Sleep is a state when the metabolism, mental activity slows down, giving us time to wake up refreshed. It is essential for an optimal functioning of a living organism. This is the time when our body winds down and repairs the wear and tear of the day’s labor.
Given below are five steps you can take for peaceful sleep to wake up refreshed.
1. Set a time to go to sleep and an alarm to wake up.
This may sound like an obvious advice but most people who have trouble falling asleep are those who cannot set a time to go to bed for reasons like shift work, new parenthood, care for an elderly/disabled individual. Our body’s functioning follows a pattern known as “circadian rhythm”. It’s set up with day/night, wake/sleep changes with a 24 hour cycle. Sleep is an integral part of sustaining this rhythm. Setting a fixed time every day to go to sleep is a great way to set this rhythm straight. After a few nights of difficulty falling asleep at a new time your body will get used to it and make falling asleep and waking up easier.
2. Avoid caffeine, stimulants, alcohol and tobacco before bed
Coffee and tea should be avoided after sunset for those aiming for a peaceful sleep. Stimulants in these can push your sleep by hours if taken as early as 4pm in the evening. Contrary to the widespread belief, alcohol doesn’t make sleep better. Nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant, its physiological and psychological effects affect the sleep cycle adversely.
3. Don’t look at screens (phones, laptops, TV) in bed.
All electronic screens emit blue light. Blue light is a signal for day time to our brain. No amount of blue light filters can completely correct this. Therefore, remove those screens from the bedroom. Keep your mobile away from you while charging, laptop should be left at the desk and TV should be in the living room. Do not associate bedroom with any activity other that sleep and sex.
4. Exercise daily
Regular light to moderate exercise during the day or early evening is great for your body. If you are trying to shift to a new sleep cycle, adding exercise to your routine will only help with adjusting faster. Exercise not only tires out your body to help you fall asleep, it also produces “happy” neurotransmitters in the brain which improve the quality of sleep. Thus, helping you sleep more peacefully and wake up refreshed.
5. Practice meditation or mindful breathing techniques before/in bed
Start with a minute or two of mindful breathing or meditation before bed. No difficult asana is required, the wonderful “shav-aasana” i.e. laying on the bed comfortably, on your back, with hands and feet relaxed works well for this practice. It is helpful in removing distracting thoughts from your mind and helps with a peaceful sleep.
There may be illnesses that are interfering with your sleep such as obstructive sleep apnea, central apnea, chronic cough, pain or mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar and panic disorder. If you are suffering from these, seek medical opinion and treatment. It is necessary as lack of a good sleep only worsens these.