A good night’s sleep has many benefits. Memory consolidation is stronger during periods of sleep; if you learn a new skill, your chances of memorizing it are greatly diminished if you stay constantly awake for the few hours following it. It is in sleep where where our memories knit tightly together, and by doing this, they are helping us to be more organised and focused, thus allowing for a greater flow of creativity and imagination. A good sleep also lessens the risk of heart disease, as those who consistently sleep well have lower blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who suffer from insomnia. And, naturally, sleep is good for reducing fatigue and improving stamina. So, if you’re an athlete, a good night’s sleep is requisite.
But for those of us who find it hard to sleep, bedtime – as well as life itself – can be maddening. Insomniacs talk of constant internal dialogues playing out in their heads as they lie stiffly awake in bed at night; they talk of feeling fuzzy all day, and their memory suffers as a result. For anyone who finds sleep hard to come by, life can be made doubly harder. You might not know it, but there are ways of curbing insomnia and engineering an awesome night’s sleep. Let’s take a look at the top 7:
- Develop And Maintain A Consistent Bedtime Ritual
You’d be seriously underestimating the power of your brain if you believed it couldn’t familiarize itself with a regular routine. Your brain is your most powerful organ; if you went to bed at a set time each night, with the purpose of waking up at the same time each morning, your brain will attune itself to this rhythm. People who have erratic bedtime patterns will invariably find it harder to get any sleep pattern going; their brain just won’t know when to settle or when to come alive.
- Adjust Your Computer’s Color Temperature
When we stare at our computer screen too long, particularly at night time, we can develop eye strain and headaches, both of which are capable of tampering with, and disrupting our sleeping patterns. Computer program developers Michael and Lorna Herf developed a piece of software called f.lux which adjusts the color temperature of your display to correspond with the time of day. So, when it’s night time, the trick is to make sure that your computer screen isn’t blazing like the sun. F.lux works automatically once you have keyed in the settings, making sure that your eyes don’t strain and you can return to a normal, healthy sleeping pattern.
- Drink Wine
No, we’re not being irresponsible here, nor are we advising you to be irresponsible. The effect alcohol has on our sleeping pattern is entirely subjective; for some, a bottle of wine is enough to knock them out for 10 hours or more, whilst for others the more alcohol they intake, the more awake they are. But science has at least demonstrated that a solitary glass of wine an hour or so before bedtime can significantly boost our chances of enjoying a good night’s sleep.
- Practice Zen
The purpose of practicing Zen Buddhism is to clear our minds of all thoughts and ideas. To attain this mental flushing, we simply sit cross-legged until there is nothing in our minds. We achieve a state of emptiness, calmness and serenity where we are not even aware anymore that we are sitting or even breathing. This kind of practice can lead to a very calm mindset, which we can then take with us when we go to bed. Lying in bed without any thoughts or ideas passing through our minds can be very relaxing indeed.
- Eat More Fat And Protein
Foods that are high in protein and fat are okay to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime – just don’t eat them as a bedtime snack as they take longer to digest. But if your diet is rich in protein, you will find that you are more responsive and alert throughout the day, and tired and ready for sleep, thereby improving your chances of a good nights sleep. Food such as turkey, tuna, cheese, tofu and steak are highly recommended.
- Nightwave Sleep Assistant
According to the website, NightWave “projects a soft blue light on the ceiling of your darkened bedroom … lay with your eyes open and synchronize your breathing with the blue wave as its movement becomes slower and slower.”
The purpose of this particularly potently tranquilizing product is to help you to ‘switch off’ and relax your body and mind. As you attune yourself to the rhythm of the light, the light gradually switches off, and you switch off with it, falling into a deep sleep.
The soft blue light acts as a guide, and you find yourself following its hypnotic lead. Subsequent research has even backed up the claim that our brain believes the blue light is daylight, and when it slowly fades away, the brain is lulled into the perception that it is now time to sleep. Even better, it’s silent and can be taken with you on your travels.
- Take A Warm (Or Cold) Shower Before Bed
There has been much science into how temperature effects our circadian rhythms, which is essentially our 24 hour body clock. This clock is largely self-sustained but it does also correspond to the environment (such as daylight) as well as external factors (such as temperature). If your circadian rhythm is out of whack, you will find it hard to sleep.
As night falls, our body temperature tends to drop; it’s manipulated by neural signals which are aware that daylight has ended.
Unfortunately, for those of us with erratic living and sleeping patterns, our body may not cool down when it’s time for bed, and as such a cold or warm shower can be more than welcome. The shower will help to slow down your metabolism and prepare you for sleep, relaxing your muscles and, in turn, your mind.
Of course, the Japanese swear by ice-cold baths before bed. It will certainly cool you down but the displeasure you feel may be enough to put you off!