SLEEP AT THE RIGHT TIME
Your body has a natural way of telling you when the best time to sleep is. And taking a cue from it can help you build a good sleep pattern. Every 24 hours or so the human body naturally goes through physical and mental changes. This cycle, known as the Circadian Rhythm or Sleep/Wake Cycle, explains why we feel tired at certain times and more alert at others – it is your body’s internal clock. It is mainly affected by light and darkness, so for example, when it begins to get dark, your brain generally sends a signal to your body that it is time to start ‘shutting down’ – and this is the best time to go to sleep. Similarly, when the sun begins to rise, your body receives the signal that it is time to wake up. However, if you do not go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday, especially if it doesn’t coincide with daylight and night, your Circadian Rhythm can be disrupted and it can affect how alert and energetic you feel.
The best way to create a good sleep pattern is to ‘help’ your Sleep/Wake Cycle, by going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. This regulates your body’s internal clock, which in turn goes a long way in helping you sleep through the night, as well as get a better quality of sleep.
CREATE A BEDTIME ROUTINE
Another way to get into a good sleep pattern is to schedule in a daily bedtime routine that helps your body and mind relax and get ready for sleep every night. Besides it being a chance to physically calm your body down, it is also a great way to fit in some ‘me time’ every day.
One of the main reasons people find it hard to stick to a bedtime routine is that they try to fit in too many things into it too soon. You might currently feel like just getting in a shower that lasts 5 minutes is a big ask, so how could you possibly fit in a 20 minute bedtime ritual! The key is to add things one at a time to your bedtime routine and then slowly build up from there. So for example, in week 1, add 5 minutes of writing down 3 things you were grateful for during the day, after your shower and before you lie down to sleep. In week 2 perhaps include aromatherapy candles and extend your bath time to 10 minutes. In week 3, try to include 5 minutes of meditation, etc.
A bedtime ritual must be built around your personality type and what relaxes you. For example, some people find peace in planning and structure, so for them making a To Do list for the next day or checking off the current day’s To Do list might be what calms them down and makes up a part of building their good sleep pattern.
Here are a few ideas, to get you thinking about what could potentially make up your bedtime ritual:
- Rhythmic breathing exercises that induce good sleep
- Sleep inducing Yoga asanas
- Time to connect and bond with your partner, child, or other housemate
- A soothing drink like Chamomile tea
- Listening to relaxing music
- Reading something pleasant
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation, especially if you are particularly prone to anxiety.
EXERCISE FOR GOOD SLEEP
Making exercise a part of your daily routine could comprise another important element of scheduling your way to a good sleep pattern. Daily exercise not only helps you fall asleep, it also helps you sleep through the night, improves the quality of your sleep and can even alleviate insomnia, according to a study by Northwestern University.
Researchers have found that partaking in moderate aerobic exercise improves the quality of your sleep; that is, it increases the amount of slow wave or deep sleep that you have. Slow wave sleep is the kind that allows your body and mind to rejuvenate, so the more of that, the better.
Exercising is probably the easiest and quickest way to see an improvement in the quality of your sleep – it can happen even on Day 1 of you starting to exercise! Aim for 30-40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, like a brisk walk for example. Or pick a fun class like power yoga, tabata or kickboxing if you want something a little more exciting that you know will keep you coming back day after day. If you’re new to exercising, take some time to figure out which sport or activity is THE one for you. Swimming and Cycling are also known to be great exercises for good sleep!
Also experiment with which time of the day works best for you, keeping in mind what is the best time to sleep, as mentioned earlier in this article. Some people find that exercising in the evening fills them with an extra burst of energy that lasts till bedtime and may not be conducive to falling asleep. Others find that exercising first thing in the morning leaves them feeling tired by noon. For some people it doesn’t matter what time of the day they exercise. So figure out what works best for your body and mind, and stick to it.
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