm (or for 8 hours prior to going to bed)
Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, energy/soft drinks and chocolate. Caffeine wakes us up and increases our mental alertness by blocking adenosine hormones binding to receptors in the brain. Generally high levels of adenosine result in sleepiness.
Caffeine is a stimulant and takes up to 8 hours to get out of our systems. If you normally go to bed at 10pm, aim to have your last coffee before 2pm, as well as be mindful to avoid foods/drinks containing caffeine at night-time.
6. Avoid alcohol (or at least excess alcohol)
Although alcohol is a depressant that can help you fall asleep faster, it generally leads to poorer quality sleep later on in the night. This is because it disrupts circadian rhythms, blocks deep and REM sleep (the restorative type of sleep), as well as acts as a diuretic, causing you to get up more during the night to go pee.
7. Sleep hygiene
Light plays a major role in regulating your circadian rhythms. Aim to keep your room as dark as possible. Also aim to keep your bedroom free of screens and unnatural sounds (e.g. clocks or buzzing chargers). Another major factor for restful sleep is bedroom temperature. Ideally aim for a bedroom temperature between 16 to 20 degrees celsius
As for your bed, it’s something you are going to spend a lot of your life in, and therefore its very worthwhile investing in a good comfortable bed, as well as comfortable sheets and pillows.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Doing your exercise outside will also help to expose you to more natural light, as well as provide you with more Vitamin D. Those who exercise daily, tend to sleep better at night.
9. Nutrients and supplements
One such nutrient that may assist sleep is magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that has over 300 chemical functions within the body. One of its roles involves activating your parasympathetic nervous system, the system involved in relaxing and calming your body. It also regulates melatonin, the major hormone involved in your sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium has even been found to result in better quality sleep, not just assisting in falling asleep. Furthermore, studies show that insufficient magnesium intake is linked to sleep problems.
Foods rich in magnesium include seeds, nuts, legumes and leafy greens.
A magnesium supplement may be useful for some people, however before taking any supplement, it is advised to consult with your Dietitian or Doctor.