Having a good night sleep is the most basic reward for a tired and weary hardworking body. Taking it for granted, or undermining its importance, greatly affects the quality of work done the next day. In extreme cases, lack of proper sleep might lead to accidents, loss of life and property.
Bad bedtime experiences, and sleeping disorder, are not an accident. They are caused by one, or more factors. Having the most comfortable bed, and a quiet, well-ventilated, soft-lighted room, prepares the body for a good night rest. In some cases, one might need more.
When sleeping becomes a problem we need to look at these possible causes, and try the easy steps to correct them.
- Bedroom isn’t dark enough. Blue light is what we get from daylight. If night time lighting emits blue light, this can trick the brain into believing that it’s still daylight. Ideally, all lights should be switched off completely for a good night sleep.
- Room temperature is too warm, or too cold. Warm temperature deters the brain from transitioning into a more relax state, which may be aggravated when the body attempts to cool itself by sweating. A properly setup split type air-conditioning unit is preferable in tropical countries. Otherwise, the electric fan may be enough. In both cases, it’s good not to be in the direct path of the forced air flow.
- Loud ambient noise. The bedroom should be insulated for extreme temperatures and loud ambient noise. Sound absorbing materials embedded in walls, ceilings, and floorings is ideal. These materials may also work as heat insulators. With the spread of electromagnetic noise, which may directly affect the brain, a properly configured Faraday Cage bedroom may be advisable.
- Overused bed sheets. Bed crawlies replicate so fast. A regular soaking of bedsheets in a solution of baking soda is a must. When short of time, a generous amount of baking soda mixed to your regular detergent will certainly help.
- Exercising within 3 hours from bedtime. While physical exercise is extremely good for blood circulation and overall well-being, it can be a bad idea when done close to sleeping time. Strenuous exertions stimulate the body’s metabolism and raise the heart rate, which may induce restlessness and keep the brain consciously awake. Physical exercise is best done as the sun rises in the morning, and an hour, or less, after the regular day’s work to relieve stress.
- Stressful activities need not go beyond the standard 8-hour work time. A disciplined and strict observance of one’s hourly schedule is one of the keys to a psychologically and physically healthier, enjoyable life. The principle is simple: be fair to oneself and avoid having all sorts of residual stress. Instead of an alarm clock, having a pen and a notebook on the side table where you can quickly record whatever thoughts, ideas, and next day tasks, which might come up, is far more useful in avoiding the stress caused by the need to remember them when you wake up.
- TV watching to tire the eyes down is a very bad idea. Some unpredictable scenes may stimulate the brain to become active. Add to that is the blue light that radiates from the TV screen, which is a perfect antidote to sleep. TV sets should only be reserved in the day rooms. Avoiding watching it within 2 hours of bedtime. Better still, TV should be thrown away, for its destructive corporate programming. For computer screens, install a software to control the strength of blue light emissions, according to the time of day.
- Alcohol consumption / cigarette smoking too late. Smoking is not a relaxant, but a stimulant. Alcohol interferes with REM sleep. Any sleepy effect that can be derived from these substances is only good for a short term, and the cost to the overall, long term well-being won’t justify the former. In general, no chemical should be used to correct sleeping disorders. Better take a good, long, and a warm shower to massage and relax the body, and end it by gradually adjusting to a short cold shower to close the skin pores.
- Consuming high volume of protein prior to bedtime may deter sleeping. Protein requires a lot of energy to synthesize. A light carbohydrate snack is much preferable.
- Avoid clockwatching. Unless you’re traveling, or on the eve of doing so, having an alarm clock on the bedside table may hamper a good night’s sleep. If unavoidable, place the alarm clock away from the line of sight as it may stimulate the brain to count for the remaining time down before sunrise, effectively interfering the natural circadian rhythm.
- Wind down through deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Before going to bed, take some deep, slow breathes while the eyes are closed, with each breathe longer and deeper than the last. Also, try slow and easy stretches.
Once you’re ready to close your eyes, all bedroom lights should be switched off.
Once the mind is fully relaxed, and the body in full comfort, a good night sleep is its natural consequence.