A good night's sleep is vital for high levels of energy and concentration. Poor sleep habits result in lethargic feelings and a possible hindrance in your brain functioning. Moreover, poor sleep habits can also trigger weight gain and increase the risks of contracting diseases in both kids and adults.
However, good sleep habits enable you to consumer lesser, work out more, and be healthier. If you continuously find yourself up at night, unable to sleep, here are 13 tips to help you develop better sleep habits and get that peaceful night of sleep you deserve:
1. Set Up a Sleep Schedule
Decide upon a specific time to sleep and wake up, and stick with this sleep schedule every day, even on the weekends.
Also, try to sleep for the same amount of time every day. For instance, if you decide upon sleeping at 10 PM and waking up at 6 AM, stay consistent at it.
This consistency helps regulate the body's clock. Consequently, you will find it easier to fall and stay asleep at night.
2. Design a Bedtime Routine
Try to design a custom bedtime routine i.e. a sequence of activities that you do in the same order right before heading to bed.
For example, if anxiety is what's keeping you up at night, try writing down your thoughts on a journal, and this could be one activity on your routine.
Here’s a sample sleep routine, feel free to tweak it to your preferences:
- Meditate - 30 minutes before sleep
- Write in a journal - 20 minutes before sleep
- Listen to soothing music - 10 minutes before bed
The principle is that after carrying out a sleep routine long enough, simply initiating the sleep routine makes your brain relaxed and prepped for sleep.
3. Avoid Long Daytime or Irregular Naps
Short power naps are quick restorers of energy. However, irregular or prolonged napping in the day can adversely affect your sleep. Daytime sleeping tends to disrupt your internal clock, thus making it difficult to sleep at night.
As a matter of fact, in one particular study, participants felt sleepier through the day even after having daytime naps. However, some other studies suggest that those who take regular daytime naps face no real depreciation in sleep quality. The key is not to take irregular or long naps.
4. Maximize Exposure to Bright Light During the Day
Bright light and natural sunlight exposure during the day helps regulate and maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. As a result, your daytime energy increases, and so do your sleep duration and quality.
If you don’t get much sunlight exposure, make a plan to “sunbathe” for 30-45 minutes right after you crawl out of bed. Try to get direct sunlight exposure into your eyes. This simple act will regulate your daytime function and sleep.
5. Minimize Blue light Exposure in the Evenings:
Here’s what happens upon exposure to blue light before you sleep. The circadian rhythm tricks your brain into believing that it’s still daytime. Thus, your brain refuses to secrete the melatonin hormone (responsible for triggering sleep).
Blue light - emitted in vast amounts by computers and smartphones could affect your sleep big time. Here are a few tips to reduce your blue light consumption:
- Wear glasses blocking the blue light
- Use an app called lux that blocks blue light on your computer or laptop
- Install apps like twilight for Android or use the built-in "night mode" feature on iOS to eliminate blue light and instill a warm glow
- Switch off the TV and turn off all bright lights a couple of hours before heading for sleep
6. Avoid Caffeine in the Evenings
A single dose of caffeine is known to elevate levels of focus, performance, and energy. Caffeine does so by stimulating your nervous system. As a result, a late consumption of caffeine may hinder natural relaxation at night.
Research reveals that caffeine consumption up to six hours before bedtime significantly deteriorated sleep quality. Caffeine usually stays active in your system for a good 6-8 hours. Therefore, consuming huge quantities of coffee after 4 PM is highly not recommended. If you still feel like you need a cup of coffee, try decaffeinated coffee.
7. Don’t Consume Alcohol Before Bedtime
Gulping a few shots at night can adversely affect your hormones and sleep. It’s true that alcohol does make you drowsy. However, the long term effects of alcohol on your sleep quality and duration are quite detrimental.
Research reveals that alcohol tends to increase or cause the symptoms of snoring, sleep apnea, and unhealthy sleep patterns.
The alcohol also disturbs your nighttime melatonin secretion, which plays a vital role in the circadian rhythm.
Another interesting study revealed that alcohol consumption before bedtime decreases natural nighttime elevations of the human growth hormone (HGH), which affects the circadian rhythm.
8. Don’t Have Any Fluids Before Bed
Nocturia refers to excessive nighttime urination. It adversely affects daytime energy and sleep quality. Chugging in huge amounts of liquids before heading for bed can cause you to wake up to urinate in the middle of the night.
Although hydration is essential for good health, try to refrain from any fluid intake late in the evenings. Additionally, use the bathroom just before going to sleep. This may reduce the chances of unexpected disturbances mid-sleep.
9. Try Out Mindful Meditation
When you got a lot on your mind, quieting the mind and entering a state of rest can be tricky. Research has proven that mindful meditation has the potential to cure insomnia and improve sleep quality. You don’t have to be a professional practitioner to reap the benefits of meditation. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate.
Mindful meditation is about being present in the present and saying ‘Yes' to all the emotions that you are feeling. The key is not to resist. Be open to all thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
Try out this simple mindfulness practice to feel at peace. Try to visualize a beach, and the tides are all your anxious thoughts and worries. Now, you have a choice: You could associate yourself with the tides or "watch" them.
Observe the thoughts while being curious about the underlying bodily sensations (as a result of a particular emotion or idea). Anxiety generally tends to create tightness in and around the chest. After a few moments of "observing," you will realize that the emotions just like the tides come and go. You don't have to react but merely acknowledge them.
10. Exercise Regularly – Except Before Bedtime
One particular study involving older adults concluded that exercise approximately reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 50%! Moreover, exercise also contributed to an added 41 minutes of sleep time.
People struggling with severe insomnia reportedly reaped more benefits from exercise than most drugs. Fall asleep time dropped by 55%, total sleep time shot up 18% and total night wakefulness reduced by 30%.
However, engaging in exercise too late into the day can cause sleep issues. This arises due to the stimulatory aspect of exercise, which heightens alertness and secretion of hormones such as adrenaline and epinephrine. It’s crucial that you know when it’s best to exercise to maximize your sleep quality.
11. Bath or Shower
Taking a relaxing bath does help get to sleep faster. Research indicates that a bath before bedtime can improve sleep quality and help older adults fall asleep faster.
Another study concluded that a hot bath 1.5 hours before bedtime significantly improved sleep quality and promoted more deep sleep.
Your brain relies on the body temperature to decide whether or not it's time to sleep. At night, the body temperature dips slightly, signaling your brain to release melatonin.
A warm shower at night helps aid the natural thermoregulation activity. While showering, the body heats up. Upon getting out of the shower, the body cools due to the evaporation of water.
This sudden cooldown is what makes showers quite useful at night. Your brain now senses this cooldown and stimulates the secretion of melatonin.
Refrain from cold showers as they alert your nervous system and put you into a fight/flight mode, thus preventing you from falling asleep. Interestingly, you could integrate a hot shower into your bedtime routine alongside other relaxing activities.
12. Improve Your Bedroom Environment
The bedroom environment and the underlying setup are crucial factors for improving sleep quality and duration. The factors include:
- Furniture arrangement
- External lights
Research has revealed that noise, primarily external noise such as traffic, causes poor sleep. Here are a few tips to optimize your bedroom environment:
Minimize External Noise
The brain processes sound while you're asleep too. That's why parents jolt awake when their baby makes noises. Interestingly, that's also why snoring partners can be quite irritating at times.
The solution is to eliminate, reduce, and block noises in your bedroom that affect sleep. Consider using earplugs. There are various types of earplugs ranging from silicone to foam to the flanged type.
Look to choose earplugs that have a noise reduction rating of 32 dB. This ensures that around 33% of the environment noise gets blocked, but important noises such as the fire alarm are audible.
Another solution would be a sound machine. Such machines produce white noise or natural sounds like waterfalls, rustling leaves or thunder, thus blocking out other external noise.
Block Out As Much As Light As Possible
A dark bedroom is ideal for sleep. The darkness triggers your brain to slow things down and begin the secretion of melatonin. Use serene colors on your bedroom walls. Using a flat finish paint is an excellent choice.
Use dimmer lightning in your bedroom. Look to use low-wattage, natural-light, non-halogen, 45-watt bulbs. Whatever combination of lightning you use, ensure that the total sum is lesser than 200 watts.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, refrain from switching on any lights. Irrespective of the time, your brain will suddenly sense the light as daytime and prevent you from falling asleep again.
Use sleep masks:
A sleep mask blocks unwanted light from entering your eyes. Blackout curtains are quite effective as well in blocking up to 90-100% of external light.
Look After Your Bedding
When selecting bedding, invest in the best products which are most relevant to your local climate. They will help regulate temperature and humidity in the bedroom.
For supreme comfort, look for breathable and natural fibers such as silk, linen, down, wool, and cotton. Try to avoid synthetics like polyester that don't breathe well and traps moisture and heat.
Also, wash your bedding regularly, not just the sheets but the entire package: duvet, quilt, or comforter. Well, it’s not surprising why you sleep better in a hotel.
- Reduction in back pain by 57%
- Reduction of shoulder pain by 60%
- Reduction of back stiffness by 59%
- Increase in sleep quality by 60%
If you aren’t sure whether or not you have to upgrade your bedding, follow the thumb rule of changing your bedding once every 5-8 years.
13. Consider a Melatonin Supplement
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that signals your brain to induce sleep. Melatonin supplements have become quite popular sleeping aids.
These supplements help treat insomnia and get to sleep faster. A study revealed that a 2mg consumption of melatonin before bedtime improved energy and sleep quality while decreasing the time to fall asleep.
Interestingly, the above study did not report any withdrawal symptoms. Melatonin supplements are also beneficial when you travel and try adjusting to new time zones. The supplements help regulate the body's circadian rhythm.
In several countries, you can get melatonin over the counter online and offline. In some other countries, you would require a prescription. Since melatonin alters brain chemistry, consult with a sleep professional before taking any prescription.
Summing it up:
Sleep is an essential process for your body, and poor sleep habits can adversely affect your health. Fortunately, there are several tips to improve your sleep quality and duration. Setting up a right bedroom environment, avoiding fluids before bed, and maintaining a good sleep schedule is amongst the tips to get to sleep faster and stay asleep the whole night.