June 20, 2012
You see them on many of your friends and colleagues: the eye bags, the tired expressions, the sluggish responses. Maybe you have even seen them on yourself. With so many distractions and activities that happen at night, many people find it harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep. There is always something good on TV, a Facebook status that needs liking ASAP, or a late night gimmick that simply cannot be missed. Maybe you just could not get comfortable on your bed, a downstairs neighbor has decided to sing karaoke until three in the morning, or there’s a pending issue from work you just could not leave behind. As a result, quality sleep gets lost in the shuffle of the modern fast-paced life, with severe consequences to your body and mind.
Getting the proper amount of sleep is as vital to us as eating is. It allows us to recuperate and replenish the energy we have lost during the day. Sleep allows the body to optimize and refresh bodily functions like tissue repair and muscle growth, and quite literally rests our brain cells by clearing out accumulated adenosine, a kind of molecule released by the brain while it is active.
So, how can you sleep better in this day and age? Thankfully, we need not rely on chemicals and medicines such as sleeping pills to help us achieve blissful rest. With some minor changes to your lifestyle, drifting into dreamland is as easy as falling asleep.
1. Tell yourself, “It’s bedtime!” Pinpoint a time when you are most likely to feel tired and sleepy, and go to bed every night at that hour. Maintaining a regular bedtime allows your body to get used to being ready for sleep at a certain time in the evening, ensuring that you get the rest you need. Try to opt for a schedule that allows you to get the universally-recommended eight hours of sleep—this can be done by factoring in the time at which you normally get up, and slowly adjusting your sleeping time to accommodate it.
2. When the going gets tough, take a nice warm bath. Hot baths help send your body into “cool down” mode, which promotes the feeling of sleepiness. The warm, peaceful environment created by these baths foster a rise in body temperature, followed by a drop that fosters the relaxation of the body and the mind. Take these baths an hour and a half before sleeping, and you will be ready to hit the sack.
3. Smell the flowers and herbs. Aromatherapy is a great, natural way to inspire relaxation. The oils from plants like lavender, jasmine, and ylang ylang can soothe frazzled nerves, lower blood pressure, and combat depression, leading to a healthier nervous system. Aromatherapy can be done in many ways: You can put a few drops in with your hot bath, or on a handkerchief, or on your pillow and inhale; you can also get scented candles and let the soothing aroma fill your room.
4. Make sure your bedroom is made for sleeping. Soundproof your room as much as you can to keep noise to a minimum. Get lights that can be dimmed at night to better convince your body that it’s time to sleep, and keep your room cool with a fan or an air conditioner to help your body temperature drop. Getting the right bedding is also crucial—mattresses and pillows should ensure that your back and neck are not strained during the night and have room to stretch.
5. Keep your work outside. Your bedroom should be set aside as the place for rest and relaxation in your home, so refrain from using your computer. Working in the bedroom increases the likelihood that you’ll still be pondering issues as you lie down, promoting anxiety which can keep you awake all night.
6. Put the TV outside too. Even if you just want to watch a show to unwind, the bright, harsh backlight from electronic gadgets can stimulate the brain into daytime mode and prevent it from relaxing. Read a book, or listen to soft music instead in normal to dim lighting.
Just to be able to sleep seems to need a lot of work and sacrifice. Many people may not be willing to go there, and choose to give up sleep instead. But we need not miss out on the good things in life. In sleeping right, we’re taking out the eye bags, the exhaustion, and the brain-dead moments. We can better live—and enjoy—life to the fullest when we’re awake, alert, and enthusiastic.