Melton Sport HA Blog 3- 5 Ways To Help Improve Your Sleep Quality
Posted: Wed, 25 Nov 2020 12:10
Sleep is an integral part of our daily routine. On average, it encompasses a third of our life and is considered just as essential to our survival as food and water, with sleep directly affecting both our physical and mental health. Falling short of sufficient sleep quality/duration can be severely detrimental to our daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance and research has even found associations with sleep deprivation and weight gain.
The duration of sleep required varies significantly from person to person and differs across our lifespan. Therefore, we are only provided general recommendations as shown:
- Babies- Initially sleep as much as 16 to 18 hours per day to support growth & development.
- Children/Teenagers- Recommended on average to require 9.5 hours of sleep per night.
- Adults- The majority of adults are recommended to require 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Experts categorise sleep into 2 types: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. The stages of a sleep cycle are categorised into 4 stages and are based on the characteristics of our brain and body during sleep. We cycle through all of these stages several times throughout the night, with each stage explained as follows:
- Stage 1: Non-REM sleep is the changeover from wakefulness to sleep. During this short period (lasting several minutes) of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax with occasional twitches.
- Stage 2: Non-REM sleep is a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax even further. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.
- Stage 3: Non-REM sleep is the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs in longer periods during the first half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels during sleep. Your muscles are relaxed and it may be difficult to awaken you.
- REM sleep: First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep. As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep.
With longer working hours, increased stresses of daily life & around the clock entertainment at our fingertips, the general trend is that most people are not getting sufficient sleep or a lack of sleep quality. I'm sure we've all had many restless nights where we are tossing and turning at 3am feeling helpless in the battle to fall asleep. However, we actually have more control on the amount of quality sleep we get than we think, with many of the answers for sleeping difficulties being found in our daily routine. Therefore, here are 5 ways that you can help ensure you have sufficient sleep quality:
1.Building a sleep environment:
Strong sleep hygiene refers to a having a bedroom environment and daily routine that contributes towards consistent and uninterrupted sleep. Research has stated that forming good healthy habits are a central part of health. Therefore, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions is a key way to building healthy habits and contributing towards strong sleep hygiene. Whilst, the following ways may seem obvious towards building a comfortable sleeping environment, many are often overlooked. Therefore, see how many you currently use and if there is any that you can adopt to improve your sleeping environment:
- Avoid light disruptions: Excess light is well known to interrupt sleep. Blackout curtains are a great way to block out light along with the use of a sleep mask. Additionally, electronic blue light devices are also common light disruptions. Try to refrain from electronic usage before bedtime and make sure of the "do not disturb" features.
- Peace & Quiet: Keeping noise to a minimum is a vital part of building a sleep-positive bedroom. If possible, try to eliminate nearby sources of noise or drown these out with the use of a fan or ear plugs.
- Room Temperature: The room being too hot or too cold can interfere with sleep quality. Whilst, the ideal temperature varies from person to person, getting the room temperature to suit you make require some experimentation. Research has stated that typically individuals prefer a slightly cooler room with flowing ventilation.
- Choosing quality bedding: Once again this is a highly personal choice, but using pillows, mattresses and bedding that are comfortable to touch, can play a major role in helping your bed feel inviting and creating a positive sleep environment.
- Pleasant Aromas: Introducing light scents can help calm and ease you into falling sleep. Natural aromas such as lavender can provide a soothing smell for your room and further create a comfortable environment.
Being active can be a great daily routine that we can control and use to help improve sleep quality. Whilst, it is well established that exercise can help reduce mental disorders such as stress and anxiety which can often interfere with sleep, research has further linked being regularly physically active with managing symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnoea. For guidance on how to get active within the current climate check out our previous blog. Additionally, with many of us working from home along with the lack of daylight, getting out and being active can often be a challenge. Therefore, check out North West Leicestershire's daily boost which you can squeeze into your daily lunch breaks.
The timing on taking part in physical activity is vital and can also be detrimental to your sleep quality. With exercise speeding up metabolism, elevating body temperature and secreting various hormones such as cortisol, these factors have been known to contribute towards sleeping difficulties. Therefore, it is recommended to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least 3 hours before bedtime. If sleep difficulties persist, try aim to move workouts earlier within your day or take part in relaxing, low-impact exercise domains such as yoga. Virtual classes of this nature can be found here: https://www.lrsport.org/healthyathome.
3.Control Evening Consumption:
Your daytime eating habits can influence your sleep quality, particularly during the hours leading up to bedtime. Try to refrain from going to bed stuffed or hungry as this can cause discomfort and in turn keep you awake. Additionally, the consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars such as: bread, white rice and pasta have also been linked with wakefulness. Therefore, if you are suffering with sleeping difficulties, try to consume your dinner a little earlier and have a light snack later on in the evening.
Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee & carbonated drinks are amongst the most consumed beverages in the world. Often, the buzz from the caffeine is consumed to overcome daytime sleepiness however; this approach isn't sustainable and can lead to long-term sleep deprivation. Additionally, with the stimulating effects from the caffeine being found to be in your system up to 10-12 hours post consumption, only highlights the impacts caffeine can have on your sleep quality. Therefore, keeping track of your daily caffeine intake or even switching to decaffeinated drinks past a certain time can go a long way towards improving your sleep quality.
Similarly to caffeine, nicotine from smoking is another stimulant known to disrupt your sleep. With clear links found between nicotine consumption and even second hand smoking with difficulties falling asleep and sleep fragmentation. Whilst, it is recommended to cease smoking all together due to the well-documented health risks associated, to help with sleep difficulties try not to smoke close to your bedtime. Similar considerations should also be made with alcohol consumption, as whilst drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep, often it will lead an interrupted and poor quality sleep.
4.Learn Ways to Fall Back to Sleep:
Waking up briefly during the night is normal and something not to worry about. However, if sleep is continually being interrupted or you are particularly struggling with falling back to sleep, there are a few well-known techniques that can aid towards helping you drift off back to sleep.
Make relaxation the goal, not sleep: We've all experienced a night where we are angry with ourselves that we can't fall back to sleep. However, by working ourselves up often contributes towards the issue. Instead, try to focus on relaxation as there are various techniques that can help such as: visualisation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation and mediation. Whilst, relaxation should not been seen as a substitute for sleep, it can help towards rejuvenating the body.
Do a quiet non-stimulating activity: If you haven't been able to fall back after 15 minutes, why not try a non-stimulating activity such as reading. Try to keep the lights dim and avoid electronic screens as often with our current way of lives this can be a waking up cue.
Postpone worrying and brainstorm: Often the reason we wake up is due to worry and stress going on within our daily lives currently. Instead of being worked up over it, make a brief note or brainstorm the stressor to postpone the issue until the next day where you can approach it with a clear mind. Often, you will find the issue is much smaller and easier to resolve after a good night's rest.
As with a lot of solutions geared towards helping with sleeping difficulties, the success of these techniques varies from person to person and requires some experimentation. Keeping a sleep journal can be a great way to help with this. By tracking how you've slept each night can help you identify patterns and how effective certain techniques are for you.
5.Create a pre-night routine & sleep schedule:
Sticking to a strict sleep schedule and creating a consistent pre-night routine can be an essential way towards helping you drift off to a sleep of high quality and without interruptions. Firstly, create a fixed sleep and wake time which is adhered to each day and includes weekends. If you would like to change your sleep schedule, it is recommended that you change this gradually (i.e. 1-2 hour difference each night). In turn, this will allow you body to get used to these changes and ensure you follow a new schedule that is sustainable. Additionally, napping should be used with caution as if you nap too early or too late; this can throw you off your sleep schedule. It is recommended that the best time to nap is shortly after lunch during the early afternoon, for a duration of around 20 minutes.
Furthermore, when creating a pre-night routine to support your sleep schedule try to consider the following:
- 30 minute wind down period- Try to factor in a 30 minute wind down period before you are due to go to sleep. Activities such as quiet reading, stretching, listening to music and relaxation exercises can be a great way to help to get you in the frame of mind to sleep.
- Dim the lights- Keeping the light dim can be highly beneficial to help with the transition of going to sleep. By avoiding bright lights this can help towards the body's production of melatonin, a sleep promoting hormone.
- Refrain from electronic device usage- As earlier stated; the use of electronic devices can be a wake up cue. Therefore, try to disconnect any blue light electronics for 30 minutes before bedtime.
For further information regarding looking after your well being such as sleep check out our self care page