Are you sleeping well?
Your face is drawn, there are dark circles under your eyes… your mirror is showing you the image of someone who has slept poorly. In theory, we spend a third of our life sleeping. But it doesn't take much to make our refreshing sleep disappear… practically overnight! Result: irritability, memory and concentration problems, decreased performance and a threefold increase in the risk of traffic accidents.
Many people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. There are many reasons: overwork, stress and worry are the main culprits, but other more mundane causes can disrupt our much-needed rest:
- Consumption of stimulants
Caffeine, alcohol, etc. Take the time to check the caffeine content of drinks, foods and medications that you may be taking. We usually don't pay attention to medications unless they cause drowsiness - but some have the opposite effect.
- Noise, light or temperature
- Schedule disruption
If you're having trouble sleeping at night, maybe you're disrupting your normal sleep time by staying up to see the end of a movie, finish a book or spend time with friends. But since sleep is organized into approximately 90 minute cycles, if you miss your "train," you risk tossing and turning as you wait for the next one! Similarly, if you're a night person, there's no point going to bed with the chickens - you won't be able to fall asleep. Your eyes grow heavy and you start to yawn - it's time. Go to bed! Try, as much as possible, to go to bed and get up at the same time. If you constantly change your sleep habits (going to bed at 11 p.m. during the week and 4 a.m. on the weekend, then sleeping in until 2), normal sleep patterns will be increasingly difficult. Even though you can catch up on an occasional lack of sleep over a night or two, recuperation isn't the same for the two kinds of sleep. In fact, we catch up first on our deep non-REM sleep (physical fatigue), but a lack of REM sleep (nervous and memory fatigue) is only replenished after physical recuperation.
The social phenomenon of 24-7 is certainly not conducive to sleep. We become wound up like strings that have lost their elasticity, unable to relax.
- Timing of exercise and activities
Leave jogging and the gym for the daytime, not the evening. However, regular exercise in the late afternoon or after dinner (20 minutes of walking, for example) increases our amount of deep sleep.
- Allergies and stuffiness
- Hormonal issues
- Sleep disorders (snoring, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome)
- A poor mattress
Your bed is a key element: it's hard to spend peaceful nights when you're sleeping on a lumpy mattress or being bounced around by your bedmate's slightest movement. Mattresses should be changed every ten years: how old is yours? If you're stiff or achy in the morning, it's a signal to go bed shopping.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends.
In particular, respect your regular wake-up time. It seems to have a good synchronizing effect on the sleep-wake cycle.
Allow for some wind-down time to relax before lights-out.
Set aside a 30 minute period of calm and relaxation before going to bed.
- Drink a warm, non-caffeinated beverage before bed.
Try an herbal tea (lime tree, verbena, chamomile or orange blossom are good choices, as well as passion flower, valerian, hawthorn and hops, which reduce nervousness), or a glass of warm milk, which also has a sedative effect.
- Have a warm bath or shower each night.
However don't make the mistake of talking a hot bath at night! When your body is preparing for sleep, it lowers its internal temperature, so you have to move in the same direction. Have a lukewarm bath or shower (37° C maximum) to relax you.
- Lower the thermostat to a comfortable sleeping temperature, but keep your feet warm!
Scientists have actually proven that keeping your extremities warm promotes the dilation of small blood vessels, promoting sleep. Time to get out those bed socks!
- Wear a sleep mask or earplugs, if light or noise is an issue.
Shortening your time in bed "strengthens" sleep, while spending too long in bed without sleeping fragments and lightens sleep, so banish work and television from the bedroom. Similarly, your office shouldn't be your bedroom… working in bed is even worse!
- Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and provide support.
- Launder duvets and pillows and vacuum the mattress regularly.
- End your work day well before bedtime to give yourself a chance to relax.
- Limit caffeinated drinks to mornings.
- Try to eat an early dinner to allow time for digestion, preferably three hours before bed time.
Eat light. Difficult digestion makes sleep difficult, so avoid heavy meals before going to bed. Avoid red meat, spicy dishes, alcohol, coffee and tea. Opt instead for raw vegetables, white bread, pasta, fish and vegetables. And all dairy products contain tryptophan, a substance used to produce serotonin, a hormone that promotes rest and sleep!
- When the weather permits, go for a little walk after dinner to improve your digestion.
- Don't watch disturbing or scary movies before bed.
- Get extra-wide blankets and sheets so you don't get left out in the cold by a restless partner.
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