Here are a few steps for improving sleep by preparing for bed better.
Establishing a consistent pattern of behaviour before bed encourages the brain to prepare for sleep.
Hit the dimmer
Using low-wattage bulbs or dimmer switches reduces light intensity in the evenings. This sends sleep signals to the brain and helps an individual to wind down.
Most people can sleep for six to eight hours without waking up to use the bathroom. However, some individuals are forced to wake at night to urinate, which interrupts the sleep cycle.Monitoring drinks consumed before bedtime and trying to avoid alcohol, caffeine or any diuretics is a good starting point. However, if the problem persists or an individual is taking medication that increases urination, seeking medical assistance may be necessary.
Studies have shown that sleep induced by alcohol is not restorative. Alcohol inhibits the brain’s ability to progress through the different phases of sleep. In particular, those who consume alcohol before bed find it harder to experience REM sleep. Alcohol also affects breathing and can cause sleep apnoea.
Ditch the screen time
Avoiding the use of technology, including computers, mobile phones and television, is essential in the hour directly before bedtime. The stimulation of working or watching TV combined with the brightness of the screen can dramatically affect the circadian rhythm.
Bin the brew
Tea and coffee are stimulants, which can be great for getting you going in the morning. Drink one in the evening, however, and caffeine can prevent some people from entering the first stages of non-REM sleep. The effects of caffeine vary from person to person, but for those who are particularly sensitive to the drug, binning the brew may significantly improve sleep quality.
Napping during the day may seem like a good idea, but it can leave an individual struggling to sleep at night – leading to an unwanted sleep deficit.
Exercise – at the right time
Getting the heart rate up and fatiguing the body is not only good for general health, it is good for the sleep cycle. Exercising during the day can make it easier to fall asleep at night. However, exercise should be avoided in the hour before bed. The body needs time for the metabolism to slow after exercise before it is able to prepare for sleep, so exercising late at night can be counter-productive.
Sleep and diet are intrinsically linked. Insufficient sleep is closely linked to poor diet (typically cravings for sugar and fat), increased calorific intake, increased snacking and obesity. The links between specific nutrient intake and sleep are not yet fully understood but it is thought that eating food that can cause a spike in blood sugar before bed is detrimental to sleep.
Some work has also been done to investigate the effects of melatonin-rich foods in promoting quality sleep. While the daily cycle of light and dark is considered to be the main factor of melatonin production in the body, a number of different foodstuffs are known to increase the concentration of melatonin or promote melatonin synthesis in the body.
These include :
• Morello cherries
• Sunflower seeds