Sleep plays an important role in physical and mental health. Research shows that prolonged sleep deficiency results in an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure and diabetes. It is also thought to be linked with emotional well-being, something that creates a feeling of contentment by contributing to better relationships, career, education and financial health.
Despite the above being well known facts, too often we tend to neglect the elements that are essential to a good night’s sleep. It is important to understand that a person’s sleep quality can become sub-optimal by a minor imperfection in the environment necessary to induce good sleep. Seemingly inconsequential factors like the bedroom environment, temperature and humidity, light, mattress, noise, air quality and odors all play a role in helping you sleep better.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the U.S. and other experts, following strategies help you improve your sleep habits:
Going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day enables the body to better regulate itself which helps build its natural immunity against disease. It is also important to try and maintain the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. The timing difference should not be more than about an hour. If you stay up late and sleep in late on weekends, it can unsettle the body’s sleep–wake rhythm.
2. Bedroom environment
You bedroom should be designed to maximize comfort during sleep. Factors that contribute to stable breathing and muscle relaxation are of utmost importance during sleep. Factors like too little or too much humidity, noise or similar disturbances, distracting lighting and electronic devices in the bedroom tend to agitate the body in subtle ways not easily discernible. Also, it is important to use the bedroom only for sleeping so that your mind learns to habitually send signals to your body to get sleepy just by being in the bedroom.
3. Comfortable Mattress
Your mattress does impact the quality of your sleep. With so many options available in the market, picking the right mattress can become a complicated decision. Without proper research you run the risk of picking a mattress that “looks the best”, has a nice brand name and is sold by a courteous salesperson. Instead, you should find out what kind of mattress is best for you given your sleeping style. Websites like Get Best Mattress provide unbiased reviews and comparison and can be an enormous help.
4. One to two hours before sleep
It is highly recommended that you get some quite time about one hour before sleep. Avoid arduous exercise or large meals within two hours of bedtime. Importantly, you should avoid artificial light, such as that of television or smart phone. It sounds intriguing but the light actually signals the brain that it is not yet time to sleep. Also, regardless of how you think your body reacts to certain substances, it is highly recommended that you avoid alcoholic drinks, nicotine, and caffeine before the bedtime. It has been shown by research that these substances interfere with sleep.
5. Taking hot bath or meditating before bed
As mentioned earlier, a few hours before bedtime are critical. During this time, hot baths or other relaxing activities like meditation and massage help put your body at ease. As a result, not only does it make it easier to fall asleep but the sleep is deeper and calmer.
If the above strategies do not help you improve your sleep quality, visit your doctor about other possible causes and solutions. It is too often thought that physical well-being is all about good diet, exercise and a stress-free lifestyle while sleep is often neglected as a variable. This approach to preventive healthcare misses the importance of the physical activities that the body performs while you sleep. Ensuring good sleep helps your body recoup its energy and repair the components of your body cells, hence helping to perform at its optimal levels when you are awake.
Originally published at medium.com