Develop a regular sleep and wake schedule (even during weekends). A consistent schedule will reinforce your body's sleep-wake cycle and will help you to fall asleep more easily at night.
Settle into a regular bedtime routine by engaging in the same activities every night to send a message to your body that it is time to go to sleep.
Create optimal sleeping conditions. A cool, dark, quiet and comfortable room is ideal for a good night sleep. Both temperature and humidity are significant factors that affect how frequently you wake up during the night—around 65ºF and between 60–70% humidity is generally best. Your sleep is more susceptible to interruption if the air is too warm or your buried in too many blankets. As possible, it is beneficial to sleep with a window open to circulate fresh air through the room.
Limit activity in the bedroom to sleeping. Bedtime is the period each evening to unwind and relax. Introducing work or using props like a computer or TV as a crutch to help you fall asleep is actually counterproductive and can instigate snooze-disrupting stress and anxiety.
Do not gorge close to bedtime. Eat a light dinner a minimum of 2–3 hours before going to sleep. Eating proteins at dinner, such as fish, chicken, or certain vegetables will prevent hunger pains at night. If you are hungry at bedtime, a light snack high in carbohydrates and low in protein will settle your stomach and help you sleep. Avoid spicy or fatty foods, excessive alcohol intake, caffeine and nicotine in the evening.
Finish any evening exercises at least three hours prior to bedtime. A ten to fifteen minute stretching ritual at bedtime benefits your physical and mental well-being. As part of your nightly routine, practicing light yoga and meditation will help reduce stress, clear your mind and put your joints & muscles at ease to doze off faster and slumber more soundly until morning beckons. It is good to choose a series of moves that target the muscle groups and areas where you sense the most tension.
Sleep primarily at night. Try to avoid excessive napping during the day. If you feel the need to rest, keep your naps to 20 minutes or less.
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We all know that our resting hours are characterized by different phases. The sleep stages 1–4 are collectively referred to as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, while rapid eye movement (REM) occurs during stage 5. We really rest our brain and body in deep sleep, which occurs during sleep stages 3 and 4.
Your body adjusts as it transitions through the 4 stages of NREM sleep:
Between being awake and falling asleep
Onset of sleep
Becoming disengaged from surroundings
Breathing and heart rate are regular
Body temperature drops (which is a reason why sleeping in a cool room can be helpful)
Deepest and most restorative sleep
Blood pressure drops
Breathing becomes slower
Muscles are relaxed
Blood supply to muscles increases
Tissue growth and repair occurs
Energy is restored
Hormones like growth hormone are released, which is essential for growth and muscle development
REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in your sleep cycle and comprises around 25% of your sleep.
Provides energy to brain and body
Supports daytime performance
Brain is active and dreams occur
Eyes dart back and forth
Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off
Sleep is not a luxury, it is an essential part of your health and well-being that can lead to harmful side-effects when your body does not get enough:
Always feeling tired
High blood pressure
Irritability, restlessnes, moodiness and lack of self-control
For a point of reference, sleep deprivation has been used as an interrogation technique. Interrogation victims are kept awake for several days; when they are finally allowed to fall asleep, they are suddenly awakened and questioned. Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83 described his experience of sleep deprivation when a prisoner of the KGB in Russia: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it."