The Gentle Art of Sleeping

Good quality sleep is essential to wellbeing, with healthy sleep patterns one of the best ways to ensure a long and happy life. While sleep comes easy to some people, others struggle with insomnia and other sleep disorders that keep them awake for hours. New research suggests that most people benefit from a warm-up period before hitting the pillow, with sleep training no longer just a technique to get babies through the night. By managing the foods and drinks you consume during the evening and paying close attention to technology and other activities, everyone can have access to better quality sleep.

Good sleeping patterns are highly beneficial to both physical health and cognitive function. Along with improving physical and mental health outcomes, good quality sleep at the right times can also improve quality of life and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Over one-third of people experience sleep problems at some point during their lives, with ongoing sleep deficiency known to increase the risk of chronic health problems and affect how well people think, work, learn, react, and get along with others.

Sleep deficiency has been linked to impaired physical health outcomes, including an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep also plays an important role in how your body reacts to hormones and insulin, with good quality sleep supporting healthy growth and development on practically every level. Mental health is also compromised as a result of poor quality sleep, with people suffering from insomnia more prone to depression and other debilitating mental health conditions. 

According to experts, sleep should be approached like exercise, with people able to train their body and brain to relax before hitting the pillow. Diet plays an important role in this process, with people advised to avoid heavy and spicy meals before bed, including caffeine and alcohol. Eating a light meal two hours prior to bedtime should help you avoid feelings of hunger, with a pre-defined bedtime normally a good idea for trouble sleepers. According to Professor David Hillman, chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, "I would also recommend that before you sleep every evening, you take time to wind down. If you’re a worrier, set aside ‘worry time’ where you sit down with a pen and paper and write your anxieties down before bed. This technique will help you put things aside.”

Along with controlling your diet, it's also important to control your environment during the evening hours by being careful about how you use technology. According to Professor Hillman, there is so much you can do to improve the quality of your sleep: “You need to get the bedroom environment right – this includes sound, lighting and room temperature – and remove all distractions, including your phone and social media after a certain point. I also wouldn’t recommend having a TV in the bedroom, but some people watch it to wind down, and it can be okay before bed, unless the content is particularly violent or rousing."

Image source: ruigsantos / Shutterstock


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