Sleep is very important for health and yet many of us try to get by with so little. Many people do not get enough good-quality sleep. Which means we are walking around exhausted.
A hormone called melatonin is the reason that we sleep. This hormone is released from a part of our brain called the pineal gland when we are exposed to darkness. Hence we can disrupt melatonin production by being exposed to bright lights. Melatonin regulates our sleep cycles and starts to rise about two hours before bedtime.
So how can you get a better night’s sleep?
Make sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet. The ideal temperature is around 18–22 °C along with a room that is pitch black, which encourages maximal melatonin production. A room that is quiet is also permissive for undisturbed sleep. If your partner snores try using ear plugs to reduce noise exposure.
- Avoid caffeine and drinking excessive liquids 3–4 hours before bed.
- Avoid excessive alcohol before bed – although a sedative, alcohol disrupts quality of sleep by causing you to wake when blood-alcohol levels start to fall.
- Remove electronic devices from the bedroom – the light emitted from these devices disrupts the production of melatonin.
- Do not turn on the bathroom light in the middle of the night. Consider buying a dim night light to help you see where you are going.
- Do not take work to bed with you – this increases stress-hormone production, which in turn reduces melatonin production.
- Reduce the time you spend co-sleeping with children and pets.
- Wind down in the evening by dimming the lights, keeping a peaceful environment and stopping work 1–2 hours before bed.
- Practise relaxation techniques regularly e.g. meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing.
Additionally, going to bed earlier is better than going to bed later, even if we get the same amount of sleep. This is because sleep quality has been scientifically shown to be best in the early hours of the evening.