Discover some of the methods you can use to improve your sleep quality and be at your best.
10 tips to get a good night’s sleep
Few things are more frustrating than being unable to get a good night’s sleep. You know you need to provide your body with time to recover from the stresses and strains of the day, but you just can’t drift off. And, the more you think about it, the harder it becomes.
Getting enough sleep can be a challenge in the modern world. Data suggests that average sleep time fell from around 7.9 hours per night in 1942 to less than 6.8 in the most recent studies. Work stress, hectic family lives, and a culture that promotes sleeplessness all combine to reduce the amount of shut-eye the average person gets. The good news, though, is that you can reverse this trend in your own life by building some simple good sleep hygiene habits. Good sleep starts with how you prepare for it, so here are our top ten tips for sleep to get you started.
1. Turn off your phone screen at night
Looking at bright screens late at night could be disrupting your circadian rhythm — your in-built body clock that tells you when to go to bed and when to wake up. Researchers believe that sleep-wake cycles react strongly to the amount of light in your environment. When bright light hits your retina, it mimics sunlight and tells you that it is time to get on with your day, regardless of the actual time on the clock.
An article by Harvard Medical School suggests that the blue wavelengths emitted by modern electronics trick our brains into thinking it’s morning, causing them to release ‘wake-up’ hormones. Blue light also seems to suppress the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, making you feel alert for longer.
“Research suggests that getting regular physical activity reduces sleeplessness in insomnia patients and could work as well as pharmacological sleeping pills.”
2. Take a bath before bed
Do you like taking warm baths? If so, you’ll love this: researchers reporting in Sleep Medicine Reviews found a relationship between hot baths and sleep quality. They collected thousands of studies in a review and discovered that soaking in water between 40 and 43 centigrade (104 to 109 Fahrenheit) about 90 minutes before bed allowed people to get to sleep around 10 minutes faster than usual. That’s great news if you’re somebody who struggles to drop off quickly.
3. Avoid caffeine
Fancy a hot coffee after a meal? You might want to think twice about that if your goal is to sleep well. Caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel more awake than you otherwise would. What’s more, it also appears to degrade the quality of your rest, even when you fall asleep.
The reason for this seems to be the effect that it has on your body clock. Caffeine seems to delay your body clock, according to researchers reporting in Circadian Rhythms, causing it to release hormones later, making it harder to fall asleep at the right time.
4. Exercise during the day
Exercise also seems to play an important role in making people get a good night’s sleep. Research suggests that getting regular physical activity reduces sleeplessness in insomnia patients and could work as well as pharmacological sleeping pills.
5. Read a book before you go to sleep
Reading before bed is a great way to relax before going to sleep, but it’s only recently that we’ve understood why it’s so effective. Dr David Lewis of the University of Sussex shed some light on this. He found that reading reduces stress in the adult brain by an astonishing 68%, possibly because it takes the mind off anxiety-inducing matters, such as dental appointments and difficult bosses. In other words, it may distract you for long enough to reduce your stress levels so you feel sleepier.
6. Reduce daytime naps
Do you have a habit of napping during the day? If so, you could be disrupting your body clock and damaging your night-time sleep quality. For instance, one piece of research found that people who took daytime naps wound up feeling sleepier during the day than people who didn’t. Another study discovered that people who took daytime naps found it more difficult to get to sleep at night.
7. Make time to relax
Our bodies are very good at sensing dangers in our environment. If they believe that we are under threat, they’ll remain alert. When we worry about things, it activates our body’s stress response system, flooding us with wake-up hormones, like cortisol. That’s fine in the daytime, but it can become a real problem when you’re trying to fall asleep. The good news is that there’s a way to push back against this process.
Other relaxation strategies include meditation, deep breathing and rethinking the stresses in your life to make them more manageable.
8. Expose yourself to bright lights during the day
Getting enough bright light during the day appears to be just as important as avoiding blue light from electronic devices late at night. Natural sunlight, according to research, keeps your circadian rhythm healthy by improving daytime wakefulness and increasing sleepiness in the evening. Studies, for instance, report that getting just two hours of bright light exposure during the day improves natural sleep length by an astonishing 120 minutes.
9. Use the right supplements
Using the right dietry supplements may also help some people combat sleep disorders. A report published in the journal, Sleep Disorders, presented evidence that certain supplements ‘may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia’. Another study found that a plant extract combats REM sleep disorders in Parkinson’s patients.
10. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
Lastly, inconsistent sleeping and waking times may affect long-term sleep quality. Evidence suggests that people who go to bed late on the weekend have poorer sleep quality during the rest of the week. There’s also evidence that going to bed at a variety of times upsets your Circadian rhythm, making you feel more tired than you are. So commit to sleeping at regular times. And don’t make exceptions at the weekend.