According to research, poor sleep causes immediate detrimental effects to your brain function, hormones, and daily performance in your home or work life. If you want your health maintained at a decent standard, you should try hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and health
Maintaining healthy sleep habits is important for a healthy lifestyle. Sleeping poorly can have negative effects on your health.
Not having enough sleep causes immediate detrimental effects to your exercise performance, brain function, and hormones. It is known to cause weight gain and increase the risk of disease in children and adults.
In the past few decades, both the quantity and quality of our sleep have declined. Very few individuals regularly get a good night’s sleep.
How to get a good night's sleep
One of the essential parts of optimising your health and maintaining a healthy weight is to ensure you get a restful night’s sleep as often as you can. When you follow certain healthy sleep habits, your body is healthier and you feel better. Here are some easy ways to improve sleep.
Easy ways to improve sleep
- Increase your exposure to bright light during the day as your body’s natural circadian rhythm or “body clock” helps you stay awake and also tells your body when to sleep. Exposure to bright light or natural sunlight during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm performing at its best.
- Reduce exposure to blue light in the evening. One of the most effective ways to do this is to reduce smartphone, tablet and laptop usage after 8pm. In fact, the best thing you can do is to simply turn them off! Exposure to blue light at night reduces hormones such as melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep. Electronic devices like laptop screens and smartphones emit blue light, so using them while you’re in bed is one of the worst things to help you sleep. The light that a phone screen emits simply tells your brain to stay awake.
- Another good way is to avoid caffeine after 6pm. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, green tea and chocolate) stimulates your nervous system and prevents your body from relaxing at night. It can worsen your sleep quality significantly, especially if you consume a lot of it in the evening (or afternoon for some people).
- Try to avoid long naps during the day. Long naps during the day can negatively affect your sleep at night. If you want to nap during the day, keep it short: 30 minutes or less. If you do nap, try to do it during the earlier hours of the day. Coming home from work at 6pm and then napping for 1–2 hours is one of the worst things you can do – you’ll be awake all night and unable to focus at work the next day. Always try to keep naps to a minimum.
- Keep regular sleeping patterns. Waking up and falling asleep at different times can negatively affect the quality of your sleep. One of the best things you can do is to try to get up and go to sleep at the same time every day. Irregular sleep patterns can alter your body’s circadian rhythm and melatonin levels, deteriorating your quality of sleep.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages at night. Alcohol can increase or encourage snoring, sleep apnea or disrupted sleep patterns. It can also disturb your body’s circadian rhythm which plays a key role in the production of melatonin at night.
- Optimise the environment of your bedroom. To get good sleep, optimise your bedroom environment by minimising artificial lights and noise from devices such as alarm clocks. Ensure that your room is dark, clean, relaxing and quiet for a good night’s sleep. Your bed should be for sex and sleep only. Don’t sit in your bed and watch television, browse the web, or work.
- Set a comfortable temperature for your bedroom. Your bedroom and body temperature can negatively impact your quality of sleep profoundly. Set your bedroom to a comfortable temperature that’s between 17–18 degrees Celsius which can help promote healthy sleep.
- Avoid eating large meals in the evening. Eating a large meal especially before going to bed can lead to disruption of hormones and poor sleep.
- Relax your mind before going to bed. One of the best healthy sleep habits is to have a pre-sleep routine that relaxes you before going to bed. Relaxation techniques can improve the quality of your sleep and treat insomnia. Some relaxation strategies to try could be reading a book, listening to music, meditating, practicing positive visualisation, deep breathing, taking a hot shower or bath, having a relaxing massage, or taking a foot bath.
- Talk to your GP to rule out any sleep problems you might have. If you are consistently unable to sleep well, talk to your doctor to rule out any sleep problems. There are many conditions that could be the cause of bad sleep, such as circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders, sinus issues, sleep apnea and sleep movement disorders.
- Exercise regularly during the day. Exercising regularly during the day is one of the best ways to improve sleep. It can improve all aspects of your sleep and may even reduce insomnia. Try to keep yourself active every day of the week if possible.
- Invest in a comfortable bed, pillow, duvet blanket and mattress. The quality of the bed, pillow, and mattress can also affect your sleep quality. One important sleep recommendation is to purchase a high-quality mattress every 9–10 years.
- Don’t sleep wearing a bra at night. Sleeping in a bra at night can lead to disturbed and restless sleep.
Sleep recommendations from doctors
The National Sleep Foundation issued the following recommendations for the amount of sleep different age groups need:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours per day
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours per day
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours per day
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours per day
- Children of school age (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours per day
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours per day
- Younger adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours per day
- Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours per day
- Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours per day
You should always try to have a good night’s sleep, as it’s important to maintaining good health. Sleeping poorly can cause detrimental effects to your health and may increase your risk of disease.
There are many ways to improve sleep. Some healthy sleep habits include increasing your exposure to bright light during the day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol during the evening, relaxing your mind before going to bed, and getting regular exercise.
Talk with your doctor if you are consistently sleeping badly to rule out any problems.