Dreaming of getting a good night’s sleep? You are not alone. Many of us struggle to get good rest and that can make life difficult. Sleep is as important to your health as diet and exercise. If you don’t get the sleep you need, you don’t restore and refresh your body and brain and as a result, you don’t function as well as you could. You can’t focus or concentrate—and in addition, sleep problems increase the risk factors for a whole lot of medical issues including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The Clean Sleeping movement made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow of Clean Eating fame asks you to follow a few basic rules for the healthiest night’s sleep possible: no caffeine after 2 pm; no electronic devices at least one hour before you go to bed; go to bed each night at exactly the same time, even on weekend; keep your room dark and cool; don’t eat, or drink alcohol before bed. You can also add getting up at the same time each day and, importantly, getting to know your own sleep cycle—sleepiness comes in waves about every 60 to 90 minutes, so learn to catch the wave of drowsiness. Miss it and you will have to wait another 60 minutes to catch the next one. When you feel sleepy drop everything and go to bed. Skip the catnaps (unless they are early in the day and no longer than 15 minutes) as they take the edge off your sleepiness and make it harder to fall asleep quickly and deeply.
If you are having trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to keep a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. It will help you keep track of your sleep patterns and see if some of your habits are contributing to your sleep problems.
Different people require different amounts of sleep so learn to understand your sleep needs. If you don’t feel sleepy during the day, you are probably getting enough sleep for you. Many sleeping problems are due to bad habits built up over a long period of time. You won’t fix your sleeping problems in one or two nights, but if you stick with the tips outlined here, your sleep should improve. It is certainly worth a try because lack of sleep is very damaging to your emotional wellbeing. You don’t realise how much harder everything is when you have sleep problems until you no longer have them!