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Sleep habits: top tips for better sleep

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Getting a good night’s sleep is an often neglected aspect of your health. Sleep tends to be the first thing that is sacrificed in a busy person’s life, but this is a huge mistake. If you want to optimise your health, then getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do. Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night's sleep — from work stress and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges. It's no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive. While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Consider these simple tips for better sleep, from setting a sleep schedule to including physical activity in your daily routine. In this section, you will learn some of the most effective tips that can help you get quality sleep. Wake up at the same time every day: Doing this one thing alone will practically ensure you regularly get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it’s not a very easy thing to do, at least for most people. You must do this every day, including weekends. Using this method, it doesn’t matter when you go to sleep. This system is self-regulating, because if you got very little sleep one day, you’ll be tired and go to bed earlier the next day. It can take about ten days to two weeks to get completely used to it. If you want to go all out with this, you can also determine what is your perfect bed time given a time you plan to wake up. Consider your sleep cycles: Instead of thinking of the amount of sleep you get in terms of hours, consider it in terms of 90-minute sleep cycles. To get all the benefits of sleep, you must complete full cycles. If you have a given time that you want to wake up, you can determine the ideal time to get to sleep by counting back in 90-minute increments. Everyone has different sleep needs, but this means you will probably want to go to sleep 6, 7.5, or 9 hours before you need to wake up. Don't eat a heavy meal before bed: Forcing your body to digest a big meal makes it harder to relax, and therefore harder to sleep. You should avoid eating a significant meal for at least two hours before bed. Eat snooze foods: If you are hungry at night, you don’t need to deny yourself a snack. Several foods promote sleep by helping to optimise the release of melatonin. Turkey and warm milk contain tryptophan (the precursor to melatonin), while honey contains orexin, which reduces alertness. Marmite, almonds, camomile and oatcakes are also good, and bananas have high levels of serotonin and magnesium. Never go to bed hungry – try eating an early evening meal then a sleep-inducing bedtime snack. Create a better sleep environment: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you should block out unwanted noise, keep the room slightly cool, make sure your room is dark enough, and have a comfortable bed. Be sensible about your caffeine intake: Everyone responds to caffeine differently, but you should probably avoid consuming caffeine after dinner. You should also generally moderate your caffeine intake, because it can stay in your system and affect your sleep even if you don’t realise it. Power down before bed: Your body uses light as a cue for regulating your sleep cycle. Light prevents your body from secreting melatonin, the hormone that makes you tired. Dim the lights and turn off all your devices — smartphones, laptops, TVs, all of which belong outside the bedroom — about 60 minutes before bedtime.  Bright light is one of the biggest triggers to our brains that it’s time to be awake and alert, so start sending the opposite signal early. Before bed, prepare for the next day: A lot of people have difficulty falling asleep because their mind is racing with thoughts of what they need to do in the future while they are laying in bed. To avoid this, set aside a few minutes before you get in bed where you write out a to-do list for the next day. Not only will this slow your mind down, but it will help keep you organised and be more productive in general. Use progressive muscle relaxation: This is a stress management technique, but it is very effective for promoting sleep. First, while laying in bed, try to relax your entire body. Next, go through each specific muscle group one at a time and make it as tense as possible, relaxing it before moving on to the next one. Start with your forehead and move all the way down to your toes. When you are finished, check your body and see what parts are still tense. For each of these muscles, repeat the tension and release three or four times. Include physical activity in your daily routine: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however. Most of us don’t exercise intensely enough to really rev ourselves up so much that we override the sleep-promoting benefits of regular workouts. However, especially in people with trouble sleeping, making sure your sessions end at least a couple of hours before bedtime is generally a good idea.Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too. Manage worries: Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Clearing your mind of this mental clutter can help you drift off more smoothly.Meditation also can ease anxiety. Go to sleep when you’re truly tired: Struggling to fall sleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep. Set an alarm to go to bed: If you find yourself consistently wishing you had hit the hay earlier but staying on track with a calming bedtime routine is virtually impossible for you, consider setting yourself an alarm — to go to bed.
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