Usually, being employed in the health sector doesn’t just mean having a job, it’s a lifestyle. Going to bed and waking up in the morning at the same time every day and having a structure is key advice for sleeping easier, but not everyone has that luxury. Working alternating shifts, adapting to new environments and a lack of consistent daily routine, are all common duties which can affect sleep habits.
A good night’s sleep can mean many things for us. It refreshes us physically and mentally, leading to better overall health, but it also increases our memory and proficiency, so we make less mistakes at work. In a profession that involves sacrificing your own health in favour of others’, especially right now, having a well-deserved snooze is one way you can take better care of yourself,
1. Wind Down for an Hour Before Bed
After a long or stressful shift, there are various relaxing ways to prepare yourself for sleep. By slowly reducing your activity levels and switching the focus of your attention to one task, you can calm your mind so it’s not over-stimulated or overthinking. This includes simple things like reading, listening to an audiobook or peaceful music and writing a diary or a to-do list. Avoid using computers and phones, as our brains confuse the blue light with sunlight.
Other ideas include having a warm (not hot) bath or non-caffeinated drink to bring your body to optimum resting temperature, practice breathing techniques or perform light yoga stretches. Heavier types of exercise can have the opposite effect on our brains.
2. Be Health & Time Conscious
What we consume and the time of day we do it have a big impact on our ability to sleep and the quality. Generally, eating better has numerous benefits for our wellbeing, so it’s easier to talk about what we should avoid.
The same way an overstimulated brain can stop us sleeping, an overactive body can have the same effect. Nicotine, alcohol, sugar and caffeine all cause chemical reactions inside us. Cutting out/down on these, especially during the evening, means our internal activity is more relaxed.
Eating heavy meals before bed can also have a negative impact. For example, spicy and carb-rich foods like curry and rice can also wake your body up. If you’re able, eating dinner at least two hours before you sleep is recommended, to give your body time to digest and process food.
3. Exercise Daily
Exercising makes us feel tired, we all know that, but there’s little time to fit it in. With enough exercise during the day sleep should become more natural. When we rest our mind and body are being repaired, refreshed and improved. Mixing activity types can make going through the stages of light sleep, REM and deep sleep more balanced, and the benefits we receive are increased. Even small doses of daily exercise can show results in the long term if done consistently.
4. Be Comfortable
A comfy mattress and pillow and soft, breathable sheets can of course help you relax and provide great rest, but have you also considered what else is in your bedroom? Your brain can associate certain items you own, like televisions, computers and speakers with non-sleeping activity. Your bedroom should be a relaxing place with no distractions. Practice some feng shui and see if you can move your furniture around in a way that creates a different energy. Aim for cosy, not busy.
It comes as no surprise that these tips are all health related. They are all small changes in their own way that return big results when worked into a daily routine. Most importantly, they focus on providing small amounts of structure and allows for some ‘you’ time. Of course, everybody is different, so if sleeping is still an issue after trying new techniques, you can contact your doctor for advice.