This is a collaborative post.
If you hope to live a healthy life, you need to sleep well. A lack of food can be a troubling issue, a lack of water can have severe health consequences, but a lack of sleep can quite literally transform you into a version of you that you may not recognise. Chronic sleep debt, such as that experienced by those working in the medical industry or military is starting to become known as a mental and physical health crisis, because it’s a larger problem than people think.
Sure, you will not have perfect sleep throughout the course of your lifetime. You will have bad nights. However, it’s important to ensure your sleep is carefully considered to the degree that you can, because it’s more important than you know. Matthew Walker, in his book ‘Why We Sleep’ shows that common beliefs such as ‘sleep debt’ being paid off is actually not possible, and that the effects of bad sleep can often truly harm us from a neurological perspective.
This means it’s important to both know the importance of sleep and how to perfect it, especially if you have a demanding daily schedule. Please consider my advice to this end:
Regular patterns of sleep are the best means in which we can work towards our overall sleeping health. It’s unreasonable to assume that you can get good sleep when continually switching up the time you head to bed and rise. Of course, for those that work jobs that may sometimes place them on the night shift, this can be a problem, but it is doable, provided you are consistent.
In this example, sleeping through the day is sometimes required. However, make sure that when you do, especially when you turn around your sleep cycle, those times are as regular as can be. For the rest of us, heading to bed at the exact same time each night, giving ourselves more room to feel comfortable and relaxed by heading to bed an hour before or at least spending time deflating can be important. But what matters most is consistency. Over time, your body will get used to this schedule, to the positive point where you will be able to rise each morning feeling your best self, and your body clock will raise you up at the same time each day. That’s a morning you will often appreciate.
When we think about curating and improving our health, it is known that small daily efforts will often have the best impact, and will add up to worthwhile results as time moves on. The same goes for your sleep. There’s no means in which tonight you can click your fingers and guarantee a perfect night of rest. Perhaps you will have one, perhaps you won’t. However, it’s the willingness to keep at it, to keep a reliable bedtime, to keep your bedspread clean, to ensure that you keep using your sleep apnea mask (to use an example), or to ensure that after 4pm, you consume zero caffeine. It’s these minimal efforts that become a lifestyle, and that lifestyle will feed into your health upkeep. However, this is not a one way investment, as there’s nothing better for improving a lifestyle than upkeeping your health, as it is the fundamental nature of everything we can hold important.
Many of the habits we partake in and promote during our daily effort interlink with one another. For example, if you exercise that day, you are much more likely to get a good sleep in the evening, as your body will be craving rest and thus you will feel more restored when waking up. Additionally, good nutrition can have this effect.
It’s not uncommon to hear that alcohol can affect your sleep quality, because it prevents you from truly reaching REM sleep, which is the essential sleep we need. Additionally, sleep is aided by hitting your vitamin and mineral quota, drinking enough water, hitting your caloric maintenance or deficit depending on if you are dieting or not, and also how sustaining these foods are. Conversely, diets that are high in sugar, in simple carbs, in calories and saturated fats are known to prevent you from gaining that restful sleep, or to prevent the willingness to sleep at all.
Think about how our bodies are wired. As humans, we were not used to eating at night. We usually slept when the sun set, and rose when dawn began. We hunted during the day, and ate during the day. We often ate foods high in proteins and healthy fats. We were rarely nocturnal hunters unless absolutely desperate for food, but by then it would be hard to avoid predators in the dark, and so this translated until morning for most of our sustenance at the earliest. If you can mimic that form of eating schedule, you will have a much better chance of enjoying improved sleep, as you will be replicated our natural body’s timeframe via diet.
Your Sleeping Experience
We all know that if we wish to start running, finding high-quality foods that are good for our feet can help us start and stay with the journey of this exercise regime. If we wish to start a diet, we research it thoroughly and buy the best food we can afford. So why do we rarely consider how we should invest in our sleeping habits financially, or at least believe the bare minimum is good enough? After all, while we may not be conscious for most of our sleeping schedule, we will spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping, and that’s time we should invest in. Different mattress types, curated to your needs, could potentially help your sleeping experience begin anew, and it may help you become even more motivated to ace this daily necessity.
The same could be said for memory foam pillows, an air purifier that helps you breathe in humid climates, a window lock that allows you to safely ventilate your room while still staying secure at night, or investing in herbal non-caffeinated teas that help you feel sleepy at bedtime. Sometimes, a high-quality pair of pyjamas can be a beautiful thing. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money here. Your sleeping self will appreciate it, and notice the effects. Christmas is coming up, and so this may be a perfect time, especially when planning for these cold winter nights.
If there’s anything that can force you to stay awake, night after night, it’s undue stress. Of course, we’re not about to click our fingers and magically tell you how to completely rid yourself of stress, because no matter how sincere our advice, it’s impossible to do that. However, you can lessen your stress, and use coping strategies to help you get over it, particularly as it relates to sleep, and the hours that precede it.
If you’ve had a busy day at work you would rather forget, for instance, then it may be you will sit around thinking until the late evening, and struggle to fall asleep as a result. This is where pre-sleep meditation can prove so useful. Meditating for ten minutes can take you out of your incessant internal chatter, allowing you to be a little more present. A long soak in the bath can help you relax and let your joints become less tense, and the massive heat dump that takes place after this will actually help you fall asleep much more quickly. Additionally, listening to zen music and lighting incense or a small protected candle can also help you focus on something other than your internal noise.
Combine these, and you will find yourself falling asleep much more easily than normal. Of course, if you find that even these things barely help, then visiting a sleep doctor or trying your best to arrange your life in a way that prevents this stress can be important (such as limiting your overtime until you have your sleeping schedule back on track). This way, you will be making progress.
Do not forget that there are many supplements out there, some consumed, some presented, that can help you fall back into healthy sleep habits. Melatonin is a natural sleep aid, because it’s the chemical your body produces to help you know when it’s time to sleep. Supplementing this for a few days beforehand may help you enjoy a better sense of restfulness at night, but be sure not to overdo it, as this can influence your own production. Magnesium and 5HTP also promote sleepfulness by helping arrange the conditions of quieting the mind and body before you rest. Additionally, natural aids such as valerian root or even the presence of lavender have reliably shown to aid in restfulness, and may be the first port of call if you’re not a fan of supplementation.
With this advice, we hope you can thoroughly enjoy the true importance of sleep, not only as an intellectual exercise, but as a lived nightly experience.