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11 Tips For Getting A Good Night's Sleep
Sleep like you really mean it.
Consider this: we spend about a third of our lives sleeping and - unless you’re a hotshot CEO - less than a quarter of our lives working. And yet we put mountains of energy into finding the perfect job and almost no energy into finding the perfect sleep.
Think about it. How many times did you rewrite your resume and cover letter before you hit the send button? How many hours do you spend every week debriefing your spouse on the minutiae of your daily routine? Uh-huh. Thought so.
Imagine if we were to funnel that same energy into getting a good night’s sleep. What would that be like? So much of our experience of waking life depends on the quality of our sleeping life. A good sleep is critical for a strong immune system, a healthy metabolism and the ability to age gracefully.
There’s no blanket solution that works for everyone - not even a pharmaceutical one. It’s up to the individual to figure out exactly how much he or she needs. Most adults really do need at least eight hours of quality sleep. What we sometimes forget is that a high percentage of REM sleep is just as important as total hours slept.
That means eliminating the tossing and turning wherever possible. Wriggling around in frustration for a half hour before bed can ruin you for the night, since your body’s ability to slip into REM is negated by the monkey mind.
Contrary to popular opinion, waking for five to 10 minutes in the night is not such a bad thing. In fact, it might even be good for you. It’s the tossing and turning and wishing you were asleep that shoots you in the foot, which bring us to our first sleep tip:
- Buy yourself a good bed. All that tossing and turning, whether you’re awake or sleeping, means you’re missing out on that all-important REM sleep your body so badly needs to function at top form.
- Don’t drink (too much) before bed. Any more than two glasses of wine less than four hours before bedtime decreases the deep sleep wave by 20 to 50 percent. That third glass isn’t doing your waistline any favours either.
- Eat a healthy pre-bedtime snack. If you’re getting eight to 10 hours of sleep per night and still waking up tired, low blood sugar in the nighttime may be the culprit. Keep your snack small and light. A full belly is a major sleep deterrent for the body, which has to put a lot of energy into digestion. On the other hand, a few spoonfuls of almond butter or peanut butter helps keep the blood sugar level balanced in the night. A little flax oil also helps to decrease fatigue.
- Find your ideal sleeping temperature. It’s different for everyone. Experiment with combinations of blankets (i.e. one thin sheet versus three thick blankets), outside temperature (i.e. open window versus air conditioning versus fan), inside temperature (i.e. socks and PJs versus total nudity), etc. Many experts say a cooler temperature is better, but it’s important to find what works for you personally.
- Try an alternative alarm clock: Nobody likes waking up to the hits of Chumbawumba laced with weather reports, traffic updates and bad news. The Philips Golite alarm clock flashes blue light, which not only helps your body sleep but also combats seasonal affective disorder and helps you wake up refreshed and full of energy.
- Increase exposure to natural light. Light exposure is extremely important for a good sleep. Spending more time outside without sunglasses is a good place to start. It also helps to have a workspace with natural light. If that’s not possible, Philips also makes alarm clocks that mimic the rising sun - so much better than a blaring alarm!
- Take a hot (or cold) bath: A hot bath helps the body to produce melatonin, an important hormone for sleep. Actually, melatonin is produced by the body regulating its temperature after you’ve climbed out of the hot bath, which is why a cold bath works just as well. An ice bath, if you’re man enough, works about as effectively as a tranquilizer dart.
- Take a walk after dinner. Often dinner makes us drowsy, causing you to spend the rest of the evening on the couch, watching TV or possibly even napping. Use a little of that food energy and you’ll find yourself much more ready for sleep when it comes time.
- Turn off the lights. That includes the television. TV stimulates the brain so you’re ill-prepared for sleep when it comes time. Keep your sleeping room as dark as possible, since light inhibits the body’s ability to produce melatonin. Even a backlit eReader isn’t great. Put a nightlight in the bathroom so you don’t need to use the overhead light in the middle of the night.
- Have a regular bedtime and wake time. That means weekends too, before you get any ideas. A late night every so often is no big deal, but regularly staying up too late and sleeping in on weekends prevents your body from setting a schedule.
- Work with your body’s natural rhythm. Some people really are night people. Not all of us wake up bright and shiny at 7 a.m. Find the schedule that works for you. If you get your best work done at 9 p.m., it might be time to have a chat with your boss about those early morning meetings.
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