While You Were Sleeping: 6 Easy Ways to Get Good Quality Zzz’s

IT reduces your weight, improves your mood, improves your concentration and boosts your immune system to ward off various ailments. Best of all, it’s free. Who knew that sleep – specifically six to eight hours of sleep for the average adult – could achieve all of this and more?

Yet why do some people feel like they haven’t slept a wink as soon as they wake up in the morning? Blame it on poor-quality sleep, says Rosalina Espiritu-Picar, MD of the Neurophysiology and Sleep Disorders Laboratory at the Philippines’ Top Makati Medical Center Hospital (MakatiMed, www.makatimed.net.ph).

“If you are able to sleep within 30 minutes or less of going to bed [sleep latency]sleep through the night and don’t wake up more than once [sleep waking]sleep for the recommended number of hours, sleep at the right time of night, spend at least 85% actually sleeping [sleep efficiency], and wake up rested and energized in the morning, you have experienced good quality sleep,” emphasizes the sleep specialist. “Poor quality sleep is the exact opposite,” she continues. “It takes you more than half an hour to fall asleep. You wake up more than once a night and stay awake for 20 minutes or more. You feel tired the next day, have difficulty concentrating, are in a bad mood and stressed.

Sleep is one of the most natural things to do, so when it doesn’t come easily, it’s probably due to a number of factors. “Maybe you’re consuming caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime, or maybe you’re stressed or anxious,” says Espiritu-Picar. “The loud snoring from sleep apnea disrupts sleep, as does the pain and discomfort of chronic conditions 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 zzz’s. These include:

Practice sleep hygiene. The doctor explains that sleep hygiene simply means good sleep habits. “Following a bedtime routine is one of the best ways to set yourself up for successful sleep,” she continues. Some of them include making sure your bedroom is dark and cool, and that your bedding is clean, soft, comfortable, and that you’re wearing something light and non-binding. You can also adopt habits like light reading and listening to soothing music, instead of staring and scrolling through your phone.

It is also best to avoid working from your bed. “That way, your brain will never associate your bed with work. If you can, try to bring your work outside your bedroom and keep screens away at least two hours before you get home,” explains the expert.

Reschedule naps. Although naps help wake you up in the middle of the day, scheduling them for late afternoon or early evening could keep you awake at night when you should be. “Try to take a nap in the early afternoon. It is recommended to take a nap of 10 to 20 minutes. This way you will not disturb your sleeping habits and your biological clock, ”exercises the doctor.

Setting a sleep schedule. By doing so, you are slowly training your brain to expect sleep at that specific time. Espiritu-Picar even recommends setting a fixed wake-up time. A fixed wake-up time defines a regular sleep time. “It 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 prevent you from changing it to suit you. at work or other activities that may disrupt your sleep goals,” she says.

Change your diet. Drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and sodas only in the morning or at the latest in the early afternoon, as caffeine can increase alertness and delay sleepiness, says the specialist. She adds that you should also avoid eating late, especially if it’s a heavy or spicy meal. “Food can keep your brain alert and awake, while spicy and acidic foods tend to cause heartburn that will keep you awake at night.”

To exercise. It is best to do moderate exercise 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 because physical activity has a stimulating effect. “Instead, you can do gentle stretches or light, simple yoga moves that can help develop mindfulness and promote better sleep,” Espiritu-Picar suggests.

Consult your doctor. Medication use, nasal and oral decongestants and corticosteroids are known to cause insomnia, the expert points out. “If you’re taking these medications and you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. He or she might recommend taking them at a time that won’t affect your sleep or replacing your medications altogether. Your doctor may also prescribe medications that can improve the quality of your sleep.

Sleep should be one of the easiest ways to stay healthy and strong, the doctor points out. “Do what you can to get the optimal amount of sleep. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Picture credits: Andisheh A on Unsplash