7 Tips For a Good Night's Sleep
Holidays are a time for rest and relaxation, a chance to recharge the batteries, but that's only going to happen if you can get a good night's sleep -- or ideally several good nights' sleep. For some people sleep comes easily, but if you're not one of the fortunate ones who get a solid eight hours every night, here are some things you can do to improve your chances of a refreshing night's slumber.
1. Get Some Exercise
Physical exercise during the day will help you to feel tired and ready for sleep later on, so try to incorporate some physical activity into your holiday, even though you're supposed to be relaxing. Exercise has been shown to increase the length of sleep, as well as significantly reducing the time it takes to doze off. However, exercising just before bed is not a good idea, as exercise can act as a stimulant in many individuals, thus making it much harder to get to sleep.
2. Control the Temperature
Your sleeping environment should ideally be cool. If you're staying in a hotel, try to set a stable room temperature before you go to bed. One common problem is that people turn on unfamiliar air conditioners and set the temperature much lower than they really need, in an effort to cool the room down quickly. The end result is that the room will cool down to the temperature you've set, but not immediately -- and then you'll wake up in the night absolutely freezing.
One other quirk of the human condition is that we like blankets, and the protective sensation of being covered up in order to sleep. A warm blanket in a cool room provides the optimal conditions for restful sleep, while there can be one further advantage to running an air conditioner or a fan: the white noise effect can help to block out other sound distractions and help to avoid disturbances during the night.
3. Control the Light
For most people, darkness makes for deeper and longer sleep, so it helps to prepare your room in advance. One source of unwanted light is electric devices such as the TV, air conditioner, smoke detector, or charging phones and computers. You may want to cover the lights on these items using tape if they cannot be moved out of sight. Another light source can be windows which are not properly covered by curtains. Once again, tape can be the answer as you can use it to hold the curtains in place and reduce the amount of light that gets into the room.
Other problems related to light include the type of light given off by computer screens and phones, which can cause some people to have difficulty in getting to sleep. It is best not to use such devices during the period before bedtime for this reason. Conversely, bright sunlight during the day has a positive effect on sleeping habits, so if you can spend a couple of hours outside in bright daylight, this will reinforce the circadian rhythm and will help you to get to sleep later on at night.
4. Follow a Routine
It is always helpful to have a fixed routine, which involves going to bed at the same time every day. Studies have shown that people who go to bed much later than normal at weekends tend to report poor sleep, so consistency is important. One holiday sleep challenge comes when you are in a different time zone, and have to sleep at a time which your body doesn't recognize as night. To minimize the effects of jet-lag, try to avoid taking short naps during the day as this will only make it harder to sleep at night. If you can try to set your sleep patterns to the time of the destination before you travel, your body will have less of a shock and it will be easier for you to sleep well during your holiday.
5. Winding Down
As children, we often used to wind down before bed with a bath and a bedtime story. This comforting sequence of activities signals the end of the day and helps to create the right mood for sleep. As adults, it is a good idea to go through a similar process of preparing to sleep. Reading a book for a while is one way to settle down, while taking a bath or enjoying a massage can also be soothing and thus helpful.
6. Watch Your Eating
There are certain habits which should definitely be avoided if you hope to sleep well. One is drinking alcohol. You might believe that alcohol will cause drowsiness and help you to sleep better but in fact it is a stimulant that will have a negative effect on your quality of sleep. Caffeine is another stimulant which should be avoided. It can be found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, and can stay in the bloodstream for up to eight hours, so any caffeine consumption in the afternoon or evening can lead to problems. It is a bad idea in general to drink anything at all before bed, because the intake of fluids can result in waking during the night in order to visit the bathroom. Eating within three hours of going to bed can also adversely affect your sleep, partly due to the risk of indigestion, and partly because it can inhibit the release of melatonin which is needed to promote sleep.
7. Avoid Stress
One reason people can find it hard to get to sleep is because they are unable to stop worrying about tomorrow, or stop mentally replaying the events of today. Of course, this is highly counter-productive and detrimental to getting a good night's sleep. Learning to meditate can be one way to control your thoughts and manage your anxieties, thus helping you to relax your mind and achieve a longer and more refreshing night's sleep.
Sleep is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, and is just as important as the right diet and sufficient exercise. Don't hesitate to take a little time to prepare yourself to sleep well. It's all part of looking after yourself so that you can function effectively in all the other areas of your life.