Fact: sleep is good for you
. It ranks right up there alongside drinking plenty of water and not forgetting your wife’s birthday under the category “things that will make you live longer”. Getting enough sleep improves focus, helps with stress and yes, it can even increase longevity
according to some studies
. The optimal number of hours of quality sleep required depends largely on one’s age and unique genetic composition, but most experts place the figure at between 7 and 9 hours for a healthy adult.
It is also important that the sleep you do get is sufficiently deep and restful in order for it to be considered beneficial. So-called “light” (or non-REM, stage 1 and stage 2) sleeping, tossing and turning and frequent waking does not constitute quality sleep, and is likely to leave you feeling tired and agitated the next day.
But, with the mounting pressures and worries of everyday life – work, money, relationships – many of us may find quality sleep eluding us and consequently our health and overall performance of daily tasks are affected in a negative way.
Here are some tried and tested tips for getting a good night’s rest.
Take it easy on the caffeine
Caffeine (the active ingredient in coffee) is a powerful central nervous system stimulant, which means that it has a “perking up” effect, making a person feel more awake and alert. The problem is that, if you overdo it or enjoy coffee too close to bedtime, your CNS will become overstimulated, you’ll become “wired” and find it difficult to “switch off” and fall asleep. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking that caffeine is only found in coffee. Some tea varietals and even chocolate contain considerable amounts of the substance!
Do some light exercise
The health benefits of exercising have been well-documented
. From improving cardio-vascular performance
to burning fat
, there aren’t too many cases to be made against hitting the gym! But did you know that getting the blood pumping an hour or two before bedtime can actually help you sleep better? Experts caution against exercising too close to bedtime
, however, as your breathing and heartrate may require some time to return to normal levels.
Stick to a sleep schedule
Our bodies love routine, and severe deviations from our daily schedules have the tendency to jolt the system and disturb our bodies’ equilibrium. Try to go to bed and wake up at more or less the same time every day to keep your body – and mind – happy.
When you switch off, really switch off
This is becoming increasingly difficult to do in a technology-driven and obsessed society. Even when the lights are off, cellphones, tablets and television sets cast their spectral glow and remind us that we’re never truly disconnected from the world. This, as it turns out, is not a good thing. How many of us can truthfully say that we don’t use our mobile devices in bed, checking emails, chatting, playing games, etc.? As difficult as it may be, we need to condition ourselves to completely switch off the moment that we get into bed.
Because it’s that easy, right? Not quite. Worry is one of the leading causes of not getting proper sleep, and contributes to a plethora of other health issues including strokes and heart attacks, stomach ulcers and, according to some studies, even cancer. Excessive worrying also leads to a compromised immune system, which essentially means that your body lets down its guard. There are plenty of ways to tackle excessive stress such as meditation, exercise and, in extreme cases, seeking professional help.
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