A nutritious diet, a good night’s sleep and some daily activity go a long way to helping you live a happy, healthy life. Poor sleep is implicated in weight gain, mental health and wellbeing and productivity. Here are some simple steps to improve your sleep hygiene, so that you can increase your energy and make better lifestyle choices every day.
How did you sleep last night? Perhaps it was a full 8 hours, or more. Perhaps it was interrupted, or you might have even woken up feeling exhausted. No matter which way you catch your Z’s, have you thought about how your sleep could be affecting your health?
Research has linked a lack of sleep to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, unwanted weight gain, lowered immunity, and strain on the heart in the form of high blood pressure and a higher heart rate.
If you are prone to aching joints, did you know that the quality of sleep you have affects your pain levels the next day? Setting a healthy bedtime routine is essential not only your overall wellbeing, but for keeping your joints healthy as well.
The three main pillars of health are considered to be eating well, sleeping well, and moving well. This may seem like a lot to get right, but the good news is that if you get just one of these under control, they have a positive ripple effect on to the others.
As an example: Exercise during the day has been proven to increase sleep quality. If you’ve slept well, it’s likely that you’ll have more energy to exercise again the next day. And if you complete that exercise, you’ll be more likely to make consciously healthy food choices, in order to not ‘undo’ your good work. This upward spiral all starts with just one step!
If sleep quality and duration are an issue for you, try the following proven strategies for maximising sleep and minimising your fatigue:
- Make sure your bedroom is kept cool, dark and quiet. Warm temperatures might feel nice and comfortable but are actually not ideal for falling and staying asleep!
- Avoid artificial light in the lead up to bedtime – especially your smart phone or tablet. Most phones and tablets have a feature which reduces the blue light being emitted from your screen at night time, and it’s the blue light which prevents your body from going into deep sleep.
- No TV in the bedroom – for the same reasons as above! In addition to the blue light exposure, research has shown that spending time in bed whilst not actually sleeping in it (eg: reading, on your phone, watching TV) disrupts your sleeping pattern. Bed should be used exclusively for sleep, so that your body knows that it’s time to wind down and relax.
- Be aware of the impact of caffeine and alcohol on the nervous system. Caffeine is a stimulant, and therefore will make it more difficult to sleep. Alcohol is a nervous system depressant, and so it may be easy to fall asleep after a few drinks, the quality of this sleep is not ideal.
All habits take time to build and sustain before they become part of your lifestyle. You may like to get into the habit of starting your day by reflecting on the following questions:
- How well did I sleep last night?
- How can I move well today?
- How can I eat well today?
Slowly but surely, these three factors start to improve one another and you’ll be well on the way to a healthy, happier life.
About the Author: Jennifer Smallridge
Jennifer is a highly qualified Exercise Physiologist (Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science and Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology). Her broad experience in the industry spans private practice, hospitals and community health; developing special interests in cardiovascular physiology, weight loss, joint pathologies, neurological conditions and chronic pain. In addition to her role as an exercise physiologist, Jennifer is an academic lecturer in the fields of Exercise Science, Human Anatomy and Physical Activity for Health. She is also a keen exerciser herself, and keeps fit through strength training, yoga, Pilates, dancing and cycling.