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10 Ways to Become a Better Sleeper

Sleep is crucial to our overall well-being, but many of us have terrible habits that cause both short-term and long-term negative side effects. It’s important to make sure that your sleep habits are considered to be just as important as your other lifestyle choices, such as healthy eating and getting regular exercise.

How to Become a Better Sleeper

  1. Set a schedule and stick to it.
  2. Shut down your work tasks at the same time every day.
  3. Prepare for tomorrow’s tasks before you go to bed.
  4. Set an electronic curfew to decrease blue light from technology at least 1 hour before sleeping.
  5. Practice daily meditation or relaxation techniques.
  6. Maintain moderate physical activity daily.
  7. Receive natural sunlight exposure every morning.
  8. Practice daily journalling.
  9. Stay well hydrated.
  10. Use your bed only for sleeping or for sex.

Here are some important things to know about sleep and how to make better sleep habits work for you:

Everyone Can Improve
Unless you have a tumour in a very specific spot in the brain preventing you from performing daily tasks, every person on the planet has the potential to improve their sleep.

Get the Sleep You Need
The recommended amount of sleep is 7-9 hours daily. It is possible to accumulate sleep debt, meaning the amount of sleep you can lose while remaining functional at the level you want. This often depends on age, gender, genetics and medical conditions. Think of these sleep debts the same way you would if they were financial debts — sleep debt must be ‘paid back’ in a reasonable amount of time (1-2 days) in order for your body to maintain its optimal function.

Not Sleeping Causes Long-Term Deficits
If you are continually not giving your body enough sleep, you will begin to see your body react in many negative ways, such as decreased decision making, memory loss, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, elevated stress, increased pain, slow reaction time, decreased sexual function, weight gain and more. All of this can be reversed by improving your sleep on a regular basis.

Get Creative in the Mornings
If you’re not a ‘morning person’, you will need to get creative with waking up and starting your day. Exposing yourself to 15-20 minutes of sunlight in the morning will help wake you up. You can also opt to purchase an artificial ‘sunlight’ lamp to give you the same effect, such as the Philips Go-Lite.

Don’t Disregard Sleep Apnea
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in an enlarged heart. When the airways close during the night, this causes your heart rate to slow down to conserve oxygen. The brain eventually detects a decrease in oxygen and causes your heart rate to increase. It is this increasing and decreasing of heart rate over time that causes the heart to enlarge. Why is this bad? Because it can cause irregular heartbeats resulting in heart attack, stroke or death.

Get to Know the Stages of Sleep
We need about 5 cycles of sleep every night to help us reach deep, restful and restorative sleep. Each cycle is typically 90-120 minutes.

  • Stages 1 & 2: Light Sleep
  • Stages 3 & 4: Deep Sleep
  • Stage 5: REM Sleep

Wake Up Feeling Great
Make a plan to be asleep by 11:00pm every night, and practice positive pre-sleep strategies to reduce your tossing and turning while asleep. Rejuvenating sleep occurs in the first 1/3 of the night, and is purportedly related to the release of human growth hormone, which is typically released from your body during sleep between 11:00pm and 7:00am.

Try Napping
It can be beneficial to top up your sleep intake by napping during the day. An ideal time to nap is at 1:00pm, for about 90 minutes. This will give you the perfect blend of all stages of sleep, and is in line with your circadian rhythm.

  • A nap with more REM sleep can inspire creativity and heightened perceptions (approximately a 70-90 minute nap)
  • A nap with more time in Stage 2 increases alertness and motor skills (approximately a 20 minute nap)

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