Going through the day groggy and feeling crappy can be a major downer, especially if you have tons of stuff to do. You may be wondering why you sleep so many hours and yet you still feel sleepy.
There are a few reasons for this, but most important is how to sleep less and feel better. This article explains how.
The General Rule
For adults, there’s a general rule that you need to sleep about 8 hours a day. As I said, it’s a general rule, not a law. The average length of daily sleep was obtained from various studies on many adults. However, there are always some outliers. Some may need less than 8 hours while some may need more.
It is important to track your sleep and determine what works best for you. Personally, 8 hours of sleep makes my body hurt like I just did some hard labor. I tend to do better with about 6 to 7 hours of sleep. I know someone who cannot survive unless she gets at least 9 hours of sleep daily.
The point is, you don’t have to sleep 8 hours for you to feel rested. It may be more or less. What is important is the quality of your sleep. Sleep quality is not influenced mainly by the length of sleep but rather your sleep practices or in sleep terminology – your sleep hygiene.
How To Sleep Less And Feel Better
There is only one way to sleep less and feel better, and that’s by maintaining really good sleep hygiene. The aim of sleep is to rejuvenate your body and mind so your focus should be on the quality of your sleep.
These are a few practices you may need to incorporate into your schedule to help you sleep better.
Yes. That dreaded activity you were hoping I wouldn’t mention. Exercise has actually been tried and tested as a sleep ‘improver’. Those who exercise regularly have been found to be good sleepers, meaning that they have high-quality sleep.
Exercise plays multiple roles in improving sleep. It relieves stress, which is one factor that causes poor sleep. It also helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle which is important for you to fall asleep at the right time.
There is a time limit for the benefits of exercise. Exercising up to 3 hours before your proposed bedtime may have the unwanted effect of keeping you awake. This is because exercise revs you up, making you more alert and active, which you don’t want right before going to bed.
To get the sleep benefits of exercise, its best to do some aerobic exercise in the morning up to late afternoon for at least 10 minutes daily or, ideally, 150 minutes weekly. As much as possible, try to do this regularly to get better sleep.
2. Sleep Schedule
This is actually one of the most important factors in maintaining good sleep hygiene. It is also one of the more difficult things to do in this fast-paced era where we try to fit a billion and one things into the time we are awake.
Having a sleep schedule, a specific time to go to bed and wake up, is thought to be the best thing for our sleep-wake cycle. When we are on a schedule, the body knows when we are to wake up and when we are to sleep.
The body starts preparing for sleep close to bedtime so we are able to fall asleep faster and get more refreshing sleep.
To get better (and therefore less) sleep, set a schedule… and stick to it. Your body would adjust to the schedule you set and work to get the most out of the designated sleep time.
3. Sleep Ritual
A sleep ritual is something you do every night before you go to sleep. It could be something as simple as brushing your teeth and having a warm bath. It could also be meditation and doing a few yoga poses. It’s something that should be done 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
The idea is simple. When you do something every night before sleep, pretty soon, your body is going to understand that sleep time is near when you start doing that activity (or set of activities). This means you get to fall asleep faster when you hit the bed and the quality of your sleep is better.
Some suggestions of sleep rituals are listed below, you can do a single activity but a combination of these activities might be better.
- Dim the lights and turn down the thermostat
- Listen to music (the kind that relaxes you)
- Prayer or meditation
- Take a warm bath
- Lay out your pajamas
There are a lot more things you could do. Be creative by incorporating what gets you sleepy into your schedule. For ladies, you could do something with your hair, like brushing it or putting it up in twists.
Whatever you decide to do, remember you have to be consistent because you are training your body to recognize it as a sleep indicator.
4. Sleep Environment
If everything you do leading up to the point where you lay down to sleep is perfect for sleep… but your bed is uncomfortable, you would have just wasted good prep time. Your bed and your room have to scream- SLEEP!!!
Your bed should be free of clutter and pets. The room should be cool, quiet and dimly lit. Your mattress should be comfortable for you. The bed sheets should be clean, smell good and smooth over the mattress.
The room should generally have a welcoming atmosphere; you are not going to get much sleep in a room that looks like a tornado swept through it.
Let me talk to pet-owners for a little bit here. I know you love your pet(s) and they love you back but they have a sleep cycle that’s different from yours. This means that if they sleep on the bed with you, they may disrupt your sleep cycle.
This could keep you from getting the best out of your sleep time. It has therefore been advised that to get better sleep quality, keep your pets out of your room at bedtime.
5. Alcohol, Caffeine, And Nicotine
Personally, I call these three substances ‘sleep stealers’ because they keep you from sleeping well. Alcohol messes with your sleep cycle while caffeine and nicotine simply keep you awake and alert.
You might think that alcohol should aid sleep because people tend to sleep after drinking. The mode of action of alcohol is not to interfere with your getting to sleep, but you moving from light sleep to deep sleep. Alcohol keeps you from getting deep sleep which is what you need to feel rested.
Caffeine and nicotine tend to keep you awake even if you are tired. This shortens your sleep time and quality leaving you tired and groggy in the day. A lot of people then use more caffeine and/or nicotine to keep them awake, thus, the cycle continues.
The effects of these substances on your sleep are best avoided if they are taken more than 6 hours before bedtime. It takes a bit of time for our bodies to clear them so their effects may still be felt hours after we have consumed them.
In short, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine (including chocolate) should be avoided within the 6 hours leading up to bedtime so you could have good quality sleep. Remember, when you have good quality sleep, you won’t be tired in the day causing you to need more sleep.
6. Electronic Devices
All our electronic devices (Phones, TVs, Laptops, Tablets) are stimulants. They affect our sleep in two major ways.
The first is that the blue light these devices emit tricks our brain into thinking it’s still daytime so sleep time is afar off. Watching T.V close to bedtime or playing video games on any device is sure to keep you from falling asleep when you lay down.
It may take a while for your brain to adjust to the sudden change you have presented it with. This may cause you to lay awake in bed trying to fall asleep because you are too stimulated to sleep.
The solution to this is to put away all devices at least 1 hour before bed. This means no T.V., phone, laptop or tablet. This is the time where you begin your sleep ritual and you gradually transition into sleep mode.
The second way devices affect our sleep is more specific to phones – when we put our phones beside us as we sleep. Some believe that the radiation from our phones affects our brain waves as we sleep.
This may be true; however, what is definite is that when our phones beep next to us, it jars us out of our sleep, disrupting our sleep cycle.
The constant disruption of your sleep cycle means the sleep quality drops, leaving you tired when you wake up. Naturally, when you are tired, you tend to sleep more.
The solution to this is to keep devices a good distance away while we sleep.’ So what if my phone is my alarm?’ You ask. That’s even the more reason you need to put it some distance away.
When it’s away from you, the distant sound wakes you up slowly (which is recommended as against jarring you awake) and you have to get up to turn it off, waking you up even more (so you don’t just hit snooze and go back to sleep!).
Stress is a major deterrent to good quality sleep, so if you have a high-stress job or life you may want to start relaxation techniques to help you calm down before bed. You could try yoga, meditation, prayer, a leisurely stroll around a nearby park, a walk along the beach – anything that relaxes you.
When you de-stress before bedtime, it increases your chances of falling asleep faster and having a more restful sleep.
To be honest, some of these ideas may be difficult to adopt as daily practices but when they are done, you will realize that you don’t feel as tired and groggy in the daytime as you once did and you truly sleep a lot less and feel great!
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