4 things that make a big difference in sleeping well

A good night's sleep is one of the best things for your health — but it doesn't always come easily. Here are four things that can make a big difference in how well you sleep.

4 things that make a big difference in sleeping well

1. A good mattress

A survey found that 80 per cent of the participants thought a bad mattress can cause sleep problems. Ironically, nearly half said they had a "bad" or "very bad" mattress. You need a new mattress if yours is ten years old or older.

Also ditch your mattress if its topography resembles a mountain range, with its peaks, valleys and slopes. Another warning sign is waking up feeling sore or stiff, despite not being physically active the day before. Although no one mattress works best for everybody, here are some guidelines to follow:

Size: Make sure you buy one that's larger than you think you will need, especially if you sleep with someone else.

Firmness: This is strictly an individual decision. But make sure you try out any mattress in the store. Lie on it. Roll over. Get into your typical sleeping position.

Frame: Make sure you get a sturdy, good-quality frame, one with at least ten slats and a fifth leg as a centre support.

Maintenance: Turn your mattress over and upside down at least every three months.

2. Relax first

  • Allow one hour before bedtime for a relaxing activity.
  • Watching the news or answering e-mails does not count.
  • Better choices are reading or listening to soft music.
  • As for sex … it can put many to sleep afterwards but some people say it just wakes them up. So factor this into the timing of your routine.

3. Stretch your body

  • If your mind is relaxed but your body is tense, do some low-intensity stretches and exercises to relax your muscles, especially those in your upper body, neck and shoulders.
  • Before you go to bed, use light weights 1–2 kilograms (3–5 pounds) for women; 2–4 kilograms (5–10 pounds) for men to exercise these muscles.
  • Do one set of eight to ten repetitions of a basic exercise for each upper body muscle.

4. Good digestion

  • Allow at least three hours between dinner and bedtime.
  • The brain does not sleep well on a full stomach. If you know that you'll be busy the following day, have your big meal at lunchtime and a lighter meal as early as possible in the evening.
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