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Give brain the sleep it needs to function at optimal levels
There was a time when you could fall asleep no matter where you were or what was going on around you and there is a part of your mind that still knows how to do this. Here are some simple ways to enjoy the pleasure of benefits of natural sleep.
1. Move the body during the day
Spend time outdoors in the fresh air every day, moving, walking, gardening, whatever you enjoy doing. Not only does this promote restful sleep it has the additional benefit of burning calories and preventing weight gain.
The benefits of exercise in improving sleep patterns have been well documented. It lifts mood and reduces stress, can strengthen circadian rhythms, promoting daytime alertness, and inducing sleepiness at night. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep for people with sleep disorders, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.
A recent National Sleep Foundation poll found that regular exercisers were significantly more likely to report sleeping well on most nights than people who were not physically active.
And moving the body can help to improve not only the quantity of sleep but also the quality: studies show daytime physical activity may stimulate longer periods of slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most restorative stages of sleep.
2. Where does your mind go during the day? – Endless thinking about things we can’t change can interfere with sleep and lead to depressed feelings.
There are broadly three categories of events in life: those things we can change, things we can’t do anything about now and those things that are out of our control.
Studies have shown that if we are constantly thinking about things we can’t do anything about, the brain tries to sort things out during sleep. This means we spend far more time in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase and are not getting enough slow wave restorative rest. The cumulative effect of this is we wake in the morning tired and sluggish, feel unmotivated during the day and repeat the cycle the following night. This cycle can lead to depression.
3. You may not be able to stop that negative voice but you can bypass it
You don’t have to indulge the voice that’s constantly harping on in such a negative and alarming way – you can bypass it.
That negative voice knows how to present itself in ways that are extremely convincing and we tend to give it credibility and respect. But you can recognise it for what it is, it’s an alarmist that’s painting the worst possible scenario. And you can choose whether you buy into it or not. If you catch yourself returning to the same old thought patterns, distract yourself, go for a walk, listen to music, spend time with friends (not talking about the problem), tell those thoughts you don’t have time to waste listening to them. The more often you do this, the more distance you put between them and you.
4. Downtime prior to bedtime.
Engaging in a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual helps signal the body of the upcoming transition to sleep and improves sleep quality. Calming activities might include dimming the lights, reading, and listening to soft music. Also consider turning off blue-light devices such as television, mobile phones tablets and the like. Blue light has been shown to interfere with melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
5. Teach your brain to link lying in bed with sleeping.
When we lie in bed and think about things for long periods of time before falling asleep, our brain unwittingly links lying in bed with thinking. As a result, we may automatically go into “thinking” mode rather than “sleeping” mode when we next lie down. In order to teach your brain to pair lying in bed with sleeping, if you can’t fall asleep after 10 minutes, get up and do something calming, such as reading or meditating. Go back to bed when you feel groggy. Repeat this as many times as necessary in a given night.
This strategy may seem paradoxical, but it really works; over time, your brain will more readily go into sleeping mode rather than thinking mode when you lie down.
6. Benefits of restful sleep
Prioritizing optimal rest helps your brain function more effectively, improves recall and just may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. It also helps reduce the risk of accidents and maximizes mood, quality of life, and immune functioning.
With all of these benefits, it’s time to prioritise getting some proper rest.