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A Better Life Starts with Healthier Sleep Habits

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in life, what changes you’re making to make your life better, or what your plans are to improve whatever situation you may be in. The first thing you should do if you want to make things better for you is make sure you’re getting the right kind of sleep.

Sleep affects your life in an incredible amount of ways, some of which you may not even realize. Your physical and mental health are key among these. Making sure your sleep is worthwhile starts long before you even climb into bed, and even your sleeping environment should be taken into account if you want a truly worthwhile sleeping experience.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in life, what changes you’re making to make your life better, or what your plans are to improve whatever situation you may be in. The first thing you should do if you want to make things better for you is make sure you’re getting the right kind of sleep.

Sleep affects your life in an incredible amount of ways, some of which you may not even realize. Your physical and mental health are key among these. Making sure your sleep is worthwhile starts long before you even climb into bed, and even your sleeping environment should be taken into account if you want a truly worthwhile sleeping experience.

Creating an Ideal Sleeping Environment

The first step to getting a great night’s sleep is creating the perfect place to do so. Few things are quite as important as the room in which you sleep and the way you set it up. We’re not talking about Feng Shui, here, we’re talking about removing distractions and setting things up so your body can do what it needs to do to make everything work. Here are some great tips for good sleep and to aid you in building healthy sleep patterns.

#1 Activities

If you’re doing anything in your room other than sleeping and having sex, you’re doing it wrong. Your body is a machine, and machines live off routines. If you’re using room to hang out, or to sit in a comfy chair and read a book or do anything other than the aforementioned activities, you’re telling your body that the room is a common hangout space. What does this mean? This means you are going to find yourself not always ready for bed when it’s time for bed.

Think about it this way: If you only use your room for sleeping, what happens when you head into there and lay down for the night? Your body figures out it’s time to sleep and begins to go through the necessary processes to do so.

Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean you can’t use your bedroom to access your closet and get ready for work or what have you, it just means you shouldn’t hang out in there all the time. There’s a reason it’s called the BEDroom.

#2 Televisions

If you have a television in your room, consider removing it. There are a few reasons this is a good idea. First, and foremost, is because of the activities rule laid out earlier. If you’re heading into your room to watch television, you’re not using your room properly. Now, many folks will watch television to get themselves ready for sleep. They’ll lay in bed and catch whatever late night television is on as a way to wind down.

While this may seem like a good idea, it isn’t, thanks to the fact the television gives off “blue” light. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than natural lights, and this can adversely affect melatonin, which helps us get our sleep on. This can mess up our internal clocks, among other things.

#3 Mobile Devices

For the same reason as televisions, mobile devices should be a no-no in the bedroom. These carry their own other pitfalls, as well. While you may find yourself just channel surfing with the television, mobile devices are loaded with things to constantly keep your brain engaged. Checking your latest emails, looking up the latest videos on YouTube or getting the latest from reddit can all keep you awake for quite some time.

Blue light is also an issue here, though there are apps and functions on many newer devices to curb the blue light issue. This is done through a warming of the light put out by the devices, using more red and yellow tones to attempt to simulate natural light. They call it “night” mode, among other names.

#4 Lights

If you’re one of those who likes to use a night light, you may want to reconsider. The darker you can get your room, the better chance you’re going to have of falling asleep. Night lights may be convenient, but your fear of the dark shouldn’t take precedence over your need for better sleep. Even lights from electronics can be an issue, so consider covering lights from fans or charging devices with electrical tape.

In fact, as you’re getting ready for bed, light should be avoided, as well. Keep things dim, rather than hanging out in your kitchen with its fluorescent bulbs. Your mind needs to relax a bit before falling asleep, which may seem a bit contrary when considering your brain is pretty active during sleep. It all comes back around to that pesky blue light.

#5 Sounds

As you might expect, distractions aren’t good for sleeping, either. Nothing is more distracting than an out of place sound. A clicking ceiling fan or the clacking of pet claws on hard flooring can alert your body to wakefulness and keep you awake. Sleeping with music on can have you tapping your feet or singing along in your head. None of these are going to help you get to sleep.

Fortunately, there are things out there which can help. If loud noises are an issue, such as neighbors or street traffic, consider wearing earplugs to bed. If earplugs don’t work, take a step up and purchase some sort of white noise machine. These can even be helpful if external noise isn’t the issue. White noise can help cover up many other sounds, and some machines even offer other sound options, such as rain or the sound of flowing water. These have been successful for many people on their journey to find faster sleep.

#6 Temperature

One of the stages of sleep, which we’ll get into later, includes a lowering of the body’s temperature. Facilitating this function is a great way to make sure you sleep better. By sleeping in a cool room, your body achieves this much more easily, thus helping this stage of sleep complete quickly, helping you to get into the more restorative levels.

Anyone who has ever slept in a warm room can attest to the discomfort felt there, especially if it’s a little more than warm. Waking up damp from sweating all night isn’t something one wants to experience, so keep it cool in order to get the best sleep possible.

#7 Mattress and Pillows

Obviously, if you want to sleep well, you should really make sure you’re comfortable. If you’re waking up every morning with aches and pains, having to do a whole lot of stretching and popping over the counter pain medication to combat the hurt you’re feeling, you may have a bad mattress. Shopping for a mattress can be a bit of a pain, sure, but it’s a necessary one if you want a good night’s rest.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources out there to help you choose a good mattress, and more and more high quality mattresses are becoming available online at fair prices which are just as good, if not better, as the big names you heard growing up.

#8 Routine

Perhaps the biggest sleep tip anyone can offer is to create a sleep routine. This isn’t always possible for people. Sometimes work or other obligations get in the way, especially in situations in which a job has multiple shifts. However, if you can make it work, do it.

Going to bed at about the same time every night and waking up at about the same time every day is a very good thing. It keeps your body at a decent rhythm, allowing you to make sure your rest is always ideal and making sure your energy levels are consistent throughout the day. Even if your cycle includes some daytime sleeping (which isn’t ideal, but is better than none), trying to get into a steady rhythm of sleep will help you in the long run. And this includes your sleep hygiene checklist such as brushing teeth, flossing and washing your face. Make sure these things are done prior to your predetermined bedtime.

#9 Bed Time

The exact time you go to bed isn’t as important as how much time you’re allowing yourself to sleep. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep. Anybody younger than an adult age needs more, ranging from 18 or so hours as a newborn to around 10 when you’re a teenager.

If you can manage your schedule to allow yourself to consistently get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, while going to bed at approximately the same time, you’re in the golden zone. In our modern working world, this can be exceedingly difficult, and you might even be able to make up for some lost sleep time with naps here and there, but one long sleep is a beautiful thing to achieve.

#10 Entertainment

Let’s be honest, having a good way to wind down is important. At the end of the day, when you climb into bed at the allotted time, you want to make sure you’re able to get yourself into a sleepy state. What can you do, though, if you shouldn’t be watching television or using your mobile device? Consider an old classic: Read a book.

Books are magical things when it comes to bedtime. They don’t have harsh lights, and you shouldn’t be using a harsh light to read by. They don’t have lots of moving parts to keep your brain crazy and your eyes constantly moving. They do have great stories which can keep you awake, but that’s not likely to happen if it’s your usual bedtime. Unless it’s Harry Potter or something, for which exceptions can be made.

#11 Sleep Time

Truthfully, there is no hard and fast rule for how much sleep people need. There are guidelines, however, to give you a general idea of what to aim for over the years. Here’s how it lays out on a daily basis:

  • Infants Zero to Three Months: 14 to 17 hours
  • Babies Four to 11 Months: 12 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers One to Two Years: 11 to 14 hours
  • Children Three to Five Years: 10 to 13 hours
  • Pre-teens Six to 13 Years: Nine to 11 hours
  • Teens 14 to 17 Years: Eight to 10 hours
  • Adults 18 to 64 Years: Seven to nine hours
  • Seniors 65 and Older: Seven to eight hours
Now, if you want to know exactly how much sleep you need on a daily basis, you specifically, there’s only one real way to find out, and that’s experimentation. Pick a day you don’t have anything going on, go to sleep at a regular time and don’t set an alarm. Wake up when you wake up, see how you feel, and if you’re feeling good, there’s a good indicator. Do this a few times to see what works best for you.

Before Bed

Getting the best sleep that you can actually starts before bed, hours before, in fact. What you eat, what you drink, what you do; these things factor into how well you are going to sleep each night, because the things you do before bed can make you stay awake, sleep poorly, or any number of things. Keep these things in mind before it’s time to crash.

What Not to Eat

On a general basis, eating before bed is a bad idea. The jury is still out, to some extent, but the fact of the matter is your metabolism slows a bit while you sleep, so any unburned calories can get turned into fat. Obviously, nobody wants this. There are some more specific things, however, to keep in mind when it comes to eating before bed.

Specifically, you should avoid spicy and greasy foods. These can lead to issues with heartburn or acid reflux, neither of which are great things to have wake you up in the middle of the night, but can happen if you don’t take precautions.

If you do feel the need to eat something between dinner and bedtime, keep it healthy, keep it low calorie. If you want to eat something with carbs, combine it with some protein. Though the carbs can help you fall asleep, you’ve got to keep in mind they’ll need some energy to burn them off as you sleep.

What Not to Drink

Here’s something you may not have thought about: Alcoholic beverages should be avoided before bed, particularly excessive amounts of them. Anyone who has had a few beers or mixed drinks knows that, after a while, the alcohol can make you a bit sleepy. This may seem like a good thing, as it will help you fall asleep faster, however, there are other effects of alcohol which can really damage your sleep.

First, the kind of sleep alcohol puts you into can have an effect on the various stages of sleep. This means you may not be getting the same sort of restful and restorative sleep as you would without. Sleep with alcohol in your system is also more likely to be interrupted, so you’ll find yourself waking up during the night. And those things are aside from the dehydrating effects of alcohol which leave you feeling unwell and are the cause of hangovers.

What You Can Drink

In truth, drinking anything before bed isn’t necessarily a good idea, as it can lead your bladder to be a bit full which can have you up and about on your way to the restroom in the middle of the night, thus interrupting your sleep. Still, some things are better than others before bed.

Obviously, caffeine should be avoided. Experts say you shouldn’t have anything with caffeine in it after lunch. Avoiding it within a few hours of bedtime should be good, as well. If you’ve gotten into the habit of having tea before bed, make sure it’s herbal, so a mint or other sort of tea which has no caffeine.

Ritual

A great way to teach yourself to wind down before bed is to create a nighttime ritual. Get into the habit of doing specific things before bed, thus training your body to know when it’s time to start relaxing. Brush your teeth, drink some herbal tea, read a little bit, then crash. Do it every night. Make it routine. You can even incorporate some yoga exercises and meditation, but routine is key.

Waking Up

What happens in the morning is almost as important as what happens before you go to bed. The way you wake up sets your mood for the day. If you’re shocked awake, you may not be as excited and ready to get the day going as you would using other methods. Not every sort of method of waking will work for everyone, but finding what works for you doesn’t have to be a chore.

The Natural Way

The absolute best way to wake up every morning is to do it on your own. If you’re going to sleep at a good time, you’ll wake up right when you need to. You won’t need an alarm, you won’t need a wakeup call, you’ll feel excellent and refreshed and ready to get your day going. This may not work every single night, since you may have a bit of sleep to catch up on after a previous short night, but it’s a great way to live.

Alarms

Let’s say waking up naturally just isn’t working for you. Maybe you find yourself always sleeping in. Maybe you can’t hit that sweet spot of getting the perfect amount of sleep. What kind of alarm clock is best? There are plenty of alarm clocks out there with neat functions, such as monitoring traffic to let you know exactly when you need to wake up and get ready in order to get to work right on time, but many of these having blaring alarms which can be especially jolting in the mornings.

One of the ways the body knows it’s time to get out of bed is the light of the sun. Our internal clocks thrive on this, and reset when the sun rises each morning. Now, there are clocks out there which simulate this. They will glow gradually, getting ever brighter until you wake. These won’t work for anyone, but for those they do, they’re really handy.

Other devices have the ability to slowly shake you awake, vibrating your mattress until you hop out of bed. Some modern alarm clocks have options regarding the more traditional blaring alarms, allowing the volume on them to slowly increase until you finally wake up. This can be a bit less jolting.

Why Sleep?

 
You may be curious why such a big deal is placed on sleep. Yeah, we need rest, but we do we need so much of it? Because it isn’t just rest. Sleep is major part of both physical and mental health, and not getting enough of it can lead to problems with your heart and nervous systems, among other things. This all comes down to the stages of sleep.

The Stages of Sleep

Sleep has four stages, each which can be lumped into two, non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has three of the four stages.

In Stage One, your body is in a very light layer of sleep. In fact, it’s barely sleep. This is that stage when you’re laying in bed and you feel like you’re falling asleep, but if someone mentions your name you quickly become alert.

In Stage Two, the physical parts of sleep begin. You are asleep, but just a bit deeper than the previous stage. At this point, your heart rate begins to slow down and your body starts to cool, which is why sleeping in a cool room is handy for falling asleep.

In Stage Three, you are good and asleep. In deep sleep, in fact. This is the final stage of non-REM sleep, and it’s pretty important. Your body is repairing and regrowing tissues, muscle and bone are being built and your immune system is getting a great boost.

REM sleep makes a stage all on its own.

In the REM stage, your brain comes to life. Your heart rate picks up, as well as your breathing. Because of the brain’s activity, this is where a lot of your dreaming happens, in particular the more intense and memorable parts. Your first REM stage will last somewhere around 10 minutes, but once it ends, the whole cycle starts all over, each time extending the length of the REM stage.

Sleep and Health

How do these stages of sleep work for your body and mind? Well, the most obvious part is the second stage at which point your heart rate slows down a bit. This is great for you body and your blood pressure. If you’re not reaching this stage enough, your blood pressure isn’t able to level itself out as well and you become more prone to suffering from issues such as hypertension.

On the mental health front, that’s just about rest. What happens when you get tired? You get irritable and are prone to doing things you may not otherwise do. Lack of sleep has even been linked to a “rewiring” of parts of the brain, which can lead to severe changes in decision making.

In the End

Creating healthy sleep habits is the best key to working toward achieving more and better sleep. It’s not about taking the right medications, unless you have some sort of actual medical condition. It’s not necessarily about meditation, unless that’s part of your nightly routine. No, the best tip you can get for healthy sleep is to make it a normal thing for you, to make sure you get enough of it and to make sure you’re being healthy about the whole thing. Sleep well.

Source: https://www.thesleepjudge.com/healthy-sleep-habits/ ,Written by Candace Osmond

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