A good night of sleep is an essential investment into one’s overall health and wellbeing, however, we often cheat ourselves of its rewards. Try my top five tips to gaining a good night’s rest with the ultimate goal of optimal physical health.
By Jason T Smith, Physiotherapist, Author of ‘Get yourself Back in Motion’ and founder of the Back In Motion Health Group
Thermoregulation is the ability to maintain our core body temperature within a normal range, even when there are changes in the surrounding temperature.1
Thermoregulation and your surrounding temperature have been found to be linked to one’s ability to sleep. When you sleep, your body temperature naturally decreases2, therefore it is believed that a cooler room temperature may be most conducive to sleep because it mimics your internal body temperature. This decreases the energy required for maintaining your core body temperature, thus facilitating sleepiness.
While there is no set recommendation as to what temperature will help you sleep the best, a room temperature between 18°C-23°C may help you find the best sleep.
2. Schedule your time to allow for at least seven hours of sleep each night
On average, an adult should be getting about eight hours of quality sleep nightly on a regular basis.4 If you don’t achieve this goal consistently, you might become sleep deprived.
Studies have shown that people who sleep less than six hours per night, or more than nine hours, have a 30% earlier death rate than those who sleep seven to eight hours per night.5 So optimal health is not just about sleeping more, but sleeping the right balance of hours.
Sleep loss is accumulative and you can’t make up for bad sleep habits by catching an extra hour or two on the weekend. Every hour you come up short, per day, is like placing additional credit charge on an already overdrawn account. Practically, the only way to effectively recover when you fall behind on your sleep is to intentionally add an extra hour or two every night over an extended period, until your account is restored.4
3. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol act as stimulants both mentally and physically, and they can negatively influence your sleep in a number of ways, particularly if they are consumed in the evening.
Firstly, they make it harder to go to sleep. Secondly, they may make you sleep more lightly and wake up more often during the night. Thirdly, because of their diuretic effect, you may have to get up in the night to go to the toilet.
Research has suggested an association between daily dietary caffeine intake and sleep problems, illustrating that caffeine is disruptive of sleep.6 A clinical trial suggested that caffeine may induce symptoms that mimic those of insomnia7, thus further illustrating the negative effect of caffeine on sleep.
Similarly to caffeine, alcohol interferes with the normal sleep process because when you drink significant amounts of alcohol, you are likely to fall straight into a deep sleep, missing out on the usual first stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The REM stage of sleep is when you are in a state of mental excitement yet physical (muscle) immobility.4 The more a person drinks before bed, the stronger the disruption.
4. Exercise throughout the day
Exercising earlier in the day is important so that your body isn’t stimulated and heated just before bedtime. It is important that you avoid exercising three to four hours before going to bed.8 The ideal time for you to exercise is in the late afternoon or early evening, so that you are expending your physical energy long before it is time for your body to rest and ready itself for sleep.8
It is important to exercise during the day to improve mood and relieve the day’s stresses and strains before your head hits the pillow at night. The relationship between exercise and sleep is based on expending energy throughout the day to give your body enough stimulation so that you are not restless at night.
Aerobic exercise can be the best way to obtain the benefits of exercise for sleep. There are many ways you can incorporate aerobic exercise into your daily routine, including walking, running, cycling, skipping, Clinical Pilates, among others.
5. Choose the right mattress for YOU!
All going to plan, you will spend at least one third of your life sleeping, which makes your bed the most used piece of furniture in your home.
Quality sleep is dependent on the surface you lie on. Your mattress should support your body in a neutral posture; this means the natural curves of your spine should be supported while your neck and shoulders are properly aligned.4
Back In Motion Physiotherapist Jason T Smith says “Generally speaking, I would avoid sleeping on rollout beds, couches, and water beds (waveless or otherwise). Those who have current back or neck pain will also suffer more if they endure extended nights on camp beds, caravan mattresses and hiking mats.”
When shopping for a mattress, put a few hours aside. Smith recommends lying on each mattress for at least 10 to 15 minutes to see how it adjusts to your body. Another important tip is to take your own pillow so you can simulate your actual sleeping position.
Charkoudian N. (2003, May). Skin blood flow in adult human thermoregulation: how it works, when it does not, and why.Mayo Clinical Proceedings. 78(5), 603-12.
Barrett J, Lack L & Morris M. The Sleep-Evoked Decrease of Body Temperature. 2014;16(2).
Okamoto-Mizuno K, Mizuno K, Michie S, Maeda A & Iizuka S. Effects of humid heat exposure on human sleep stages and body temperature. Sleep 1999;22(6):767-773.
Smith JT (20120. Get Yourself BACK IN MOTION. Victoria: Global Publishing Group.
Kripke DF, Garfinkel L, Wingard DL, Klauber MR & Marler MR. Mortality Associated With Sleep Duration and Insomnia. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2002;59(2):131-136. Doi:10.1001/archpsyc.59.2.131.
Roehrs T & Roth T. Caffeine: Sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Med Rev 2008;12:153-162.
Karacan I, Thornby JI, Anch M, Booth GH, Williams RL & Salis PJ. Dose-related sleep disturbances induced by coffee and caffeine. Clin Pharmocol and Therapeut 1976;20(6):682-689.
Fitness.com: The Global Fitness Community. 2014. How Exercise Can Help You Sleep Better.