Sleep: For Health and Performance (PART 2 – How To Improve Your Sleep)

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In the last blog, I discussed why sleep was so important for normal function, as well as the consequences of sleep deprivation. Now that the importance of proper rest has been hammered home, we will look at sleep quantity, sleep quality, and tips to improve your sleep.

 

Quality and Quantity of Sleep

For adolescents, the proper amount of sleep lies somewhere between 8.5 to 10 hours. For adults, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is usually sufficient.

 

The quality of your rest is just as important as the quantity. Nine hours of tossing and turning or getting up during the night does not rejuvenate the body or allow for mental recovery. Below are some tips that you can start applying right away to get a better sleep.

 

How to get a good night’s rest

 

  • Cut off Caffeine and Nicotine 4 to 6 six hours before going to bed. These chemicals act as stimulants and they interfere with the sleeping process.

 

  • Avoid consuming alcohol 4 to 6 six hours before going to bed. You may think that a glass of wine or shot of whiskey will help you to fall asleep sooner – alcohol is a depressant after all, right? The problem is that your sleep will be disrupted as your body metabolises the alcohol during the night.

 

  • Avoid overhydrating right before bed. Although it is smart to stay hydrated, drinking too much liquid before bed may cause you to get up several times during the night.

 

  • Cut off food consumption 1 to 2 hours before going to bed. As with the rest of your body, your digestive system needs to rest. Having an active digestive system during sleep can disrupt your hormones and cause you to wake up at different times of the night.

 

  • Cut off the use of electronic devices 30 to 60 min before bed. The light that is emitted from TVs, Gameboys, cell phones, PDAs, tablets, etc, stimulate your brain, making it difficult to fall asleep. Turn off or put away your electronic devices at least 30 min before heading to bed.

 

  • Find ways to calm your mind and your body down. Calming both your mind and your body will help you to fall asleep faster. There are a variety of calming activities that you can use such as stretching, yoga, meditating, reading a book under dim light, or listening to music.

 

  • Keep the room cool. A room that is too cold or too warm will definitely disrupt your sleep. The optimal temperature for quality sleep falls somewhere in the range of 15 – 24°C (60 - 75°F).

 

  • Reduce or eliminate distracting noises just before bed.

 

  • Make sure that your pillow(s) and mattress are comfortable. You should replace your mattress after 8 to 10 years and find a pillow that properly supports your neck and head. Being comfortable will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

 

  • Blackout the room. Eliminate any source of light from your room – cover windows, put a towel at the base of the bedroom door, throw a shirt over you alarm clock display, etc. When you have properly blacked out the room, you should be able to close and open your eyes without sensing a difference.

 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, helps set your internal clock. When you have a rhythm, it is much easier for you to fall asleep because your body ‘expects’ to be asleep at a certain time. For people who do shift work, make sure to catch up on sleep on your off-days.

 

All of the tips above can be applied immediately (tonight) in order for you to get the right quantity and quality of sleep. I have included a video and various articles on ways to improve your sleep:

 

Top 5 Ways to Get Better Sleep

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyFIByWF4H8&index=21&list=PLchGAxsXfbFB6ssjEFoiW6PLwkp_cN9VB

 

12 Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips

 

How to Sleep Better

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

 

How to Improve Your Sleep

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/jan/29/how-to-improve-your-sleep

 

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