How you feel throughout each day greatly depends on your sleep. If you’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately, perhaps the solution is a good night’s rest. However, quality sleep can sometimes be elusive, depending on a multitude of factors, such as family responsibilities, work deadlines and unexpected obstacles like illness and relationship problems.

While you might not have complete control over every factor, simply tweaking your habits and making healthier lifestyle choices can do wonders for the quality of your sleep. Here are 6 steps you can take now.

1. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality if you do it at the right time. Because exercise stimulates the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, doing it at least three hours before you go to bed is ideal. If you lift weights, do taxing yoga poses, and run laps too close to bedtime, you could end up feeling too energised to doze off.

2. Maintain a schedule
It helps to have a consistent time for going to bed and waking up. Come up with a schedule you are comfortable with, and stick to it even on weekends and holidays. Having a consistent bedtime promotes better sleep quality and enhances your sleep-wake cycle. If you can’t sleep within 20 minutes of your established schedule, get up and do something that soothes you. This could be anything, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath or listening to relaxing music.

3. Make comfort a priority
Your bedroom must be a sleep-inducing environment. Keep the temperature cool and the lights dim and make sure there are no distracting sounds. For some people, this means using dimmer shades for the windows, putting on earplugs and an eye mask, and turning up the fan or the AC to keep a comfortably cool temperature and maintain good ventilation.The mattress and pillows must be comfortable as well. Everything from their softness to the quality of the bedding should contribute to a comfortable atmosphere.

4. Improve stress management
If you are often too preoccupied with too many thoughts, the quality of your sleep is bound to decrease. You need to have healthy ways to keep stress at bay. The most direct way to do this is to get your priorities organised. Always tackle your most important tasks first, and be sure to give yourself a break when you need it. Don’t hesitate to find ways to manage stress better.

5. Limit your naps
It’s perfectly fine to take a short nap every now and then. In fact, if done consistently, it can help maintain a healthy sleep schedule. However, long naps should always be avoided. Getting more than 30 minutes of daytime shuteye can interfere with your nighttime sleep.

6. Pay more attention to your nutrition
What you eat and drink will affect the quality of your sleep. If you go to bed starving or stuffed, the resulting discomfort will keep you up. If you drink too much, you will find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet.

It goes without saying that alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine must be avoided. Caffeine and nicotine can stimulate your brain and could take hours to wear off, thus robbing you of valuable sleep time. Alcohol may help you sleep, but after a few hours it will act as a stimulant and decrease the quality of your sleep.

Avoid binge eating on unhealthy foods and drinks before bedtime, and make sure you get enough essential nutrients in your system.

Many of us experience sleepless nights every now and then. Hopefully, my tips can help you get the rest you deserve. But if poor sleep quality is a recurring problem for you, be sure to get in touch with your doctor, so underlying causes can be identified and treated right away.

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