Sleep helps us renew ourselves, literally! It is nature's real doctor.A good night'ssleep means laying down a strong foundation for a happier, healthier wellness oriented life. However, in our busy lives, unfortunately sleep is our biggest casualty. Not being able to sleep well, can be hugely frustrating for those facing sleep issues. This article explores measures that can help you restore and build good sleeping habits again!
Are you facing sleep challenges? Try as hard you may, is restful sleep evading you?
Today, with extended working hours, bright artificial lights, erratic meal times and more screen time becoming de rigueur our sleep quality is suffering severely. World over, sleep deprivation, broken sleep, inability to get deep sleep and insomnia are almost reaching epidemic levels.Going by statistics, 1 out of every 5 persons is sleep deprived. That’s a whopping 20% of the global population!
Given this state of affairs, is it possible to reclaim our sleep, the way nature intended us to? Sleep is a natural process – something that nature designed in us to ensure our optimum health & vitality. Hence be reassured that with a few changes to your routine, you can build it back.
Here are some ways to get started.
#9 ways to build a robust sleep habit
Greet the sun daily!
Stay physically active – add movement, or exercise to your routine
Move to natural foods
Eat early, atleast 2 hours before you sleep
Sleep as per body’s natural circadian rhythm – hit the bed early
Cut down on gadgets and artificial light atleast an hour before sleeping
Wind down at night – create a pre-sleep ritual
Create an environment for sleeping – sleep in dark
As surprising as this might sound, early morning sun exposure can help you sleep better. Sunlight activates the pineal glandand which triggers the hormone melatonin. This regulates our sleep cycle. The sun also improves the quality and duration of our sleep at night. Studies on insomniacs and patients with sleep issues have also shown a marked improvement in the duration and intensity of sleep, after sun exposure.
Tip: Read our article on Sunlight to know how to have a daily date with Sun
2)Stay physically active during the day
Yes, regular exercise is not only a great way to stay fit but sleep well!
It has been proven to help insomniacs and sleep apnea patients experience deeper, restful sleep. While moderate to heavy exercise gives better benefits, a light 15 minute walk can also help us fall asleep faster, deeper and longer.
Tip: It is best to exercise in the earlier part of the day, as exercising stimulates the production of cortisol and speeds up our metabolism, which can interfere with sleep if done close to bedtime.
3) Move to natural foods
Our food choices during the day, especially before bedtime influence how well we sleep at night. We witnessed dramatic impact on our sleep quality, as we switched to more natural foods.
Include more raw, fresh local foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts and sprouts in your daily intake.
Stay away from stimulants like coffee, smoking and refined foods such as sugar, refined flours especially during bed time as these induce wakefulness. Alcohol, perceived to be a relaxant is a total no-go!
4) Eat atleast 2 hours before you sleep
Eat atleast 2 hours before sleep, so that body can focus on repair and growth rather than digestion. Switch to grainfree, veg meals as heavy meals and late dinner times can cause indigestion and acid reflux, interfering with sound sleep.
Late night munching can also leave the body in a state of high alertness, affecting our sleep patterns. If hungry, have a fruit snack. If you experience frequent midnight hunger pangs, you might want to relook at your food routine through the day.
5) Sleep as per body’s natural circadian rhythm – hit the bed early
Our body follows a natural circadian rhythm, where we are designed to start feeling tired and drowsy as the night approaches. Night time is housekeeping time for body, where it focusses on repair and growth.
Ideally you should hit the bed no later than 10 pm; and early if possible.
If you have been sleeping late, advance your sleep time by 30 minutes each week, so as to sleep more in rhythm of nature.
6) Cut down on gadgets and artificial lights an hour before sleep
Bright lights keep us awake and alert. Artificial lights are one of the key causes that contribute to sleep disruption, and consequent health issues. These include the lights from different screens - the television, computer, tablet, mobile phone and e-readers, as well as energy efficient LED lighting. The blue light emitted by these appliances stimulates the brain into thinking that it is daytime, and there is still time to go before we can rest. This in turn suppresses the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
Invest in soft glow lamps, and even light up diyas if you want! Moving about in semi darkness can have a powerful positive impact on your sleep!
If you must use lights, switch to red lights for illuminating your space. You could also use apps that filter out the blue light from screens, while using your devices. Or you could also invest in blue light blocking glasses that you could wear for an hour or so before sleep.
7) Wind down at night - design a pre-sleep ritual
Ah! Our favourite tip! Having a pre-sleep ritual is a beautiful way to relax and prepare our mind and body for sleep. It helps to slow down physically and mentally before we choose to sleep. Along with winding down the lights, wind down your activities too
There are so many ways we can do this:
Listening to light music
Washing feet with warm water in winters, or bathing with aroma oils
Self-massaging – splash on some fragrant natural body oils
Make children a part of your routine. Work towards a family wind down schedule and see the difference to your sleep.
8) Create an environment for sound sleep – sleep in dark
Sleeping in darkness is how nature meant us to sleep. Create an ideal sleep environment that is clean, well-ventilated, quiet, warm and cozy. Sleep is meant to be a time for rest and relaxation, and it helps to have a bed, mattress and pillow that are comfortable for us. As subjective as this is, it is a quick fix that can impact our quality of sleep.
Also, it is good to avoid any stressful activities like work in the bedroom, so as to build stronger associations with sleep.
9) Stick to a regular sleep schedule
Yes, as boring as it may sound, hitting the sack at approximately the same time each night, will ensure resetting of the body clock. If you can, follow it on weekends too. Sleeping early ensures you can wake up early, which means you add a few extra hours in your day!
In case there are disruptions like jet lag, daylight savings time or even a late night out, we can make up for the sleep debt with a daytime nap in darkness, while maintaining our regular sleep schedule.
It may seem like a huge effort to get to good sleep, but be rest assured our body loves rhythms and routines! Sleep is a key building block of health, sometimes more important than food! And it is worth putting in the time, effort and a generous doze of care towards restoring it naturally, because this is a relationship with our wellbeing.
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