On November 14th 2015, people around the world will celebrate ‘Loosen Up, Lighten Up’ day by making an effort to relax and de-stress. The rigours of modern life can leave us tired and feeling constantly pressurised. ‘Loosen Up, Lighten Up’ day is a great opportunity to take some time to focus on your overall wellbeing.
One of the critical factors in living a healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Use ‘Loosen Up, Lighten Up’ day to improve your sleeping patterns by making six key changes to your bedtime rituals:
- Follow a strict sleeping schedule:
Your body has a natural clock, and upsetting it by altering your sleeping patterns can lead to insomnia. Naps can help you to recharge your batteries during the day – try to limit them to no more than 20 minutes, and never nap within eight hours of going to bed.
While it might be tempting to enjoy a long lie-in at the weekend, try to limit them to no more than 60 minutes. Staying in bed until lunchtime on a Sunday might seem like a good idea at the time, but it could reset your body clock significantly, making it more difficult to get to sleep at night – and to get up on Monday morning.
- Identify when you’re losing sleep:
There is a chance that a specific event or occurrence is waking you up or disrupting your sleep at the same time every night. This could be happening because of sounds from outside, a family member coming home or a gadget kicking into life. Whatever the reasons for broken sleep, you can start to narrow the possibilities down by using a sleep tracker.
The discreet Fitbug tracker, for instance, monitors your movements during sleep and records them over several weeks. Via a mobile app, you can review your sleep data and identify the times at which you’re waking up through the night. This data will help you to address the issues that are responsible for your broken sleep.
- Get plenty of exercise:
Research has shown that people who exercise on a regular basis sleep better. Try to get at least 20 minutes of strenuous exercise every day – this could involve walking, running or lifting weights. In order to get the maximum effect, take your exercise around five to six hours before going to bed. An easy way to fit exercise into your daily schedule at the right time is to walk all or part of way home from work. However, avoid strenuous exercise within two hours of going to bed.
- Avoid stimulants:
Consuming stimulants during the four hours before your normal bedtime will significantly harm your chances of having a decent night’s sleep. Avoid caffeine, sugar and nicotine, as they can all make it a lot more difficult to fall, and remain, asleep for more than a couple of hours. It’s also important to quit smoking if you have insomnia, as you are more likely to wake prematurely because of nicotine withdrawal. Another common cause of sleep disruption is alcohol, which increases rapid eye movement during sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep for longer.
- Manage light levels:
Research has shown that an hour’s exposure to sunlight in the mornings can help regulate your sleep patterns. Wherever possible, try and get as much natural daylight as you can in the morning. During the winter, use bright lights in your bedroom – switching them on at the time you usually get up. In the summer, use blackout curtains if it’s still light at your normal bedtime.
If you can, take steps to ensure that there is no background light in your bedroom. Turn off LED lights on TVs, clocks and other gadgets before you turn in for the night, to maximize your chances of getting a good nights’ sleep.
- Keep things quiet:
It may seem obvious, but a lot of people fail to minimize sound in their home at night. Make sure TVs, radios and other electronic gadgets are turned off. Don’t leave tumble dryers and washing machines to run after you go to bed, and ask other members of your family to keep noise to a minimum. It’s also important not to become reliant on the background noise of radio and TV to help you fall asleep. While this might help you to nod off, noise in the background will make waking up through the night much more likely.
If you can’t get to sleep, don’t lie in bed – get up and do something to distract yourself for 30 minutes. If all else fails, use ‘Loosen Up, Lighten Up’ day as your motivation to seek advice from a sleeping specialist.