How did you sleep last night? Did you wake up feeling refreshed? According to research by Laya Healthcare, a whopping 80% of Irish workers feel sleep deprived on a daily basis. Not only does this impact our energy levels and ability to carry out tasks throughout the day, it also negatively affects our mood.
We're not exactly helping ourselves, though. A study carried out by vitamin experts Wellman and Wellwoman last year found that more than one in five of us don’t go to sleep until after midnight on weekdays. Sound familiar? It's time to work on your sleep hygiene. Just as body hygiene improves our overall wellbeing, sleep hygiene is needed for good mental health. Here are eight examples you can try tonight to feel better rested tomorrow.
Spritz essential oils
Essential oils can create a calming atmosphere in your bedroom, helping you to relax and unwind before bedtime. Scents, such as lavender, chamomile and bergamot, can lower your stress levels very quickly. While these can be purchased in oil form, some brands have formulated unique blends into handy spray bottles. For example, L’Occitane Relaxing Pillow Mist, €21, contains the essential oils of lavender, bergamot, mandarin, sweet orange and geranium. It can be sprayed around your bedroom or directly onto your pillow to promote relaxation and well-being. Similarly, This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, €22, is infused with lavender, vetivert and wild chamomile to soothe the body and mind.
Do you use social media while lying in bed? It could be the reason why you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to sleep. The so-called 'blue light' light emitted from our phone screens prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies it's night-time. Because of this, our brains don’t switch off but continue to whir – even after we’ve nodded off. A full night of hyper brain activity makes for a very sleepy morning. Try to avoid screens for at least 90 minutes before you go to bed. You can still use your phone as an alarm, but make sure to set it early in the evening and leave it across the room.
Sleep tracker device
By using health trackers, such as Fitbit Versa, we can track the amount of sleep we're getting every night (as well as the quality of that sleep). Wearing it on a regular basis can determine which lifestyle habits lead to a better night's sleep than others. For example, you'll find you have more hours of 'deep sleep' on the days you've done more exercise. You can also log your food and water intake to see if these have any impact on it. Gathering data like this will help you make more informed decisions going forward. If you need help winding down before bed, the device can alert you to when it's nearing bedtime – simply select your ideal time in settings. Lastly, for an added boost of calm, follow along with the inbuilt breathing exercises.
Cut the caffeine (at least a little bit)
According to the National Sleep Foundation, caffeine kicks in just 15 minutes after it's consumed and can stay in your system for up to six hours. With that in mind, it's best we avoid coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks in the run-up to bedtime. Stick to decaf coffee from 4 pm if you want to be asleep by 10 pm.
Cool it down
There are many changes we can make to our bedrooms to make them more relaxing environments to sleep in. For example, lower the thermostat on your radiator to avoid waking from uncomfortable night sweats. The National Sleep Foundation puts the optimum room temperature at 18 degrees; not too hot, not too cold. It seems our body's core temperature is naturally low during deep sleep, but it starts to rise towards the end of our sleep cycle as a signal to wake us up. Setting the radiator too high can interrupt our bodies' natural temperature, causing restlessness throughout the night.
Revamp your bedroom
Following on from the point above, long-term changes can make your bedroom feel more peaceful. For example, consider painting the walls a tranquil colour. Greys and greens are particularly calming, unlike bright pinks or reds that make you more alert. Get rid of any clutter you have lying around, and where possible, banish work materials to the living room. Your bedroom is a place to chill out and sleep – not to think about upcoming meetings or deadlines.
Turn off the TV and any music devices in your room. As nice as it might be to fall asleep to your favourite Netflix show, it won’t do you any favours come morning. Sleeping in a quiet room will ensure your brain isn't disturbed until your alarm rings in the AM. Similarly, if you have any pets that roam around at night, avoid letting them into your bedroom. All it takes is a dog rolling over to wake you up. According to the World Health Organisation, sounds as low as 30 decibels (such as someone whispering quietly or the ticking of a watch) can disturb our sleep. Children and elderly people are particularly vulnerable to these low levels of noise, while most will be woken by sounds over 40 decibels (such as rainfall).
Clinical research published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information shows how daily mindfulness and meditation can lead to deep, undisturbed sleep. Meditation is all about focusing your mind on the ‘here and now’ and requires you to switch off any unnecessary, stressful thoughts. While it does take some practice, it can relax the mind and help you feel more zen. It also contributes to the release of melatonin in our brains, the hormone that helps us fall asleep.
Photos: Unsplash and Pexels
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