Sleep is a bit of a buzzword in health right now. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of how important it actually is to our health and wellbeing, but what we do know is that it’s pretty much the most important thing we do in a day. What we often don’t realise is that it’s not just how much sleep you’re getting that matters; it’s how high-quality that sleep is, so just resolving to go to bed earlier isn’t always enough to reap any benefits.
How will you know if you’re getting high-quality sleep?
Being tired is the obvious sign, but there are other, less obvious ones that you might be missing. As a general rule of thumb, you’re getting good quality sleep if you can get to sleep in less than half an hour, and don’t wake up more than once a night, your sleep quality is probably pretty good. If you aren’t, you won’t just feel tired; you’re more at risk of serious illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
So how can you improve your sleep?
Keep Regular Sleeping Hours
If you have an erratic sleep schedule, i.e. you sleep different hours at different times every night, your body won’t be able to tell when it’s time to switch off and start to sleep. Trying to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning means that your body will become much better at getting good quality sleep.
Your blue light intake has more impact on your sleep than you’d think. Blue light is generated by screens and stops your body from producing melatonin, which is the hormone that helps you to fall asleep. Spending too much time on your phone before bed means that your body isn’t producing melatonin and therefore won’t find it as easy to get to sleep. Try limiting your phone use before bedtime.
Get Some Sun
Exposure to natural sunlight is really important for your sleep. We evolved to work in the day and sleep at night, and so our bodies naturally use sunlight to differentiate. If you aren’t seeing any sunlight in the daytime, your body has no way of knowing which time to sleep.
Improve Your Sleep Space
Your room should be a place that relaxes you, so if you feel like you’re stuck in a sleepless rut, it’s worth thinking about overhauling your space. It’s especially worth investing in a more supportive mattress, and a bed setup that will make you feel calmer and more ready to sleep.
Relaxation techniques like taking a hot bath, doing some yoga or practicing meditation all help to switch off your brain and get you to sleep more quickly. Try picking out one of these things to do before you go to bed.