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Getting a good night’s sleep is key to refuelling your body for school and work the next morning. However, with more time spent before sleep on the tempting social media and the plethora of online contents, more and more people start to have less sleep.
This may result in poor health and weaker immunity over time, which may cause heart diseases, stroke and diabetes, as well as increase your chances of suffering from depression, weight gain and impaired reactions. Over the years, there have been many reports detailing the health risks linked to irregular or deprived sleep1 and can precede insomnia.
This is why good sleep habits should be cultivated from young. Besides instilling these habits in your routine, you can also impart good sleeping habits to your children. Here are five tips for falling asleep that you and your family can adopt for a better night’s sleep and improved quality of life.
#1 STICK TO A REGULAR SLEEP ROUTINE
Many people try to catch up on this lost sleep during weekends. However, you should try to limit this extra sleeping time to one or two hours so that you can continue to maintain a healthy biological clock. Closely sticking to a regular routine can help us nurture a healthy sleep pattern.
Consistency is key. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps establish a regular sleeping schedule 2. Although this habit might take weeks to adjust to, your brain and body will gradually become accustomed to the fixed bed time and waking up time.
#2 REDUCE LIGHT EXPOSURE
Your brain releases melatonin before you sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that reduces alertness and helps to make you sleepy. Light can hamper your brain releasing melatonin.
Many of us now cannot do without their electronic devices. This includes using them to check emails or chat with friends right before we go to bed, even when your bedroom lights have been switched off. However, using electronics before bed can have an adverse impact on your sleep.
Our electronics emit blue light. According to researchers at the National Academy of Science3, if enough blue light enters our eyes, the pineal gland can stop producing melatonin. This effect is larger when the devices are used closer to our eyes. However, if we really cannot do without using our phones before we sleep, there are a few things we can do to reduce its impact:
1. Switch on night mode – this makes your screen turn yellow and less glaring.
2. Dim the screen as much as possible or use the device further away from your face – reducing the amount of blue light that enters your eyes.
3. Use apps or screen protectors that have inbuilt night settings that reduce blue light on phone screens.
#3 CREATE A COMFORTABLE SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Your sleep environment is key to a good night’s sleep. According to Gary Zammit, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Institute in New York City4, cramming too much in your bedroom is a big mistake. This includes making your bedroom an entertainment room, office or TV room, as well as thinking about work or play while in bed.
To condition your brain to associate your bed with sleep, you need to reserve your bed for sleeping only. To do this, make sure your bed, and your room, is kept clean and uncluttered. Avoid having excessive items on your bed as it could hinder your sleep. You should also avoid using electronics such as your laptops, iPads or mobile phones in bed.
For a more comfortable sleeping environment, you should also have appropriate pillows, mattresses and bedsheets. Having the right pillow can help you feel more comfortable5 while providing sufficient support for your neck, head, shoulders and spine. They can also help prevent back pains and neck pains. Keeping your bedroom at a temperature that is not too cold or too warm can also help you get a better night’s rest.
#4 EAT AND DRINK RIGHT DURING DINNER
You may have been advised to avoid eating after 8 pm every night or to avoid eating a certain number of hours before bedtime. These are usually myths.
What you actually need to do is eat the right amounts of the right kinds of food, especially during dinner. Avoid eating large meals and spicy or acidic foods as they can cause heartburn and indigestion when you’re about to get into bed. You should also reduce your intake of sugary foods and refined sugars such as white bread, white rice and noodle because they can trigger wakefulness. Drinking alcohol and caffeine may also interfere with your sleep cycle as well.
To enjoy a good night’s sleep, consume healthy fats and carbohydrates such as milk, yogurt, bananas, avocado, sweet potato or whole grain. This will ensure you are full enough such that a growling tummy does not keep you up in bed.
#5 EXERCISE DURING THE DAY
After doing rigorous physical activities during the day, it is common for many of us to feel exhausted at night. These physical activities tire you out and eventually help you fall asleep faster.
In a study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine6, it was shown that regular physical exercise contributes to better sleep. This also works in a healthy loop where better sleep equates to better results when exercising, and even working or studying.
Besides exercising with the purpose of having a better night’s sleep, we should also exercise with the aim of staying fit and healthy. Having a lifestyle that includes proper rest at night and physical exercise during the day enables us to live a healthier life.