6 steps to better sleep

43% of Gen Y are concerned with a lack of sleep. Here’s 6 easy ways to improve your slumber.

Sleep. We all love it. We all need it. Most of us want more of it. And it seems to be a problem that affects us more when we’re younger. 43% of Society of the Serpent are concerned about lack of sleep, compared to 35% of Australians aged 65+. So how can we change that and get a better, longer, more restorative night’s sleep?

Here are six ways to improve your slumber.

1. Exercise regularly

Getting in some daily exercise can help you to develop better sleeping patterns, fall asleep more quickly, and deepen the quality of your shut-eye. They key is persistence – one hard workout won’t have an immediate effect on your sleep, a recent study at Northwestern University found, but regular daily exercise will improve your sleep habits over time. Try to schedule your exercise in the morning or afternoon though, as exercising too close to bed time can make it more difficult to sleep, not easier.

2. Switch off before bed

Many studies have suggested that using electronic devices with backlit displays before bed can disrupt our sleep cycles. Research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for example, shows that two hours of exposure to backlit devices can cause melatonin suppression, which may lead to delayed sleep by confusing the brain into thinking it is daytime. Try to turn off your gadgets at least one or two hours before bed and enjoy a more restful sleep.

3. Adjust your temperature 

Being too warm can lead to disrupted sleep as your body tries to reset its core temperature. Adjust your blankets, open the window or arrange a fan to keep your body temperature at a comfortable coolness. As a general guide, one study from France suggested that the ideal sleeping temperature for most adults is around 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.

4. Skip the nightcap

While it’s true that a glass of wine at night can be relaxing and help you nod off quickly, once you fall asleep alcohol is actually damaging to your sleep cycle. Research conducted at the London Sleep Center suggested that alcohol interferes with REM sleep, the deepest sleep stage, resulting in a choppy, wakeful night that can leave you feeling unrefreshed in the morning. The more alcohol you drink, the greater the impact on your sleep.

5. Ditch your afternoon coffee

Your late-afternoon caffeine boost might be disrupting your sleep, even if it’s six hours before bedtime, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine in Detroit say. Caffeine shortens the deep-sleep phases of your sleep cycle, resulting in poorer sleep quality and duration. Sleep experts suggest not drinking coffee or other caffeinated products after lunchtime, or at least eight hours before bedtime.

6. Try meditation

Taking some time out before bed to relax your mind through meditation can be an effective way to improve your sleep. Something as simple as focusing on your breathing for a few minutes can be a good place to start, or you could try listening to relaxation music or a guided meditation. Practising meditation during the day can also lower your overall stress levels, giving you a better chance of getting a good night’s rest.

Recommended reading - Issue Twelve Winter 2015

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