Given we spend one third of our life sleeping, you'd think we'd all have it mastered. Unfortunately that's not the case for many, and the drain on both mind and body can be dramatic. Low energy saps creativity, spontaneity, concentration and motivation, as well as causing irritability and stress. Chronic, long-term lack of sleep ups your odds of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, and even weight gain.
In a perfect world, you'll fall asleep quickly, get quality rest and wake up refreshed in the morning. If that doesn't sound like the kind of sleep you're having, then read on for some tips that will make a difference. Deep sleep is essential as it is the time when the body rejuvenates cells and repairs damage suffered during the day, as well as doing the same for the mind, through dreaming.
Time in bed is not the only unit of measure. The average person will require around eight hours' sleep a night - however, we're all different , so you need to listen to your body and adjust the hours accordingly - then make sure you get to bed at a time which gives you enough sleep before your day starts. A lot of the current wearable devices, as well as phone apps, monitor your sleep patterns, allowing you to keep tabs on what's really happening behind-the-scenes: while you may be in bed for eight hours, you're not necessarily getting the required zzzs you think you are if you are taking a long time to get off to sleep, having broken sleep cycles from sleep apnea or your partner's snoring, or involuntary leg twinges etc. You're aiming for quality along with quantity here, so it's in your best interests to check this out.
Plan your next day before dinner - not while you're lying in bed. That way you haven't got hundreds of thoughts or worries running through your head when you should be preparing for sleep.
Your sleep can be determined by what you eat. Some foods may actually help you snooze - tryptophan, an amino acid found in lots of protein foods that converts to sleep-promoting serotonin in the body. It is particularly plentiful in oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, bananas. Having these kinds of foods at your evening meal will mean you are more likely to wake up with increased alertness, to have clearer thinking, and to perform better on attention-requiring tasks.
On the flip side, avoid a big, heavy meal right before bed as a full stomach will disturb your sleep, and avoid spicy and high sugar food before bed, so you're not kept awake by indigestion or an insulin surge.
Your sleep can be determined by what you drink. Stop your caffeine kick in the afternoon - this adrenalin boost is the last thing you need for a good night's sleep. Try and avoid any caffeine after lunch. Also avoid too much liquid before bed so you are not woken up by a full bladder in the middle of the night.
Create the perfect sleep haven. Light may very well be the worst enemy for a good night's sleep. It throws off your circadian rhythm and triggers the release of different hormones and chemicals that will wake you up. Besides dimming the lights, do some light reading, and settle into the perfect mattress and pillow for your needs - both can greatly affect your night's sleep, by helping avoid muscle discomfort as well as problems such as insomnia and snoring. A cooler temperature is also conducive to better sleep.
Let all your tech devices sleep too. You need at least an hour away from technology to stop you being "wired" before bed. And ideally, you should leave them out of the bedroom altogether. Use of technology just before bed is thought to make it take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them. Some research claims that radiation from the handset can cause insomnia and headaches as well as cutting the time spent in deep sleep.
Waking up naturally is by far the best way to go. Try to get to bed at the same time each night, so your body gets used to waking at the same time each morning. Much nicer to be woken by the sun rising than a screeching alarm.
Exercise helps you both fall asleep more quickly - and fall into a deeper sleep.So keep up that cardio and your regular Pilates classes!
Your sleeping position may be effecting the quality of shuteye - knowing what's best for you will make a difference to waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next day.
The following is an interesting excerpt from an article by health.com which outlines the best sleep positions for a good night's rest (as well as a host of other advantages and disadvantages).
Our preferred PM pose could be giving you back and neck pain, tummy troubles, even premature wrinkles. Here are the best positions for your body - plus the one you may want to avoid.
The Best: Back position Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts. Bad for: Snoring The scoop: Sleeping on your back makes it easy for your head, neck, and spine to maintain a neutral position. You're not forcing any extra curves into your back, says Steven Diamant, a chiropractor in New York City. It's also ideal for fighting acid reflux, says Eric Olson, MD, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota: "If the head is elevated, your stomach will be below your esophagus so acid or food can't come back up."
Back-sleeping also helps prevent wrinkles, because nothing is pushing against your face, notes Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University. And the weight of your breasts is fully supported, reducing sagginess. Consider this: "Snoring is usually most frequent and severe when sleeping on the back," Olson says. Perfect pillow: One puffy one. The goal is to keep your head and neck supported without propping your head up too much.
Next Best: Side position Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy Bad for: Your skin and your breasts The scoop: Side-sleeping is great for overall health - it reduces snoring and keeps your spine elongated. If you suffer from acid reflux, this is the next best thing to sleeping on your back. Now for the downside: "Sleeping on your side can cause you to get wrinkles," Glaser says. Blame all that smushing of one side of your face into the pillow. This pose also contributes to breast sag, since your girls are dangling downward, stretching the ligaments, says Health magazine's Medical Editor Roshini Rajapaksa, M.D. Consider this: If you're pregnant, sleep on your left side. It's ideal for blood flow. Perfect pillow: A thick one. "You need to fill the space above your shoulder so your head and neck are supported in a neutral position," says Ken Shannon, a physical therapist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Not Ideal: Fetal position Good for: Snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy Bad for: Preventing neck and back pain, minimising wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts The scoop: Outside of your mother's uterus, resting in a tight fetal pose isn't a great idea. When you snooze with your knees pulled up high and chin tucked into your chest, you may feel it in the morning, especially if you have an arthritic back or joints, Olson says. "This curved position also restricts diaphragmatic breathing," adds Dody Chang, a licensed acupuncturist with the Center for Integrative Medicine at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. And if you make this your nightly pose, you may bring on premature facial wrinkles and breast sag. Consider this: Just straighten out a bit - try not to tuck your body into an extreme curl. Perfect pillow: One plump pillow - the same as side position, to give your head and neck support.
The Worst: Stomach position Good for: Easing snoring Bad for: Avoiding neck and back pain, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts The scoop: "Stomach-sleeping makes it difficult to maintain a neutral position with your spine," Shannon explains. What's more, the pose puts pressure on joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling.
"Think about the soreness you'd feel if you kept your neck turned to one side for 15 minutes during the day," Diamant explains. In this position you have your head to one side for hours at a time. You won't necessarily feel it the next day, but you may soon start to ache. Consider this: Do you snore? "Stomach-sleeping may even be good for you," Olson says. Face down keeps your upper airways more open. So if you snore and aren't suffering from neck or back pain, it's fine to try sleeping on your belly. Perfect pillow: Just one (and make it a thin one) or none at all.