Illustrative image. (Via Twitter)
It’s a well-known fact that the younger a person is, the more sleep he or she needs to function properly during the day. Babies, you notice, sleep most of the day. Then, as you get older, you seem to need less and less sleep. The elderly seem to sleep the least number of hours, not because they can’t get to sleep but because they don’t seem to need to. Aside from not getting enough sleep there is also such a thing as sleeping too much. Sleeping too much has the opposite effect of getting a good night’s sleep. It can make you lethargic, unmotivated and, believe it or not, more sleepy. When you’re sleeping too much, you can never get too much sleep.
But lack of sleep can be a real problem for many people. Everyone has insomnia at some point in their lives and it is often related to their state of mind, their daily habits and their bedtime routines. It might be something that’s worrying them, their lack of exercise during the day and bad eating habits. Plus it could have something to do with any medication they’ve been accustomed to.
Sleep has distinct benefits. Apart from the obvious resting of the body it is of enormous benefit to our faculties. After a good night’s sleep your mood is better and you’re raring to go. Suffice it to say that sleep deprivation can lead to mood issues, over-eating, poor concentration and an inability to think clearly. In fact, it would not be a far stretch to say that sleep deprivation can be deadly. Sleep sharpens the brain, makes you more alert and aids in learning and consolidating information.
Now a cousin of sleep is napping which also has its benefits, provided you do it correctly. Take too long a nap, say longer than 20-30 minutes, and you might find you can’t sleep at night. Don’t nap at all and…well, you lose nothing and you might be more sleepy at night, which is a good thing.
But not all of us are prone to napping. If you aren’t either but still find it hard to nod off at night, then, unless it’s due to some physiological disorder, you need to try changing the way you do things during the day and as your bedtime approaches.
Firstly, it’s important not to eat your last meal of the day so close to bedtime. If you do, instead of focusing your mind on winding down for the night, your body is too busy trying to digest the food you ate. It might be an idea to finish all your meals for the day by 7.30pm. But if you still feel peckish later in the evening then have a glass of warm milk or a bowl of cereal as a snack to induce sleep.
Stop drinking fluids around 2 hours before you turn in or you might find yourself waking up for a bathroom visit around 3am. Once you get back into bed after that, you may find you are unable to fall back asleep again until around 5am. But some people find themselves waking up for a bathroom visit even when they have stopped drinking earlier in the evening. In this case, I would recommend training your bladder not to go at night. There’s a lot of information on the internet on how to do this and it does work to reduce the frequency of nocturnal bathroom visits. Exercise is also a big contributor to getting a good night’s sleep because it tires you out. If you’re tired you will just want to rest your body and chances are you will fall asleep as well. Try a brisk walk for about 30 minutes every day.
Also, try a nice warm bath about an hour before you go to bed. Bathing will eventually cause your core body temperature to fall. This is an essential requirement of your body in order for it to come to that sleep cycle.
Winding down for the night is also important. You should do this by shutting down your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime and that means no staring at your screen under the bedcovers or in a darkened room.
Speaking of the dark, sleep studies have shown that even the smallest amount of light in the bedroom can disrupt sleep. It’s, therefore, important to make your bedroom as dark as you can without being spooked. Some people don’t like being in complete darkness because it frightens them. I think that is the reason night lights were invented – so you have some light but it’s not the intrusive kind.
But if you happen to share a room then I guarantee that it will be impossible for you to get the level of darkness you need to sleep properly and without interruptions. If that is the case, you can’t do anything about the sound but you can block out light by wearing an eye mask. It does work, I assure you. And lastly, it is impossible to sleep, even when you’re sleepy, when you’re feeling hot and sweaty. Make sure your room is cold. Turn down the AC temperature and if that doesn’t work, get a fan. Either have it blowing gently on your face or rotate it so that the air circulates in the room thereby cooling it down.