Sleep, one of our basic physiological needs and the foundation of Maslow's pyramid (which probably gave some of us a few sleepless nights during school times). Without sleep there is no existence. Back in the days when people lay down at sunset and got up again at dawn, it was considered as much as a necessity as anything… up until the invention of the light bulb.
Moving forward into the 21st century, little remains of our sense for the inner clock. We are moving at even higher speeds, traveling through different time zones in the shortest possible time, working late into the night, constantly under pressure. To wind down in the evening for a restful sleep is becoming increasingly difficult. Despite the fact that today, more than ever, we know that sleeping is an indispensable prerequisite for development, well-being and health.
What to do? Nine dos & don'ts for a healthy sleep:
Man is a creature of habit.
Plan fixed sleeping times. Yes, (unfortunately) also during weekends. Accept the fact that compensation, meaning pre-or post-sleeping, is nothing but a myth. Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence of it being effective in any way.
Nothing too heavy to digest.
Both in a literal and figurative sense. Renounce caffeine and alcohol late in the day. Your evening meal should be easily digestible. Therefore, avoid raw food and whole grain products to stop digestion interfering with your body's sleep signals.
Try not to do too much thinking or working in the evening. Rather read a book, listen to relaxing music or talk to each other.
Late exercise for better sleep?
Athletes usually sleep better than the not-so-athletic. Exercising regularly helps you to recover better at night. However, those who think that they are able to sleep better immediately after an exhausting late session at the gym are clearly mistaken. Make sure to get few hours in-between your workout and sleep. If you can’t resist being active before going to bed, make it a leisurely walk.
Simple and effective
Your bedroom is for sleeping. Period. A bed, a bedside table, a wardrobe. What more do you really need? Laptops, TV sets etc. should be off limits to the bedroom. And instead of using the alarm on your cell phone, why not go with the old-school alarm clock instead of seductive apps?!
Keep it cool
The bedroom should be cool, with a recommended temperature of about 18 °C. And do not forget to air the room before going to bed to replace the old, used air with fresh, oxygen-rich air, which in turn promotes the night-time recovery process.
Get enough sunlight. Even on a cloudy winter's day it is still far brighter outside than in the office. And those who get enough light during the day will get tired in the evenings.
At least an hour before going to bed, you should also send your smartphone, tablet, TV etc. to sleep mode. The blue-lighted screens inhibit the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for peaceful sleep.
Rituals aren’t just for children.
Perhaps you remember when your mother brought you to bed early, read you a story, then maybe you shared a good-night prayer, she tucked you in and then you slowly dozed off? Sleep rituals calm us down. Reminisce about the day, read a book, take a warm bath, meditate, practice yoga or progressive muscle relaxation ... All of this lets you shut down, switch off and relax.
Relax, don’t do it…
If you wake up at night for no apparent reason and you're having trouble falling asleep again, stay calm. Sure, easier said than done. Sometimes it helps to write down the thoughts that trouble you. If you wake up because “nature is calling”, try to resist the urge to look at the time, as this can cause unnecessary stress.
If all else fails...
...and you suffer from insomnia over a period of weeks or even months, consult a doctor. Psychological and psychotherapeutic therapy methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy can improve sleeping behaviour. Perhaps also an examination in a sleep laboratory might shed light on the root of the problem.