Various health experts agree that sleep plays a vital role in maintaining a person’s overall health and well-being. Unknown to some, there’s even a dedicated branch of study for it known as Sleep Science. However, the number of hours of sleep you get each night isn’t the only point of consideration when it comes to benefiting from sleep. What matters even more is the quality of sleep that you get.
In this article, we’ll shed some light on proven practices that will show you how to sleep smarter so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face a new day. Let’s dive right in!
1. Get the Right Light at the Right Time
The circadian rhythm is your body’s natural internal clock, keeping you awake when appropriate and telling your body when it’s time to get some shut-eye. When you get ample bright light during the day (preferably sunlight), this keeps your circadian rhythm healthy. It also improves the amount of energy that you have during the day, as well as the quality and duration of sleep that you will get during the night.
To be more precise, a couple of hours of bright light exposure during the day will increase a person’s sleep duration by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by as much as 80%, according to a study.
In conjunction with this, it’s also important to reduce light exposure (especially blue light) during the evening. Blue light is emitted by various devices like computer screens, tablets, and smartphones. A remedy to this could be to install apps that reduce the blue light on your devices. Generally, though, any bright light during the evening is also no bueno.
An article from BBC shows a first-hand account of how a few weeks of no bulbs and no screens can positively affect someone’s sleep experience. Though a lifestyle of no bulbs and no screens may not be remotely possible for everyone in this modern age, this account can serve as an inspiration for what can be achieved by just turning down the exposure to bright light during the time when nature intended for us to relax.
2. Watch What You Ingest
Some people would argue that coffee makes the world go round. However, this daily fuel can quickly turn on you and on your sleep health if you do not time when you drink it. You may be fully aware, from reading or from experience, that caffeine is a stimulant. Once you drink it, it will only take 30 to 60 minutes to start affecting your body.
But what most people don’t know is that it takes 3 to 5 hours for your body to flush half of the caffeine out of your bloodstream. So what does this mean? If you value your sleep, you’ll want to steer clear of caffeine for about 7 to 8 hours before your bedtime. A study shows that ingesting caffeine 6 hours before your bedtime will reduce a person’s sleep by one full hour.
In line with this, let’s also talk about a substance you can take for better sleep – and nope, we don’t mean sleeping pills. A safer and far more beneficial alternative is melatonin. Melatonin is naturally produced in the brain, helping you relax and achieve deep sleep. When taken as a supplement, melatonin can be as effective as a sleeping pill without the risk of withdrawal symptoms. This is why this supplement is often recommended for people suffering from sleep disturbances like insomnia.
3. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
One of the simplest yet often overlooked tips for better sleep is this one: going to bed and waking up at the same time. This practice gives you a wide range of benefits in terms of sleep quality and duration. Other benefits include decreased sleep latency (the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep) and also improved cognitive performance.
So if you ever find yourself tossing and turning way too much and/or being unable to fulfill cognitive tasks efficiently during the day, this simple lifestyle change might be just what you need.
4. Develop a Relaxation Routine
Connected to the previous tip about maintaining a sleep schedule is developing a relaxation routine before going to bed. On a motivational level, this will help you to actually look forward to adhering to your sleep schedule (which is, let’s face it, not the most exciting thing to do).
In an “always-on” kind of world, binge-watching, playing games, and social media activities are seen as making most of what’s left of the day. If you care about your sleep though, it may be time to audit these final activities that you do before attempting sleep. Stress, anxiety, worry, and muscle tension are all key players in insomnia and other sleep disorders. What’s worse is plenty of people aren’t able to proactively deal with these problems. This is where deliberate, routine relaxation comes in. It strengthens a relaxation response in your body that helps you sleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
If you’ve ever found yourself struggling with fitful sleep, this could be the simple remedy you’ve been looking for. The fun part is you get to choose what your relaxation routine looks like! You can incorporate activities like taking a soak in the tub, reading, meditating, or keeping a journal. This simple tactic not only aids sleep but also fosters a sense of self-care. So have fun!
5. Optimize Your Sleep Space
If you’re on a journey to applying these better sleep tips, do not forget this crucial step. The better you set the stage, the better you can also set (and accomplish) the intention. What do we mean by this? Turn your sleeping space into a sanctuary by removing anything that can inhibit your sleep.
This means keeping your work laptop in your home office at night, installing blackout curtains, or upgrading your bedding. Your bedroom needs to be a space that is dedicated to relaxation and rest. You don’t need outside influences infringing on your sanctuary and preventing you from getting the sleep you need.