Quality sleep is the foundation of health
There are the lucky few who can climb into bed and release their cares, letting them drift away, able to enjoy the restful sleep of the unburdened.
Unfortunately, most of us don't have that luxury. Instead, we struggle with untethering the events of the day we can slip into the restorative bliss of slumber.
To live our best life, we need to not only make wise eating choices and exercise regularly, but we must get the proper amount of sleep.
If you are not one of the fortunate few for whom sleep comes easily, getting the rest you need may require a little more active involvement than simply closing your eyes and waiting.
Why sleep is important
Even if you're making nutritious eating decisions so your body has all the fuel it needs to function and you're exercising regularly to keep your body in optimum working order, you still need sleep. The brain is what controls every aspect of your body. If there are toxins building up that diminish the functionality of your brain, it will be impossible for you to operate at peak efficiency.
Getting the proper amount of sleep -- 7 to 9 hours every night for adults, more for kids and teens -- will reward you with numerous health benefits. Sufficient sleep allows you to focus more sharply, concentrate longer, maintain your weight, bolster your immunity, lower your risk of disease, elevate your mood, and be more friendly and sociable. Sleep is the essential ingredient that allows you to be the best you, every single day.
What we do during the day can determine how well we sleep at night
One of the biggest mistakes we make is only thinking about sleep when it is time to go to bed. In reality, everything we do, all day long, contributes to the quality -- or lack of quality -- of our sleep. As a matter of fact, what we do during the day is so vital to how well we sleep, it is the first place we should look to make positive changes.
If you're having trouble falling asleep at night, pay attention to how much caffeine you consume throughout the day. Also, note when your last cup of coffee, can of soda, or piece of dark chocolate typically is. Additionally, be aware of the amount of sugar you ingest, the size of your meals, and the amount of physical activity you have throughout the day as these can all adversely affect your quality of sleep in different ways. Lastly, it is important to realize that indulging in a daily nap could be precisely what is keeping you from having a restful night's sleep.
Why sleep aids are a mistake
Most of us do understand that what we do as bedtime approaches has a direct effect on our quality of sleep for that night. However, those thoughts usually revolve around avoiding caffeine, sugar, screen time, and high-intensity cardio. Unfortunately, it is more often what we take, not what we avoid, that is the problem.
Sleeping pills, alcohol, Benadryl, or even melatonin can all help you drift off to slumberland on occasion, but any sleep aid used routinely can turn into dependency, making the user feel it is impossible to fall asleep without some sort of outside help. It is also important to realize any substance which inhibits nerve functionality can become dangerous if used every night.
Furthermore, regularly using sleep aids has been linked to a wide variety of conditions that range from weight gain to memory loss. Additionally, some sleep aids can linger in the body for as long as 80 hours, making tasks, such as driving, unsafe for several days at a time. However, the number one reason to shy away from sleep aids is they typically prohibit you from reaching a deep sleep, which is when the most important benefits of sleeping kick in. If you're not reaching that deep cycle, you're not getting what you need from your sleep.
The importance of those final moments
Even if you've done everything right throughout the entire day, that doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will be able to effortlessly slip into Somnus' realm the moment your head hits the pillow. In those final moments before sleep, there are three last elements to consider: the environment, your body, and your state of mind.
1. The environment
Be sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature and free of distractions -- no gadgets or devices. If you have any clocks, especially LED clocks, those should be turned so that they are not facing you. The room should be dark -- because light inhibits the body's production of melatonin - and quiet, unless you prefer sleeping with some sort of ambient noise.
2. Your body
To help place your body in the proper state needed for sleep, slow your breathing, but keep it deep and steady -- in through your nose and out through your mouth. Starting at your feet, relax each and every muscle of your body as you travel upward, letting all the built-up tension of the day drift away.
3. Your state of mind
After you've relaxed all of the muscles in your body, it's time to let go of any worries, problems, bad thoughts, or concerns that might have accumulated throughout the day. Release them so they float up and away like helium balloons to the sky. Close your eyes and slowly roll them up and down three times to mimic what happens when you sleep -- and to release more melatonin. If you don't fall asleep within a few minutes, don't rush it, simply enjoy the serenity you've created and relax.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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