Try to avoid heavy meals at least 4 hours from sleep, as Stomach digestion will disturb sleep. If you must eat, you should avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates before bedtime, you should also avoid foods that are likely to cause excessive gas, for obvious reasons.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. This may seem like a lot but water is essential to keep our bodily functions working properly. Dehydration can also cause you to wake at night, but try and avoid drinking too much just before bedtime as you may find yourself waking up constantly to go to the toilet.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime may make you feel relaxed, but generally should be avoided. Although it may help you to fall asleep, you will experience lighter, more fragmented sleep. This is partly due to the fact that it metabolizes during sleep, which causes mild withdrawal symptoms.
You should avoid drinking too much Caffeinated drinks in the day and at least 3 hours before bed time. Nicotine is also a stimulant that should be avoided before bedtime. We all need a boost in the morning to wake us up and indeed caffeine does promote alertness, however it can also cause nervousness and irritability.
Caffeine is a stimulant which increases your brain waves, heart rate and blood pressure, and can last up to 6 hours in your system. If you don’t like the taste of water but like a hot beverage in the day, try a herbal tea, or decaffeinated drink. Chamomile tea is caffeine free, and is a soothing and relaxing drink which can aid a restful night’s sleep if drunken before bedtime.
Most people dread exercise, the idea of sweating, hard work and aching muscles isn’t the most alluring past time. But, exercise doesn’t have to be intense and strenuous. If you don’t like playing sports like basketball or football, try swimming, Pilates, yoga or other low impact exercises. Even housework and a brisk walk can be beneficial to your health.
Exercise is not just good for you physically but also mentally. It is effective at improving mood, confidence and self image, and also effective at reducing anxiety, stress and depression. Exercise increases your metabolic rate and your body temperature, making you more awake. This aids the body’s natural rise and fall in temperature during the day, which can improve sleep.
It is worth noting also that when you exercise, our brain increases deep sleep to compensate for the physical stress caused on the body. Ideally we should exercise everyday for at least 20 minutes during the day, but avoid exercising at least 3 hours before sleep to give your body enough time to cool down.
As well as physical exercise, we need to exercise our brains! Lack of mental stimulation during the day can affect our body’s need to sleep. During the day you should engage yourself in mental activity.
Try learning something new and fun, or creative like painting, cookery or writing. Even playing Sudoku or other puzzles will help stimulate the brain. Mental stimulation increases alertness and improves memory and mood. Similarly to physical exercise, you should avoid too much mental exercise before sleep.
As you already know stress and anxiety can disrupt the normal sleep cycle. Even before you attempt to sleep you may have already decided that you are not going to be able to sleep. Experiencing stress and negative thoughts during the day can affect sleep. Later we will look into some useful techniques that are quick, easy and highly effective at tackling stress.