Six simple ways to achieve good quality zzzs
It keeps your weight down, elevates your mood, improves concentration, and strengthens your immune system to ward off various ailments. Best of all, it is free! Who knew that sleep—specifically six to eight hours of shut-eye for the average adult—could achieve all these and more?
Yet why do some people feel as if they have not slept a wink as soon as they wake up in the morning? Blame it on poor quality sleep, says Dr. Rosalina Espiritu-Picar from the Neurophysiology and Sleep Disorders Laboratory of the top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed).
“If you can sleep within 30 minutes or less after getting into bed (sleep latency), sleep straight through the night and wake up no more than once (sleep waking), sleep in the recommended number of hours, sleep at the right time of the night, spend at least 85 percent sleeping (sleep efficiency), and wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, you experience good quality sleep,” the sleep specialist points out.
“Poor quality sleep is the exact opposite,” she continues. “It takes you longer than half an hour to fall asleep. You wake up more than once a night and lie awake for 20 minutes or more. You feel tired the next day, have difficulty focusing, and are moody and stressed.”
Sleep is one of the most natural things to do, so when it does not come easily, it is likely due to several factors. “Perhaps you are consuming caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime, or maybe you are stressed or anxious,” says Dr. Espiritu-Picar. “The heavy snoring of sleep apnea disrupts sleep, as do the pain and discomfort of chronic diseases like acid reflux, cancer, and body aches. You may also have an undiagnosed sleep disorder like insomnia or involuntary movement of the limbs.”
To enjoy a good night’s rest, the doctor suggests changing your habits and creating an atmosphere conducive to getting your zzzs. These are ways to get good sleep.
‘If you can sleep within 30 minutes or less after getting into bed (sleep latency), sleep straight through the night and wake up no more than once (sleep waking), sleep in the recommended number of hours, sleep at the right time of the night, spend at least 85 percent sleeping (sleep efficiency), and wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, you experience good quality sleep.’
Practicing sleep hygiene. Dr. Espiritu-Picar explains that sleep hygiene simply means good sleep habits. “Following a bedtime routine is one of the best ways to set yourself up for sleep success,” she continues. Some of these include making sure your bedroom is dark and cool, and that your beddings are clean, soft, comfortable, and wearing something light and non-constricting. You can also adopt habits like light reading and listening to calming music, instead of staring and scrolling on your phone.
It is also best to avoid working from your bed. “This way your brain will never associate your bed with work. If you can, try bringing your work outside your bedroom and keep screens away at least two hours before tucking in,” the expert says.
Rescheduling naps. While naps help perk you up in the middle of the day, scheduling them in the late afternoon or early evening could keep you up at night when you should be sleeping. “Try napping in the early afternoon. It is recommended to nap anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. This way, you will not mess up your sleep patterns and body clock,” the doctor exerts.
Setting a sleep schedule. By doing so, you slowly train your brain to expect to sleep at that specific hour. The doctor even recommends setting a fixed wake-up time. A fixed wake up time sets a regular sleeping time. “This will help you and your body develop that discipline of making sleep a priority no matter what. Following your sleep schedule consistently even on weekends will keep you from tweaking it to accommodate work or other activities that can disrupt your sleep goals,” she says.
Changing your diet. Drink caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda only in the morning or latest by early afternoon, as caffeine can increase alertness and delay sleepiness, the specialist asserts. She adds that you should also avoid dining late, especially if it is a heavy or spicy meal. “Food can keep your brain alert and awake while spicy and acidic food tends to cause heartburn that will keep you up at night,” says Dr. Espiritu-Picar.
Exercising. Moderate exercise is best done in the morning or afternoon to boost your energy levels throughout the day and help you sleep better at night. Avoid high-intensity workouts less than three hours before bedtime as physical activity has a stimulating effect. ”Instead, you can do gentle stretching or light and simple yoga movements that can help develop your mindfulness and promote better sleep,” she adds.
Consult with your doctor. Medication, nasal and oral decongestants, and corticosteroids have been known to cause insomnia, the expert points out. “If you are taking these medicines and are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. He or she could recommend you take them at a time that will not affect your sleep, or replace your medication altogether. Your doctor can also prescribe medication that can improve the quality of your sleep,” says Dr. Espiritu-Picar.
Sleep should be one of the easiest ways to stay healthy and strong. says the doctor. “Do what you can to get the optimum amount of sleep. Your body and mind will thank you for it.”