This is a guest post from Sarah!
Today we’re going to talk about sleep as self-care. Do you ever find yourself feeling a bit low? Low on energy, low on enthusiasm, low on life. Looking around thinking…is this all there is?!
Well don’t panic and don’t despair – you’re certainly far from being alone. If we didn’t all feel a little stuck in a rut from time to time then the massive multi-billion dollar self-help industry wouldn’t exist would it?
Now, I don’t have everything sorted out – far from it! But there are a few things I know to be gospel. The secret to feeling better about yourself is not owning a faster car, having more money in your bank account or even getting more retweets or likes.
Getting out of that rut is all about working on the fundamentals in life. Building better relationships and looking after your physical and mental health. While not costly in terms of money, improving these areas can take time.
But where to start? Simple. Start with your sleep.
Study after study has confirmed what we all instinctively know to be true – sleep is good for you. It improves your immunity, mood, and cognitive performance. It makes you kinder, funnier and even better looking. The list of benefits from a good night’s rest are almost endless.
Knowing you should get more sleep and actually being able to do so are two very different things entirely. Well, I’m here to help. Below are 4 ways to dramatically improve your sleep.
Bedtimes are not just for kids
Regularity is about the single most important thing anyone can do to help their sleep.
Do you have a bedtime? No! Well sort that out my friend. Bedtimes are not just for kids – far from it. The human body adores routine. No matter if you’re 14 or 44. You’re going to find that you will sleep better if you go to bed at roughly the same time each and every night. Including the weekends. Your body doesn’t know this difference between a Friday night and a Tuesday night.
If you don’t have a bedtime here’s how to work out when it should be. Calculate when you have to be out of bed in the morning and wind the clock back eight hours. Boom! That’s your new bedtime. Stick to it!
Go on a light diet
Humans have evolved to associate light with being awake – it helped with all the hunting and gathering we used to get up to. We used to rise with the sun and bed down at nightfall. Today, however, thanks to Edison and his lightbulbs we have conquered the darkness. Great in terms of getting things done, bad news however for our sleep cycles.
The problem – too much exposure to light in the evening time postpones the production of melatonin in our body, the hormone responsible for making us drowsy before bed. The solution – go on a light diet.
Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed. But also, switch off any bright bulbs in your house. Where possible switch to some nice ambient, romantic side lamps. Not only will your crib look a little bit more atmospheric, you will be surprised at what an impact this little change can make.
Keep it cool
A lot of us associate being in bed with being nice and toasty under the covers. Well, research indicates that it actually pays to be a little bit chilly when it comes to nodding off. Before it can sleep the brain needs to drop its temperature by around 2-3 degrees farenheit to be able to initiate sleep. That’s why it is easier to fall asleep in a room that’s cold rather than one that’s hot.
There is a lot of evidence that suggests cooling down the body before bed will help induce sleep quicker and promote better deep non-REM sleep, this being the real good stuff that helps to power you through the endeavors of the next day.
The slight paradox here is that having hands and feet that are too cold will have an opposite waking effect. So, make sure your room is cold enough – but you know, not too cold. That or sleep naked apart from socks and gloves! It’s a good look, trust me!
Take a nice hot bath
A lot of people swear by the power of a good hot bath before bed. Oprah being one of them. And if it’s good enough for O, it’s good enough for you and me.
Bath fans will often say the warmth of a good soak lulls them to sleep. Well, they are partially right. Having a hot bath before bed is great for inducing sleepy times but not for the reason they think.
When you have a hot bath a process known as vasodilation takes place, this is where the blood in your body rushes to the skin. Hence why you get lovely rosy cheeks. However when you then step out of the warm water all this surface heat is rapidly transferred to the air. And you experience what’s known as a massive thermal dump and your core temperature plummets.
It’s this cooling effect that’s incredibly soporific. Having an ice cold shower before bed will have a similar impact – I think I’m gonna stick with the bath though!
Well there you have it – the key to improving your mood is improving your sleep. The key to improving your sleep is treating your bedtime with respect, avoiding over stimulating your mind with light pollution and cooling down with a nice warm bath! Simple really. Sweet dreams!
How do you practice sleep as self-care?
Bio: Hi there sleep fans. I’m Sarah from sunny California. And I’m a sleep nerd! There I’ve said and I don’t care who knows. When I’m not curled up getting my forty winks you will find me at my desk with researching and writing about the good stuff. My colleagues and I at the Sleep Advisor blog believe passionately that if the world just slept a little better it would be a happier place to live.