Sleep can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Getting the rest your body requires is very important on so many different levels. It’s not just about sleep; it is also about the quality of sleep that your body needs and depends on.
At some point you have all tossed and turned, had a rough night or repeatedly woke up throughout the night. Yes, you got some shut-eye, but it wasn’t the ideal quality sleep your body actually needs!
During slumber, your body goes through five sleep cycles. Each of those sleep cycles typically last for about 90 minutes. To fully complete all five sleep cycles you need on average 7½ hours of quality sleep.
Waking up during a sleep cycle is detrimental to your health and your overall well being. Disruption of a sleep cycle can cause many different symptoms like mood swings, headaches and lower your cognitive ability.
Waking up periodically during the night interrupts more than one sleep cycle which can also cause grogginess, irritability, high blood pressure and leave you feeling as if you didn’t sleep at all. It also makes it harder to fall back to sleep.
Making sure that you get the quality sleep your body actually needs will improve* your health and well being. For some people it’s hard to get that full 7½ hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Whether you’re getting up to feed the baby every few hours, working those crazy shifts or having to let the dog out there are many things that can interrupt your sleep.
There are also some people out there who suffer from insomnia, wake up to urinate frequently or suffer from irregular sleep/wake syndrome.
Even if you are not able to get the average, recommended 7-9 hours of sleep; you can still do things to ensure that you are getting quality rest every time your head hits the pillow. Let’s take a look at 5 ways to drastically improve* your quality of sleep.
1. Stick To A Bedtime Routine
Some people enjoy a routine; it adds order and helps you feel like you’re getting things done. Everyone should be enjoying the benefits of a bedtime routine. It will help your body understand that you are getting ready for bed and help you to relax.
Much like you teach your children a regular bedtime routine, adults also need to have a bit of structure when it comes to bedtime. Although it doesn’t involve a bedtime story or a calming lullaby; it can be very soothing and help your body wind down and fall asleep.
Try going to bed at the same time each night. This helps create your sleep schedule. Once you adjust to this schedule your body’s internal clock will know when it’s time to go to bed. Put the electronics away as part of your bedtime routine.
Those glowing lights from your tablet, phone or TV stimulate your brain and won’t allow you to relax before bed. Do some yoga, take a warm bath or meditate.
Find what works for you and what helps you to relax. This bedtime routine will keep your mind and body on the same page and allow you to get a good night’s sleep.
2. Healthy Sleeping Positions
Studies show that the majority of people favor sleeping on either their left or right side of their mattresses. While sleeping on your left side can reduce* the symptoms of acid reflux it puts strain on your heart, stomach and lungs. Sleeping on the right side will worsen your heartburn and can restrict your breathing.
Only about 7% of people sleep on their stomach. Although it has been found, in some cases, to reduce* snoring and help those who suffer from sleep apnea; this is the worst sleep position out there and you’d better* choose a comfortable pillow.
Sleeping on your stomach will flatten the natural curve of your spine and result in lower back pain. It can also cause muscle spasms, neck pain, and puts too much pressure on your ribcage, the healthiest sleeping position is sleeping on your back.
This position allows your body to rest in its natural alignment. It helps keep your back, neck and head straight to reduce* back and neck pain.
Waking up throughout the night or waking up in the morning with tense muscles, aches and pains is usually caused by an unhealthy sleeping position. Choosing a healthy sleeping position will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
3. Caffeine Intake
You don’t have to get rid of caffeine. You do however, need to lower your caffeine intake in the late afternoon and evening.
Typically you should stop* drinking caffeine 4-6 hours before your bedtime routine. Some people are more or less* sensitive to caffeine so the time range may be different for everyone.
This is not just limited to beverages like soda, coffee, tea or energy drinks. Many over the counter medicines also contain caffeine like Excedrin Migraine, Midol, BC and Goody’s powders.
Lowering your caffeine intake will make it easier for your body to relax and won’t keep your mind racing when you are trying to get some sleep.
4. Transform Your Room
Make your room a more relaxed atmosphere. Having a soothing room to sleep in will cause you to fall asleep quickly and ensure quality sleep.
Excessive lighting will stimulate your body and won’t allow you to wind down, so move your clock out of view and don’t keep your phone on the nightstand.
Try dimming the lights during your bedtime routine. You can also use darkening drapes to keep out unwanted street lamps and headlights. Making your bed in the morning and designating it as a sleep only zone will help your body know that when you’re in bed it’s time to sleep.
This means no reading or watching movies in bed and no surfing the web or playing games. Help your body associate your bed with sleeping instead of stimulation.
5. Diet And Exercise
When you think of diet and exercise you don’t automatically think about sleeping. However, your diet and exercise both play an equally important part when it comes to your overall quality of sleep. Doing an intense workout during the day will make every muscle ready for bed. When your body feels tired it helps you fall asleep faster.
If you don’t want to do an intense full body workout try a light workout about 1½-2 hours before you start your bedtime routine. You can help make your body tired with a low impact, 20 minute workout. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to wind down after your workout.
There are a number of foods that can affect your sleep pattern in both good ways and bad. Foods that are high in protein or high in fat have been known to cause fragmented sleep patterns.
Spicy or acidic foods and beverages can cause heartburn or acid reflux which can keep you up at night. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages also can contribute to poor sleep patterns.
Some beverages like chamomile tea, warm milk and other warm dairy can help relax you before bed. Foods high in vitamin B6 and tryptophan, like turkey, fish, bananas and cherries are just some of the many that provide nutrients that the body uses to naturally produce* melatonin.
Proper diet and daily exercise will not only keep you fit and active; it will help you enjoy the benefits of a healthy sleep pattern.
Making these changes will drastically improve* your quality of sleep and your health. Start finding out what works for you and set up your bedtime routine. Give your body the quality sleep it needs. You will definitely wish you would have done it sooner!
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