Sleeping is an important part of our lives, and plays a key role in ensuring our good health and well-being. Especially since the pandemic started, however, more and more people complain about difficulty sleeping. For some people, it’s trouble falling asleep; for others, it’s trouble staying asleep. Either way, a lack of sleep has bad consequences on your daily life.
Fortunately, there are ways to help you sleep better. And no, they don’t involve prescription meds (or even over-the-counter ones, for that matter!)
So, whether you struggle to fall asleep OR to stay asleep, we encourage you to read on to learn ten science-proven tips that will give you a good night’s rest in the most natural way possible.
Why is Sleep Essential? How Does It Benefit You?
Having quality sleep at night helps you function well in the day. Not only does it give you energy to finish your tasks, but it also assists your body in fighting off diseases, which is vital in these times.
Lack of sleep, on the other hand, is scientifically proven to put you at risk of illness. From chronic organ failure to other health conditions like diabetes and stroke, a poor sleep regime could have long-term effects on your body.
Here are the three top benefits to getting good sleep:
1. Good Organ Function
The number one organ in our body – the brain – greatly benefits when we have enough rest, especially during the night. Notice how easily forgetful and unfocused we are when we run low on sleep? That’s because during our sleep, the brain’s glymphatic system throws out toxic waste. It is also when the day’s memories are forged into long-term ones, and unnecessary information that takes up space in the nervous system is ‘erased’.
2. Cellular Repair
During sleep, our body produces enzymes and growth hormones that cause the cells to regenerate and heal. A study found that a lack of sleep is associated with DNA damage and cell death, whereas sleep is associated with repair.
3. Emotional Stability
Sleeping promotes our well-being and good emotional health. Our mental health suffers when we do not get enough rest. Evidence shows that the link between poor sleep and mental health conditions is complex, each being a cause and effect of the other. Breaking the cycle of poor sleep prevents and relieves these symptoms, which will allow you to live your best life during your waking hours.
So that’s why we need to improve our sleep – but how do we do it? Here are our ten science-backed tips to improve your sleep.
10 Tips on How to Sleep Better According to Science
1. Adjust the lighting in your room.
Melatonin, a hormone that is responsible for signaling to our internal body clock that it is time to sleep or wake up, is suppressed when exposed to bright lighting. That is the reason why sleeping with lights off is the most recommended for a quality sleep.
If you are not used to sleeping in total darkness, you may dim the lights or use a red-emitting night light. Once you are accustomed to it, gradually dim your room until you can comfortably sleep without any lighting. You can also use blackout curtains to block out all the lights outside. This way, you make use of your body’s natural hormonal association of light as wake up time, and darkness as sleep time.
2. Put away electronic gadgets.
The issue with light interfering with our sleep pattern also extends to how we use our electronics. Electronic devices not only emit light, but they produce specific blue light waves that delay the production of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Blue light makes it difficult for your body to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Another reason why it is good to turn off all gadgets before sleep time is that screen time engages your mind to be more active, as you need to focus on what you are reading or watching. The best time to put away all those gadgets for a better sleep is an hour before bedtime.
3. Exercise! Get moving in the day as often as you can.
To improve the quality of your sleep, experts recommend you increase your physical activity. According to research, moderate to high levels of exercise raises the temperature of your core body, which results in sleepiness during rest.
When asked about when the best time to exercise is, doctors and scientists said that this varies from person to person. Some benefit from exercising in the morning, while others feel the positive effect from exercising an hour before bedtime. It does not have to be a vigorous workout, but any physical activity in the day definitely creates a good impact on your body during nighttime.
4. Check out the temperature of your room.
The most ideal temperature to get great quality sleep is between 60 and 67°F (15 to 19°C). When a room is too warm, it causes discomfort and fatigue. When a bedroom is too cold, however, it also causes sleep disturbances, as it interferes with your blood pressure and REM sleep. So try to get your bedroom temperature within the recommended range to make sure you stay asleep and comfortable throughout the night.
5. Eat a healthy diet.
One of the important things to remember to get better sleep quality is to eat right. A balanced diet is proven to be an effective way to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep during the night, especially if you consume more fiber and less sugar in the day.
6. Listen to relaxing music.
Probably one of the most enjoyable things to do to help you sleep better is listening to relaxing music. Whether it be meditation music or classical tunes, many scientific reports say that relaxing music soothes the autonomic nervous system, resulting in lower heart rate and decreased blood pressure. It also works great as a distraction from your anxious thoughts, thus calming your body and setting you up for a great night’s sleep.
7. Avoid caffeine or alcohol before bedtime.
Some people consider alcohol as a way to help them fall asleep faster. But this is not a good idea, as alcohol is a depressant that interferes with a healthy sleep pattern. So even though it makes you sleepy at first, you will end up waking in the middle of the night because of the reduced REM sleep.
Another ingredient to avoid besides alcohol is caffeine. Caffeine is generally known as an ingredient that helps you wake up and feel active, but we sometimes get tempted to drink caffeinated drinks in the afternoon or evenings. If sleep quality is your priority, make sure that you consume any food or drink with alcohol and caffeine at least three to four hours before your scheduled bedtime.
8. Take warm baths or showers.
Just like music, warm baths or showers work great for promoting relaxation, which will help in an improved sleep quality. Our core body temperature needs to drop two to three degrees Fahrenheit, and maintain that level, to instigate a good night’s sleep. With warm baths, your body is warmed in the water, and afterwards excess temperature is released through your hands and feet. This will give your core body the temperature drop it needs to bring you into a good night’s sleep.
The best time to have these relaxing baths or showers is one to two hours before bedtime, so that your body can have the time to work on that emission of dispensable temperature.
9. Consider purchasing a high-quality bed or mattress.
According to research, sleeping on comfortable and high-quality bedding leads to better sleep. It reduces certain physical discomforts, such as back, shoulder, and neck pain, thus improving the quality of sleep by as much as 60%. Look for a good bed that supports your spine in a neutral position, even when you lie on your side or back.
10. Establish a bedtime schedule.
Going to bed at the same time every night greatly helps with conditioning your body to recognize awake time and sleep time. We are born with a circadian rhythm, and according to science, the best time to go to sleep is between 9 and 10 o’clock at night. This allows our bodies to get the full benefit of sleeping, including cell regeneration, which only happens between 10 PM to 2 AM. It varies between age groups, but doctors say we need no less than six hours of sleep every night. Ideally, adults should sleep for seven to nine hours.
These ten tips are proven by science to help you reach that level of comfortability that will enable you to sleep fast and stay in that state for enough time. Whether you think you already are sleeping well or you are struggling to get properly rested, it’s worth checking you are getting the full number of hours to maximize the health benefits of sleep.
If, after trying all these natural ways to sleep better, you are still having difficulties falling or staying asleep, it is imperative to rule out health disorders with your doctor as early as possible. Your physician may give you prescription medicine to address any related issues and help get your sleep back on track.