The pandemic has brought a lot of changes to our lives, and not all of them for the better.
As we are mostly working from home, waking up early and getting ready to go to a workplace isn’t as critical. However, it is easy for the lines to blur between our working hours and our personal time, resulting in us carrying on with work well past official working hours.
It is essential to ensure that we get adequate rest in order to be at our best every day. So perhaps in this new year, it’s time to rethink your sleep habits with these 16 expert tips:
Unplug from mobile devices
One of our worst modern bedtime habits is bringing our phones to bed and scrolling through social media and YouTube before going to sleep. Concentrated bright light from a tiny screen negatively impacts our ability to naturally produce melatonin, a hormone needed for sleep.
It’s also really bad for the eyes to focus on such a bright light source in the dark. Do turn off or put away all your electronic devices at least one hour before sleeping.
Keep the room dark
Exposure to light when you’re trying to fall asleep can confuse your body clock and delay sleep. If streetlight shines through your curtains, blackout shades or blinds will keep your room dark at night and in the morning.
Get small and dim night lights so that you don’t have to switch on the bright ceiling lights in case you have to get up during the night. Remove any wearable devices and keep your phone on night mode.
Get an alarm clock that increases brightness
Alarm clocks that are designed to grow increasingly brighter as the time approaches to wake up will help trigger your natural wake-up response. While blackout shades or curtains help you to go to sleep more easily, they also block out the sunlight in the morning that helps wake you up.
Therefore, your brain could do with a signal to help you wake up gradually and kickstart the day well.
Noise can disturb your sleep, causing you to go from deep sleep to light sleep. According to experts, nocturnal noises from the street or from neighbours can cause adverse reactions during sleep, such as raising your blood pressure and increasing stress hormone levels.
If your home is surrounded by lots of environmental noise, get a white noise machine to tune some of it out. A constant ambient sound from a white noise machine helps to mask disruptive noises. Earplugs and an eye mask can also help you fall into a deeper sleep.
Get a good humidifier
It’s recommended to keep the air slightly moist, especially when you sleep in an air-conditioned room as it supports your breathing during sleep.
A humidifier will help with this. Do clean it every week to ensure that bacteria don’t thrive in it.
Assess your current mattress
Even if you practise the best sleep habits in the world, getting a good night’s sleep will continue to be a challenge if your mattress isn’t right.
Consider how your mattress is impacting you by asking some of these questions:
- Are you often waking up with aches and pains?
- Is your mattress lumpy or saggy?
- How old is your mattress?
- Are you waking up still tired after a full night’s sleep?
Change your pillows
Neck and head support throughout the night is critical for helping the muscles to relax while sleeping. Without adequate support, you’ll wake up with neck, shoulder, and maybe even upper back, pain.
Regulate the temperature
Our body temperature lowers when we sleep. If your bedroom is too hot, it may affect the quantity and quality of your sleep.
A cool room between 16-19°C helps keep your body at the right sleeping temperature. Your blanket or comforter shouldn’t be too warm or too thin.
Buy comfortable sleepwear
You should feel the most comfortable in what you wear to sleep, so choose your sleepwear accordingly. Clothes that feel good on the skin, fit well and are a natural moisture-wicker are best and will help to regulate your body temperature.
Establish a regular bedtime
For babies, a sleep ritual helps to establish a consistent sleep pattern as they grow up. This is something adults can benefit from as well.
Create a bedtime routine and practise it every night at the same time. Our bodies respond well to routine as it helps to regulate our internal clocks for hormone and neurotransmitter release.
Get enough magnesium
Magnesium facilitates melatonin production, relieves muscle tension and activates GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, which helps us to sleep.
Prepare a water bottle with a teaspoon or two of magnesium citrate powder to drink throughout the day. In powder form, it’s fast-acting, highly absorbable and can aid in getting you some rejuvenating sleep.
Being physically active can improve your quality of sleep. It helps to reset the internal clock, and increases alertness during the day and sleepiness at night.
It also promotes sleep by naturally reducing stress and anxiety. Exercise has been shown to increase total sleep time and the amount of deep, slow wave sleep.
Set a caffeine and alcohol curfew
Even taken six hours before you go to bed, alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep. Quit caffeine after 5pm and limit yourself to one small alcoholic beverage on most evenings.
Your body tends to conserve resources and store calories when you skip breakfast regularly. As your body has been fasting overnight, the extended lack of food puts all systems in full protection mode.
Skipping breakfast may make you hungrier and more likely to reach for high-calorie snacks. This is why those who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who skip this meal.
It isn’t easy not to stress about life in general, but try this tactic: Allow yourself only 10 minutes to write down your biggest concerns and contemplate them.
Putting down all the to-dos, problems and ideas on paper helps to empty your mind and relax. Doing this regularly will help you fall asleep faster and as you already have your to-do list on hand, it may boost productivity in the morning.
Take quick naps
Most of us are naturally a bit drowsy between 1-3pm. A short, 10-minute nap can boost energy and help you become more productive and creative.
This is the most beneficial type of nap, where you fall asleep quickly and wake up soon after without the extreme grogginess of longer naps. Overall, getting enough good quality sleep is important as it affects many different areas of our health.
It strengthens our immune system; allows for proper hormonal and metabolic functions; improves alertness, concentration, mood and our ability to function; and keeps our blood pressure levels in check.
Sleep is also incredibly important for children as it promotes their growth and development.
By Datuk Dr. Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, Jan 25, 2021