This year one of the biggest health problems we have faced is a lack of sleep, with a flurry of studies showing how our chronic lack of shut-eye is negatively affecting many aspects of our health.
If one of your New Year's resolutions is to be a healthier and happier you, then more sleep is the best way to start. Here we round up some expert tips to help you get a more restful night's sleep in 2018.
1. Set a regular sleep schedule
It can be tempting to sleep in on the weekend thinking you'll catch up on some zzzs, but recent research shows that keeping to a regular sleep pattern is actually better for health. Sleep expert Matthew Walker advises setting a regular sleep schedule which involves going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even after a bad night's sleep or on the weekend.
Kathleen Farrell and Jane Reagan from Wardenburg Health Services at the University of Colorado at Boulder also add that if this is too difficult you can instead aim to keep times within one-hour windows of when you want to get to bed or wake up by. While it may take a few nights for your body to settle into the pattern, you'll start feeling more rested and able to focus once you make it a habit.
2. Reassess your bedroom environment
Making your bedroom a relaxing space is an important factor in getting quality sleep, and the space should be reserved only for rest, so no working, eating, or watching television in bed.
Both Walker and Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. Philip Alapat recommend keeping your bedroom temperature cool, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with Alapat adding that your bedroom should also be dark and quiet. Try blackout curtains, eye masks, ear plugs, or fans if you need some help.
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3. Take time to wind down
Walker and Alapat both agree that we should take time to wind down at least an hour before bedtime. While this includes switching off screens and turning down the lights to prepare your body for sleep,
Alapat also suggests thinking about your evening activities before bedtime. Don't expect to immediately fall asleep after watching something like an intense action movie - your brain will be too alert and will need some time to wind down from those kinds of activities. Instead try something more relaxing such as taking a bath or reading a book.
4. Turn off all screens
Probably one of the biggest culprits disrupting our sleep is the use of tablets and screens before bedtime, with research throughout the year linking the rise in screen use to the decrease in our quality and quantity of sleep.
Too much screen time before bedtime can affect the release of melatonin, the hormone which helps you to doze off and have a restful night of sleep, so avoid checking Facebook, emails, or having a Netflix session for at least two hours before bedtime if you can.
This article was first published on AFP Relaxnews.