When someone considers themselves as being busy, their sleep schedule is often the first to suffer. It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like time spent sleeping is effectively being wasted, but it is becoming increasingly clear that a good night’s rest can be crucial for anyone seeking to make the most of their waking hours.
In the short term, a lack of sleep can have only mild effects, but the longer this goes on, the higher the impact on health and wellbeing will be. Virtually everyone falls out of a routine at some point, and the most crucial part of restoring normality is working back into it.
1. Create and Stick to a Routine
Much as with anything else that occurs regularly, the easiest way to sort out a sleeping pattern and enjoy more restful nights is to do so on a schedule. Circumstances differ from person to person but, wherever possible, it is advised to go to bed and get up at the same time each day wherever possible, and at whatever times suit best.
2. Use the Bed only for Sleep and Sex
Habit-forming is obviously crucial in sleeping well and conditioning the mind and body to expect to sleep when it is in bed will aid in maximising the time there. Sitting in bed and watching television, playing games or reading a phone can be comfortable, but creates associations with activities that are the direct opposite of a productive, restful sleep.
3. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Depending on how much coffee and tea you regularly drink, you may no longer feel the direct jolt of energy that caffeine may once have provided with each sip. However, the stimulant continues to interfere with the body’s natural desire to sleep, and any such drinks can increase the likelihood of waking in the night needing to visit the toilet. For some individuals, a single coffee in the morning can affect them all the way to bedtime but cutting out caffeine for 6 or more hours before the set bedtime will be beneficial.
4. Be Active During Waking Hours
Left to its own devices, the body will generally seek to gain as much sleep as it needs, with the rest being up to the individual. Being active during the day and tiring yourself out will lead to a higher quality of sleep and the benefits associated with it.
5. Reduce Napping
Those with a set sleep schedule that is long enough to give them what they need should find the need for naps being all but eliminated. For others, a power nap during the day can provide short-term benefits. However, in line with the body generally seeking to get as much sleep as it needs, napping should be kept to a minimum where possible.
6. Reduce or Eliminate Tobacco Products
The negative impact of smoking on personal health is well-documented, but its impact on sleep is often overlooked. Nicotine is another stimulant which can be likened to caffeine and will inhibit an individual’s ability to fall asleep quickly and naturally.
7. Reduce Alcohol Intake
The effects of alcohol on sleep are widely discussed, and this is something that will often come down to personal preference once again. For some, one or two drinks will relax the body and mind, thus making it easier to fall asleep. However, the effect does not last as long as a typical night’s rest and alcohol consumption is linked to a reduction in sleep quality, while potentially exacerbating snoring and breathing problems during sleep.
8. Consider your Sleeping Environment
Depending on the individual, a comfortable bed might not be enough to guarantee a good night’s sleep, and the rest of their surroundings can also play a significant part in how rested they will feel the next day. Phones, televisions and other entertainment devices are generally frowned upon in the bedroom, as they can distract from conditioning the brain to associate the bed with sleep. Similarly, a window that lets in enough light to be distracting may benefit from the installation of a blackout blind to maintain a relaxed atmosphere.
9. Don’t Spend Too Long Not Sleeping
The conditioning that we have mentioned throughout takes time, and even then, there will be occasions where the body seemingly refuses to fall asleep no matter what. If, after 15 minutes or so, you are showing so signs of falling asleep, get up and do something that will not refresh or awaken you further, such as reading.
10. Attempt Not to Use Sleep Medication
While there is a place for sleeping pills for those that need them, it is best to avoid them altogether wherever possible. Such pills should only be taken on the recommendation of a doctor, and they should be made aware that your preference is for natural, routine sleep wherever possible.