Sleep is essential to your health and wellbeing. There’s a reason why you spend almost one-third of your day doing it. But many of us don’t get the sleep we need. In fact, 40% of South Africans aren’t sleeping enough, new research shows.
Sleep isn’t just for “beauty rest”. Getting enough sleep is as important to your basic survival as food and water. Without it, you’re not able to function properly as sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body, from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, and mood.
Sweet dreams are made of these
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even over the weekends. This will make it easier for you to fall asleep and get good shut eye every night.
- Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes daily, preferably in the morning. Regular exercise can improve restful sleep. Avoid exercising three to four hours before you go to bed as this can raise your body temperature, adrenalin levels, heart rate, and brain activity.
- Get a good dose of sunshine. Sunlight boosts your energy levels in the day, which can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night.
- Relax before you hit the sack. Have a warm bath, do some stretching exercises, or read a book. Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool and comfortable, around 18°C. A bedroom that’s too hot or cold can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Exposure to light during the night can suppress production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Get heavy curtains in blackout shades. If this doesn’t help, try an eye mask to block out filters of light.
- Use your bedroom for sleep only. This will strengthen your mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
- Keep your bedroom quiet. Your brain still processes sounds while you’re sleeping. Even the slightest noise can interrupt you and cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase.
- Remove the TV from your room. Put your phone on silent. If there’s a noise beyond your control like a busy street, mask it with the sound of a bedside fan or air purifier to help you sleep easy.
- Eat sleep-inducing foods. Have a slice of turkey, a handful of almonds, or a cup of warm milk and honey before bedtime. These foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body produce melatonin.
- Keep your hands and feet warm. Wear socks or gloves to bed. You should fall asleep in no time.
- If you lie awake for more than 30 minutes, get up and do a quiet, non-excitable activity like reading or listening to music. Then go back to bed when you feel tired. Do this as many times during the night as needed. If nothing helps, see your doctor. There may be a medical reason for your sleeping problems.