Getting good quality sleep is essential for the proper functioning of the mind and body. How you sleep impacts how you wake up the following morning, and this ultimately affects your day.
How well you sleep is affected by the number of hours you sleep. In today’s world, it’s not unusual to find many people cutting the number of hours slept to meet family demands, work targets, including academic and business deadlines. The effects, if this continues on a regular basis, range from tiredness, exhaustion, and burnout to poor health, reduced concentration, performance, and productivity issues, including accidents and errors.
The National Sleep Foundation Guidelines published in 2015 (cited in PubMed.gov) advises that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. People over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
In addition to healthy eating and exercising, sleeping well is one of the key components of good health. There are some factors that can enhance your sleep, help you create a better sleeping experience, and ultimately good physical and mental health. Having an early bedtime is one of such factors.
But what defines early bedtime?
An early bedtime or ideal bedtime means sleeping at a time that gives 7 – 9 hours of sleep as recommended.
There are daily habits/practices, i.e., sleep hygiene, that can help you get enough sleep time, sleep well, and feel rested.
End Your Day Well
We tend to focus more on the start of the day than we do at the end of the day. It is important to note, however, that both the beginning of the day and the end of the day are equally important.
Whilst what you do in the first hour of the day sets the pace for that day and impacts your outcomes, so does what you do before you go to bed and when you go to bed impact the quality of your sleep.
Listed below are 5 things you should consider to help you end the day well and promote good sleep:
Keep a consistent routine. Have a set time for bed and a set time for waking up. A consistent sleep schedule helps to maintain a healthy and stable circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle). It’s understandable that sleep and wake times will vary from individual to individual, but it is important that your set time allows at least 7 hours of sleep. If your work or business commitments are scheduled to start at 7 am in the morning, and it takes you 60 to 90 minutes to prepare, get ready, complete your morning routine, and commute. This means you need to be up and out of bed by 5.30 am. To get at least 7 hours of sleep, you should be in bed by 10.30 pm. Because we don’t always fall asleep immediately, we get into bed. Ideally, you need to factor in another 20 to 30 minutes. So bedtime for a 7 am start should be around 10 pm. If you can make it earlier, the better. If you are a parent, having a schedule that includes bedtime for the children is advisable.
Get yourself in a relaxing mood by preparing for your bedtime. Avoid eating meals immediately before you sleep. A set time to switch off the TV, laptops, tablets, etc., usually helps. Make sure you have a tidy bed; I usually tidy my bed in the morning and include this as part of my morning routine. Having an organized environment with appropriate lighting, zero noise, and the right temperature can also go a long way in providing the calmness required for sleep. Do whatever works for you. Also, consider using the appropriate mattress, pillows, and beddings to suit your individual needs and preferences that will help you get comfortable and relaxed for the night.
It’s important to unwind towards the end of the day. Regardless of the hours you work, there must come the point where you ‘turn off the engine’ and let it cool down. You can choose whatever works for you – shower, swim, sit in your favorite spot, or it could be just merely sipping a cold drink.
Spend time at the end of your day to think about what’s gone well during the day and commend yourself for it. Think about what you could do differently on the things that have not gone so well. Avoid complaining, criticising, or condemning; rather, just reflect and place more emphasis on the blessings and lessons of the day. Journaling gratitude, especially at the end of the day, is a great way to get in a positive mood for a good sleep. I practice MAP (Meditation, Affirmations, and Prayers): meditating on God’s word, positive affirmations, and prayers.
A bit of light reading is usually helpful. It re-focuses your mind and helps you sleep better. Read something not mind-boggling or complicated. Something completely different from what you have focused on during the day. Avoid listening to or reading the news late at night due to the possibility of soaking in bad or sad news. If possible, read from a physical book rather than your iPad, tablet, kindle, or phone.
Recommendation for Referral
Clinical or medical intervention is necessary if there are medical reasons for on-going poor sleep and sleeping difficulties. If you have long-standing sleep problems, chronic sleep disorders, or an unstable underlying diagnosed medical condition causing sleep issues, please speak with your doctor or specialist for medical advice and medical support.
Getting good quality sleep for better physical and mental health starts with ending the day well and setting an early/ideal bedtime that encourages a regular and consistent sleep pattern of at least 7 to 8 hours daily. The practices above will help get you on track to achieve this.