You hear it all the time - getting adequate sleep is the best way to look and feel younger.
It can be hard to consistently feel well-rested and have plenty of energy to spare, but it's possible to achieve that feel-good state by making some simple lifestyle changes.
If you don't sleep long enough or well enough on a daily basis, you'll eventually pay the price. Your physical health, mood, brain function and overall functionality will be affected.
Sleep is a highly restorative process that your body and mind depends on to reboot and recharge. It's when the greatest physiological repair happens, so use the following strategies to help you get better quality Zzzzs:
1. Set a schedule. And try to get situated in bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Try to keep the difference to one hour or less during the weekends, otherwise you'll disrupt your body's circadian rhythms.
2. Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. It should be quiet, dark and cool. Your bed should be comfy and the mattress and pillows should provide adequate support. Consider installing blackout curtains to block out unwanted light. Light can affect the secretion of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Also consider wearing earplugs or using a "white noise" machine to block outside noise.
3. Say no to technology in the bedroom. The light from your laptop. iPhone or other devices can reset your body's internal clock and tends to be stimulating. Unplug and shut it all down at least an hour before bedtime.
4. Avoid heavy meals in the evening. Finish eating a few hours before bedtime. If your stomach is too full, it can interfere with sleep. Your body needs time to digest, so only eat light snacks if you become hungry later in the night.
5. Skip the stimulants. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink, avoiding it altogether for at least four hours before bedtime. Have a max of only 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day - though it makes you sleepy initially, it eventually acts as a stimulant, leaving you susceptible to micro-arousals. You'll have poorer quality of sleep overall.
6. Relax before going to bed. Establish a relaxing routine - baths, gentle stretches, mellow music. Avoid stimulating activities and emotionally upsetting conversations in the evening.
7. Get out of bed if you can't sleep. Read a book or do something relaxing until you get sleepy again. Don't lie awake worrying or staring at the clock. You don't want to associate your bed with not sleeping.
8. Open the blinds or go outside in the morning. If you expose yourself to natural light for 15-20 minutes, first thing, it'll keep your body's internal clock working properly. You'll maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
All of these tips will help you establish a healthy routine. If you can incorporate exercise during the day, that's even better. Relaxing exercises like yoga or simple stretching is best in the evening.
Let me know some of your favorite bedtime rituals in the comments below :)