We all love a good night’s sleep. After all, we need it for our bodies to stay healthy and strong. Unfortunately, many guys suffer from disturbed or lack of sleep, which all-too-often leaves us feeling grumpy, foggy, and reaching for that double-double. You know, those mornings when hitting the snooze button, and/or smashing the alarm clock, seems like a good idea.
The three biggest benefits of a good sleep
During sleep, your brain strengthens memories and skills learned while you were awake in a process called consolidation. Solid shuteye has also been linked to improved self-control and focus, as well as avoiding depression. More sleep, more effortless brain-boosting!
Research has shown that well-rested guys have less body fat than those who are sleep deprived. Plus, getting extra sleep keeps your appetite in check. To recap: you get smarter and fitter by sleeping. How easy is that!?
A lack of sleep can prevent your body from healing itself, which in turn has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature ageing. Sleep has also been shown to reduce stress, which can help lower your blood pressure.
How much sleep do YOU need?
The National Sleep Foundation has determined that 7 to 9 hours is the ideal sleep window for guys aged 26 and 65. What’s YOUR ideal sleep window? It’s easy to figure out: simply pay attention to how many hours you sleep, and whether you feel rested in the morning and alert throughout the day. If your sleep time does the trick, bravo! If it doesn’t, then it’s time to take action.
How to sleep better tonight
Thankfully, there are easy ways to improve the quality of your sleep so you can get the shuteye you’ve been missing.
Here are some tips for getting a night of better sleep.
- Keep the bedroom exclusive
For sleeping – and sex, of course! The bedroom should be a sanctuary that induces slumber. Ban the TV or computer, which is stimulating, and read a book instead.
- Keep it clean
Admit it guys: one of the reasons you like staying at your girlfriend’s is because her bedsheets smell so fresh. The bedroom should be a clean, relaxing sanctuary to help induce sleep.
- Cool down
A warm room isn’t conducive to sleep. The bedroom should be cooler than the rest of your home, about 15-18 degrees Celsius.
- Let darkness reign
The human body is programmed to wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s night. Keep the bedroom dark with heavy curtains and cover the LED lights in your electronics.
- Bye-bye booze
Don’t be fooled by alcohol’s sedative effects. They can actually thwart a good night’s sleep. If you do have a drink, try to make your last one at least three hours before bed.
- Nix spicy food
Heavily spiced food, or just a heavy meal, can also disturb sleep.
- Eliminate stimulants
Coffee, tea and nicotine can wreck your sleep patterns, so switch to decaffeinated drinks in the afternoon and ditch the cigarettes. Even chocolate, which contains a stimulant similar to caffeine, can hinder a good night’s slumber.
Exercise makes you physically tired, which helps you sleep. But exercise a few hours before bedtime does the opposite because it boosts your adrenaline levels.
- Stick to a routine
If you go to bed at about the same time every night, you’ll improve the chances of a good night’s sleep. A wild weekend can throw your sleep routine off.
- Limit the water you drink before bed
Drinking too much water right before bed can have you up to use the bathroom during the night, disrupting your sleep. Make a point of drinking water throughout the day to avoid feeling thirsty when it’s time to sleep.
- Unwind before bed
A consistent daily schedule, ending in relaxation, promotes good sleep. Read a book, listen to music, get frisky with your significant other, or listen to a relaxing sleep meditation. Check out this list of sleep apps to help you wind down.
Playing a game or composing an email causes you to tense up, often without realizing it. This can cause your adrenal gland to produce cortisol, a sleep-inhibiting hormone tied to our “fight or flight” response to stress. Half an hour of technology-free time before bed will help your mind and body transition smoothly into sleep mode.
- White noise
The only exception to the no-phones rule is when you’re running a white-noise app. These emit the steady, soothing sounds of things like oscillating fans, wind chimes and falling rain, which drown out jarring noises such as brawling raccoons or that neighbour who uses power tools after midnight. (Maybe HE should read this!)
The takeaway here: the choices you make during the day can significantly impact your sleep quality at night. Make these tips part of your bedtime routine, and chances are you’ll sleep better. Your battered alarm clock couldn’t be happier!
Do you have a bedtime routine that works wonders? Share the scoop in the comments below!
This article was originally published on April 26, 2017.
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Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. He’s been covering men’s health for over 20 years. As well as researching and blogging for Don’t Change Much since 2015, Adam’s award-winning work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and National Post newspapers.