This blog post is part of “Basic Gifts of Being,” a series dedicated to our daily needs as humans that we never think twice about. Sarah pinpoints simple tasks that can promote a positive and healthy lifestyle as well as improve one’s overall quality of life.
Sleep is one of our basic daily needs and many people’s favorite activity. Unfortunately, there is a global health concern over poor sleep. Approximately 60% of adults reported that their sleep needs are not being met during the week.
Good sleep hygiene allows for good brain functioning, improvements in overall health, and a decreased risk for accidents and injuries. The four tasks listed below are a mix of tasks I already practice daily, as well as things I would like to try .I have high hopes that if you try these tasks you, too, will see an overall improvement in your mental and physical health.
1. Avoid Caffeine
I drink one cup of coffee with a splash of almond milk every other day. Although caffeine is a stimulant, meaning it elevates the physiological or nervous activity in the body, this does not mean it is bad for you. Caffeine does affect one’s body really quickly, especially mine. I know that just after a few sips I feel a bit jittery, whereas my brother can gulp down a large black coffee in no time! Three 8 oz cups of coffee (250 milligrams of caffeine) equals a moderate intake. More than 6, 8 oz cups equals excessive intake .
Caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours. This means that only half of the caffeine is being eliminated during that time frame. The rest remains in your body for up to 24 hours. Avoid drinking caffeine close to bedtime and even lunch time if you are sensitive.
Caffeine can decrease the amount and the quality of your sleep. I have for sure had those mornings where I did not get the best night sleep and rush to get my coffee. However, the quick burst of concentration, alertness, and energy only lasts a little bit. Think about your caffeine intake and take note of how it makes you feel. Maybe you are just fine or you may need to reevaluate your intake.
2. Exercise Regularly
You may think you need to exercise for many hours to improve your sleep hygiene. No! Actually, just 10 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, such as cycling or walking, can dramatically improve your night’s sleep.
You may be wondering when the best time to exercise is.
A morning or early afternoon workout raises your body temperature then lowers it. This makes you sleepy and resets your sleep wake cycle. Also, don’t be fooled by the common misconception to not workout at night. This varies on an individual level. If working out at night does not disrupt your sleep cycle, go right ahead!
I workout everyday, whether that be just a short walk, taking a dance class, yoga, etc. After a workout, my mom will always say, “what happened? You’re a different person.” Movement of any kind, no matter the intensity, is a powerful healing tool that we all have access to. Check out our chair yoga video and exercise guide here.
You may find it hard to ease your mind at night with all that went on during your day. Or maybe you have thoughts constantly running through your head, when all you want to do is sleep!
Try (these not so obvious things):
- Exposure to daylight: this is proven to calibrate your circadian rhythm. Try to get as much as possible, especially in the morning as this is proven to give you a sounder nights sleep
- Aromatherapy: Lavender and chamomile have relaxing properties. Try an air diffuser or pillow spray to infuse and moisturize the air with calmness.
Many of my friends have oil diffusers in their bedrooms. When I visit their rooms I am hit with a wave of serenity. The power of smell can really alter your mood in an instant. Check out our free video guide to aromatherapy.
4. Try a Power Nap!
We all have those nights when we just know we will need a nap the next day…maybe even multiple. A 10 minute nap is the most beneficial and improves cognitive functioning. Any nap longer than then the recommended 30 minutes will usually lead to grogginess. I am maybe the world’s worst napper. I close my eyes for five minutes and I always tell myself it’s okay to rest. However, on the rare occasion that I can nap, it is for less than 30 minutes and I feel rejuvenated after.
Try this Bedtime Calculator to find out what the best time to go to bed is or wake up at according to your sleep health!
It may be hard to believe, but we actually spend a third of our lives sleeping. We need sleep to function while we are awake. By practicing good sleep hygiene, you will be able to greatly increase your overall quality of life. Start with these few simple tasks and notice how taking the time to try a small new thing can have big benefits and rewards.