The recent time change, removing one hour of sleep, shows how your body needs consistency and can be disturbed by even a slight variation. This isn't just a minor inconvenience: sleep is crucial for your overall health.
Shawn Stevenson, a sleep expert and author of the best-selling book Sleep Smarter, calls sleep a force multiplier. This means it accentuates whatever state you find yourself in. If you're eating well, exercising and managing stress, good sleep will help to accentuate all of those things. On the other hand, if you're eating poorly, not active and run down, a lack of sleep will compound those problems.
Sleep is the magic bullet when it comes to health and wellness. Sleep is when you repair, rejuvenate and enhance your body. It's when you fight off sickness, build muscle and improve your cognitive function. If you're feeling run down, stressed or sick, make it a point to get more sleep as it keeps your immune system strong.
Sleep is also important for: less pain; improved fitness; better mood, memory, and insulin sensitivity; lowered inflammation; increased creativity.
Here are five tips to help get the best shut-eye possible.
Keep your room on the cool side
A warm room may make you drowsy, but it's not ideal for deep sleep. Your body temperature naturally lowers when you sleep, and if the room is too warm your body wastes energy trying to regulate its own temperature. The coolness allows for your body to get to a sleeping state faster, and to stay asleep.
Ideally, you're looking for a temperature of 15 to 19 degrees Celsius. You may need to play around with fans or windows being open, but your room should be cooler than other rooms in the house, and your sheets should feel cool to the touch.
Avoid blue light late at night
Blue light emitted from electronic screens can disrupt your bodies natural production of melatonin. This light is very harsh on your eyes, and when melatonin is not at natural levels it affects your biological clock, meaning you'll have trouble falling and staying asleep.
Try to cut out electronics one to two hours before you go to bed. If you have to use them, at least put your phone on the night shift mode or install the program f.lux on your laptop to take out the blue light and give your screen a warmer glow.
Create a wind-down routine and stick with it
Sleep experts say the wind-down routine is one of the most important things to get the best sleep possible. Your body craves habit and consistency, and if you start the same wind-down process at the same time each night it's an indication to your body that sleep is coming. It doesn't have to be complicated, just consistent. It may start with some reading or listen to music beforehand, but stick with whatever you create.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day
Alcohol may put you to sleep, but it disrupts deep restorative sleep. With caffeine, you may want to play around with when you cut it off. The noticeable effects of caffeine wear off after a couple of hours, but it has a "half-life" which extends its existence in your bloodstream. This half-life can last three to seven hours, and there's some research showing it may last for over nine hours. So, if you've had trouble falling asleep at 10:30 p.m., it may be because of that coffee you had at 4:00 p.m.
Keep your room as dark as possible
Back to melatonin for this one. Not only is melatonin important for deep sleep, it's also a big part of controlling your circadian rhythms, or biological clock. Just as that blue light can prevent its release, darkness helps to stimulate melatonin production.
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You'll want to keep your room as dark as you can to keep melatonin levels optimal and create an ideal sleep environment. You may want to look into blackout curtains that help eliminate outside light, and can also lower outside noise due to their thicker and heavy material if you live in busy areas. These are similar to what hotels use to prevent outside light and noise from getting into your room.
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