Improve Your Sleep With These 10 Tips
The Importance of Good Sleep
Like regular exercise and a good diet, quality sleep is essential for our overall health and wellness. And when we aren’t getting enough good sleep, there are several side effects on your body that go beyond just being tired.
On the one hand, research shows that poor sleep has a direct, negative effect on your hormones, exercise, and brain function. Not to mention there’s also an increased risk of weight gain and disease risk for both kids and adults.
On the other hand, regular quality sleep improves your cognitive functions, helps you fight off illness, and increases your body’s physical functions.
If you want to get better quality sleep in your life, then here are 10 tips that you can start using today!
10 Tips For Improving Your Sleep
1. Avoid Naps
Although brief “power” naps can be beneficial, if you take a long or unplanned nap during the day, it can negatively affect your sleep later that night. Not only can sleeping in the daytime confuse your body’s internal clock, but some studies have also found that many people wake up even more tired after taking a nap during the day. While some people who take regular naps don’t have trouble falling asleep, keep in mind that longer naps taken at inconsistent time can confuse your circadian rhythm.
2. Exercise Daily - Just Not Before Bed
Regular exercise is a key component of quality sleep. It helps you fall asleep quicker and reduces your chances of waking up in the middle of the night. But exercising late in the afternoon or at night can cause sleep problems. Exercising releases a rush of alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline, which can make it incredibly hard to fall asleep. You definitely want to exercise every day, just not in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
3. Use Light to Control Your Circadian Rhythms
Believe it or not, light can be just as influential as affecting the quality of your sleep as excessive amounts of coffee or exercise right before bed. Now obviously we need a dark environment to fall asleep in, so when we’re talking about using light to improve your sleep, we’re talking about bright light and blue light exposure. Bright lights relate to light-bulbs and sunlight, while blue light refers to the type of light that comes off of our phone, tablet, and computer screens. Exposing yourself to bright light during the daytime can actually improve your sleep quality and duration. Blue light though is a bit trickier. Many of us glance at our phones, a TV, or a tablet in those specific hours leading up to bedtime, which can confuse your circadian rhythm into thinking it's daytime. So as a good rule of thumb, avoid bright light and blue light an hour or two before you go to bed.
4. Avoid Large Meals in the Evening
Eating late at night can have a negative effect on your sleep quality and your body’s natural release of melatonin and HGH. While some studies have found that both high-carb and low-carb meals have improved people’s sleep, there is also evidence to support that eating a large meal in the evening can cause indigestion problems, making it harder for you to fall and stay asleep. Go for a lighter meal in the evening, and if you get a little hungry right before bed, a small, nutrient-rich snack under 200 calories won’t have any negative effects.
5. Go Screens-Free Before Bed
Everyone has a bedtime ritual that can include brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or washing your face. But one thing that the majority of our bedtime rituals have in common is that we look at our phones right before falling asleep. Whether it’s just for a few minutes or even an hour, exposing yourself to the blue light in screens can confuse your body into thinking it’s day time, making it hard for you to drift off to sleep. Instead of looking at your phone before bed, try reading a book or listening to soft music before bed so that you won’t have trouble falling asleep.
6. Ditch the Caffeine Later in the Day
For the coffee lovers out there, while caffeine has many benefits (including increasing your focus, energy and sports performance) it also stimulates your nervous system, which can keep your body from relaxing at night. Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood anywhere from 6 to 8 hours, which can significantly hurt the quality of your sleep. Ideally, try not to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages after 3 or 4 p.m.
7. Go to Sleep and Wake Up at Regular Times
Your body functions on a circadian rhythm, which is essentially a set loop that aligns itself with sunrise and sunset. By being consistent with your sleeping and waking times, you can help yourself get better quality sleep. So even if you have a day off or are on vacation, falling asleep and waking up at different times will actually make you feel more tired, even though you’re “sleeping in” technically.
8. Avoid Alcohol in the Evenings
Lots of people enjoy a nightcap before bed, and while downing an adult beverage or two can definitely assist you in falling asleep quicker, there are negative side effects on your sleep. For one, alcohol is known to increase sleep apnea, snoring, and other disrupted sleep patterns. But alcohol also dehydrates you and is made up of sugar, which can wake you up in the middle of the night and make it hard for you to go back to sleep.
9. Don’t Drink Fluids Before Bed
Obviously it’s important to be hydrated, but if you’re drinking copious amounts of liquid right before bed, it can lead to you waking up several times throughout the night to void your bladder. There’s actually a medical term for excessive urination during the night; it’s called nocturia and it can affect both the quality of your sleep and your daytime energy. As a rule of thumb, try not to drink any fluids an hour or two before bedtime.
10. Optimize Your Bedroom’s Environment
In addition to laying off fluids, exercise, and screens before bed, you also want to make sure the environment in your bedroom will assist your body in falling asleep. You don’t want the temperature in your bedroom to be too hot or too cold. You also want to make sure that there’s as little light as possible. Lastly, make sure you keep your bedroom as a sleeping space only, and not a place where you occasionally try to get work done. Train your body to recognize your bedroom as a place to sleep only.