Sleep pays a crucial role in your health and wellbeing. Quality is key, and getting enough of good quality sleep can be a struggle for many. But it’s worth pursuing the cause for one’s mental and physical welfare.
So how much zzzs do you need? If you’re well versed on the subject, you’ll know that for all adults, sleep experts recommend 7–8 hours each night. Of course, the amount of shut-eye you need can also depend on other factors, such as whether you have inconsistent sleep patterns, are sleep deprived (which means you have a sleep debt) or get up during the night.
Researchers have found that without adequate hours of slumber over many nights, people aren’t as mentally sharp as those who have closer to seven hours; this means, they take longer to perform tasks, make decisions, have a slower reaction time and make more mistakes. This also applies to anyone who feels rested even only after a few hours of shut-eye each night.
So, what can you do if you’re simply not getting enough sleep? Here are five strategies to give a whirl, if you haven’t already.
1. Go to bed and wake up the same time each day. While challenging, be as consistent as you can to keep the same sleep schedule each day; otherwise, your body clock (circadian rhythm) will be out of whack, affecting your quality of sleep. Also, avoid hitting the snooze button on your alarm; it’ll only make you groggy.
2. Dim the lights. An hour before bed, avoid bright, artificial light – especially the blue light from devices and computers, as studies have proved it signals the brain to stay awake.
3. Create a bedtime routine. Use the hour before bed as quite time. Avoid doing anything strenuous or eating heavy meals before bed. Instead, do things which help you to relax and send a message to your body that sleep is around the corner. Having a bath, drinking a cup of chamomile tea, brushing your teeth and doing relaxation techniques (e.g. meditation, gentle stretching and breathing exercises) are just a few ideas.
4. Set up your bedroom for a good night’s sleep. Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark. This means no TV or devices in the room. If needed, a dim night-light is ok.
5. Set up your day for a good night’s sleep. Spend some time outside when possible, and be physically active. Avoid caffeine from the early afternoon, as the effects of caffeine can last for up to eight hours.
A word or two on napping: Napping during the day can help to boost alertness and performance, especially if you are sleep deprived. Usually, no more than 20 minutes is recommended. However, if you have trouble falling asleep at night, try limiting naps or taking them earlier in the day.
How much sleep do you feel you need? Do you have trouble sleeping? What helps you to fall asleep?