Without quality sleep, we may start having serious problems with our mental capacity. Picture: Pexels
Without quality sleep, we may start having serious problems with our mental capacity. Picture: Pexels

When counting sheep is not an option: 5 ways to get better quality sleep

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Apr 28, 2020

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As a measure to stop the spread of Covid-19, changes in our routine had to be implemented: life as we know it has been interrupted.

All of these changes impacted our natural body “clock” that plays a key role in regulating our sleep pattern and the quality of our sleep.

Some days you may be falling asleep easily, while on others you may be counting sheep till the early hours of the morning.

But, without quality sleep, we may start having serious problems with our mental capacity.

The World Sleep Society has found that there is a direct correlation between your quality of sleep and your overall well-being and that extended periods of poor sleep can have a serious impact on your mental capacity: Two weeks of only six hours of sleep can equal the same decreased attention as two nights of total sleep deprivation.

Dr Liborio Parrino, Chair of the World Sleep Day Committee, says better quality sleep also reduces the risk of labor-related and road accidents, promotes the secretion of melatonin and protects the natural circadian clock, which can prevent premature ageing in humans.

“Extending our sleep period also improves our mental and body performances during the day and, last but not least, enhances our dreaming experience, as REM stages are mostly concentrated in the final portion of sleep, which is often curtailed by the urging rules of modern life.”

The National Sleep Foundation says healthy sleep habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good sleep hygiene.

Try to keep the following sleep practices on a consistent basis:

Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. 

Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.

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