Did you ever think about what really happens when we sleep? Although it may seem as if the body is silenced during that time, when we sleep our body heals and repairs itself for the next day. In essence, our time asleep is just as important as our time awake. Without a solid night of sleep, it is difficult for the body to function optimally. Such things as immune functions, concentration, coordination, judgment, and balance are all affected by the amount and quality of sleep that we get. Below are some tips on how to get a solid night of quality sleep.
1. Set a Routine: Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning allows your body to naturally fall into a routine, and may make it easier to fall asleep at night.
- Turn off Lights & Electronics: Before going to bed, turn off all lights and electronics such as televisions and computers. Having a dark room to sleep in helps the body produce melatonin which is a neurotransmitter that induces sleep. On the other hand, having a television on at night can hinder the body’s production of melatonin because of the light it emits. Make a routine of dimming the lights even an hour before you plan to go to bed. This prepares your body for sleep and allows the winding down process to begin. Also, make it a habit to turn off any video games, movies, or TV shows that may be too stimulating. Action filled TV shows or video games can cause an increase in the production of excitatory neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and nor-epinephrine; which can compete with melatonin levels, and make falling asleep more challenging.
- Get Moving: Studies have shown that individuals who exercise during the day and expend more energy have a better quality of sleep than those who are sedentary.
- Cut the Sugar: Consuming high sugar foods or soft drinks before bed can alter blood sugar levels and affect one’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Also, certain soft drinks that contain sugar also contain caffeine.
- Wind down: Many individuals have trouble turning off their minds at night. Practicing meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help the body wind down. Such techniques help reset the parasympathetic nervous system. In addition, practicing yoga stimulates the body to make more of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is a calming, non-excitatory neurotransmitter.