How to get a good night’s sleep
Posted on 1 July 2016
We probably don’t need to tell you why a good night’s rest is so important. If you’ve ever gone without proper sleep for a few nights, you’ll know the effects: your mental and physical health suffers, leaving you feeling tired, cranky and unwell during your waking hours. We spoke to a Mediclinic physician and found out how you can catch some solid Zzzz’s.
Everybody has different sleep needs. Generally speaking, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness, and need about eight hours of sleep a night. Some people can function with as little as six hours of sleep, while others can’t operate at their best unless they’ve had ten hours. Whether you’re a six-, eight- or ten-hour-a-night sleeper, your body and brain need that sleep in order to function properly. Sleep improves your memory and learning, boosts your decision-making and reduces your risk of depression and chronic illness.
‘There are few basic things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep,’ says Dr Duma Khutsoane, a physician at Mediclinic Bloemfontein. ‘I tell my patients to avoid any food or drink that contains stimulants – like caffeine, for example. They should also avoid having big meals at night.’
Exercising in the evenings, and working or doing other mentally intense activities right before or after getting into bed can disrupt your sleep.
Dr Khutsoane recommends sticking to a regular schedule. ‘It’s very important that you go to sleep at around the same time every night,’ he says. ‘That helps your body to adjust, and to know, “OK, this is my sleeping time and this is my waking-up time”. Don’t go to sleep at different times during the week, because your body will get used to a particular pattern and rhythm.
‘The room that you sleep in at night should also be completely dark,’ he adds. ‘That will help to stimulate your natural sleep, and help you to sleep better. Televisions, cellphones, tablets and so on should all be switched off.’
Finally, a surprising piece of advice: if you’re struggling to sleep at night, don’t try to make up for it with ‘power naps’.
‘A lot of people who suffer from insomnia feel tired, so they’ll have a nap during the day,’ says Dr Khutsoane. ‘As a physician I’d advise them against that. Even though you feel tired, try to do something to stay awake during the day, because it will increase your chances of sleeping soundly at night. Daytime naps will disrupt your nighttime sleep. So try to keep active during the day, and sleep at night.’