The difference between a good and bad day is often the sleep you got the night before. Millions of Americans suffer from disorders that prevent from them from getting the rest they need but even more simply cannot get a good night sleep.
The science behind sleep is not totally understand and if an individual does not suffer from a known condition, the solutions presented by traditional medicine are limited. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternative methods to fall asleep quickly and stay that way throughout the night.
One of the most commonly recommended is good, old-fashioned exercise. For anyone struggling with restless nights, starting to exercise or increasing the amount of cardio you get is a logical place to start the quest for a solution.
The connection between sleep and exercise is biological and dates back to our earliest ancestors. Before our next meal was just a phone call or quick trip to the grocery store away, obtaining food required physical effort and lots of it. The massive amount of energy required to produce something to eat was closely connected to another essential, natural process: sleeping. Sleeping allowed our bodies to repair itself and recharge so early humans could get up the next day and do it all over again.
Today, finding our next meal does not require us to expel as much energy, if any at all. Drive through anyone? This makes sleep a useful and necessary outlet to reestablish the connection between expelled energy and sleep. Not all forms of exercise are equally effective at inducing a better night’s sleep. Cardio is recommended over weight training and longer distances proffered to short bursts of exertion. Some people have trouble sleeping if they have recently exercised so it’s recommended to start in the mornings or afternoons before attempting evening sessions.
Visual disruption is also known to interfere with sleep patterns. This doesn’t just come from streetlamps or passing cars so a blackout curtain is not enough. Often times, the source of the problem is already in the house.
The other side of the energy sleep nexus is food intake. Our dietary habits can be one of the leading contributors to restless nights. Difficulties can arise from both the types of food consumed as well as the amount.
Sugary or fatty foods are high in calories and therefore energy content. Ingesting these before bed can make it hard to burn all this off before falling asleep. Late night is also one of the most active times for snacking. Unfortunately, many of the options are unhealthy. Be sure to avoid candy and soda in particular as these not only contain high amount of sugar but also dies and other ingredients that are shown to impact sleep.
In addition to making smart decisions about what you eat before bed, its important to consider how much of it you’re having. Eating or drinking large amounts before bed can impact sleep in a number of ways. Not only will having to go to the bathroom wake you up, overconsumption can cause digestive difficulties that will can prevent restful nights.
The connection between eating or exercise and sleep proves just how important it is to watch what we do during the day, because one way or another, it will make itself felt throughout the night. But what about habits and practices that take place closer to bedtime or as we fall asleep?
Today, we are inundated with screens. From televisions to tablets, our eyes are glued to these electronic devices from the moment we wake up until we put them down at night. Recent studies have shown the stimulation from looking at bright screens before bed or when woken during the night can prevent the user from entering a REM cycle or falling back asleep.
Many people report falling asleep to the television every night. While this behavior can seem like a sleep aid, it is actually detracting from the viewer’s ability to sleep throughout the night. This is because visual and audio stimulation of this kind before bed can keep your brain active even when it appears you are sleeping. Preventing the brain from shutting off deprives sleep of its essential function and leaves the sleeper unrested.
Because of this, most doctors will recommend not only shutting the TV off before bed but also locating it in a different room. Additionally, many electronic manufacturers have responded to complaints by creating products with built in dimming functions that automatically turn on in the morning and evening. Even so, it is still advisable to turn phones off or leave them out of reach after hitting the sack.
Shutting off the TV or phone are both good practices to get into around bed time. There are many others but, aside from reducing visual stimulation, they are all essentially based on the same premise: a bed is for sleeping. This doesn’t mean its not appropriate for any other activities, however they should be limited to those that aide in helping you sleep.
Reading before bed is a common practice that does indeed seem to help many people fall asleep. However, for those who struggling with restless nights, it is one of the first things to drop. In addition to electronic screens, avoiding any activity that is not directly related to sleep like eating in bed or talking on the phone will help tell your body its time to go to bed.
Humans are ultimately creatures of habit and our sleep patterns are no different. By developing healthy practices around diet, exercise, and visual stimulation, many people who experience difficulties falling and staying asleep can improve their restfulness without resorting to medication. This not only makes for better mornings; a good night sleep can change the course of someone day or even the rest of their life.