Most of us want to sleep better, but that state seems elusive. We’ve all been there. It’s been a long day, we have an early start the next morning so we turn of the lights and get into bed and… nothing.
As the hours pass, we become more and more desperate and frustrated. Why won’t sleep come? Finally, as streaks of dawn finger their way across the night sky, we finally fall asleep, only to be woken up by our alarm clock after what feels like only five minutes.
Scientists have not reached a consensus why we need to sleep. In fact the only consensus is that no one is really sure. Some of the reasons postulated are the clearance of toxins, rebuilding of metabolic pathways, memory consolidation- basically the body doing essential daily housekeeping.
Sleeping is essential and has been from the very beginning of our existence, but as we’ve become more technological, sleep has been under threat. The invention of the light-bulb and discovery of electricity has seen the night further and further eroded, making it harder for us to get some shut-eye.
So how can we sleep better in a world that doesn’t seem built for it?
Related: Detoxify your soul
Nap…but not for too long
An afternoon nap can recharge the batteries. However, a lot of us make the mistake of napping for up to an hour or more. This means that we fall into a deeper sleep and wake up groggier. Not only that, you push back your evening sleep further and as a result have less time to sleep at night.
Instead, have a quick snooze for 15-20 minutes, just enough time to get some refreshing rest, but not enough time to totally screw up your sleep pattern.
Sleep Better and Avoid the cycle
For some people, the day does not start until they have had a nice big mug of Nescafe (or other coffee brand). However, you are trading a short-term efficiency boost for a possibly sleepless night later. Researchers say caffeine has a half-life of five to nine hours (that is, it takes that amount of time to reach half its potency in your system).
So you have your coffee, work all day and you get home and it’s time for bed. And you’re still keyed up. Some people may take sleeping aids or maybe have a glass of wine which, while sedatives, aren’t really natural and just help to perpetuate the unnatural sleep cycle.
Another consensus is that on average we need about 8 hours of sleep a night, give or take. If you can get that, you’ll be able to get through the day better without the need for any pick me ups or knock me outs. This will help you sleep better at night.
Wind down slowly
For most people, the sleep process begins the moment they get into bed, however if you start winding down thirty minutes to an hour beforehand, you might find it easier to get to sleep. Get into bed, turn off your gadgets and if possible dim the lights. Get ready to embrace sleep, get into that relaxed mindset.
Deal With Your Worries
We all have worries despite that ‘Hakuna Matata’ song. They hang over us all day; worries about life, love, your kids, Lagos traffic, the generator that seems to be on its last legs, and much more. Most of us really don’t deal with these worries, we just push them to one side in the minutiae of our days. When you have a report due at 4PM, you don’t really have a chance to worry. However, when you finally lie down, those worries now come to the forefront.
You can either dedicate some time to deal with your worries during the day, or if that’s impossible, make a list. Sometimes they seem so much worse flying around your head.
Another thing you can do is take your mind off things you can’t affect at that moment. You can do mental puzzles or memory games. Challenge yourself, “Names of Musicians starting with a B”
Sleep Better: Fight to Stay Awake
This is super paradoxical I know, but stay with me. Scientists say that if you can’t sleep, instead of closing your eyes, and waiting for oblivion, you should actually force yourself to stay awake. Keep your eyes open, barely blinking, consciously keeping yourself awake. It is surprisingly tiring.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, and you find yourself finding it difficult to go back to sleep, then instead of lying there, get up and do something in low light, something relaxing but not too stimulating, like an easy jigsaw puzzle, or crossword, or even colouring in your kid’s colouring book.
Most of the information in this came from the BBC’s Infinite Monkey Cage podcast “The Science of Sleep” released on July 11, 2016. Listen here
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