Science Backed Tips for Better Sleep Tonight
Sleep is an essential function of life – everyone does it because we all need it. But for something that seems so simple, getting good sleep regularly has often proved challenging for many. Luckily, considering its crucial relevance to well-being and health, better sleep has become one of the key areas of focus for researchers.
The idea of sleep hygiene has become popular to collectively describe the habits and behaviors that are known to promote better rest. They range from the conditions of your bedroom to how your day is scheduled and with quite a few things, you are sure to break the cycles of sleeplessness and increase the odds for sweet dreams. In this guide, you will find dozens of science backed strategies that you can implement tonight for better sleep.
The foundations of better rest are based on understanding the amount of sleep your body needs so you can learn to prioritize it in your daily routine.
Be Aware of How Much Sleep You Need
The well-known standard is eight hours of sleep. However, there are variations in the amount of sleep required by your body to feel your best. While some may feel peppy on seven or six hours, there are those who need at least nine hours of sleep in order to feel well rested. In case you are yet to find your sweet spot, you can try starting with seven hours. Depending on how you feel at first, you can work up from there to see if you need more rest.
Prepare a Sleep Plan and Stick to It
A significant part in developing better, healthier sleeping habits is consistency. According to research, those who sleep and wake up at around the same time daily are less likely to have problems associated with sleep. This consistency has also been linked to a healthy body weight especially for younger adults, teens and kids. If you have an established wake-time and bedtime, you are guaranteed of adequate sleep time, which is important when it comes to guarding consistency and avoiding any form of weekday jet lag.
For starters, set an alarm for the time you want to wake up. This should denote a time that’s comfortable for you to start your day without creating a stressed rush. Pick a time you are sure you’ll stick to within an hour’s period, even on weekends. Work backwards, depending on the amount of sleep desired and add to it 30 minutes so you can give yourself extra adequate time to fall asleep. Once in bed, it takes up to 20 minutes for a person to fall asleep. It’s important to factor this in so you can keep a little wiggle room to prevent you from stressing over the clock.
Create a Relaxing Routine
In that 30-minute or one hour timeframe before you go to bed, it could be important to come up with and strictly follow a pre-bed routine regularly. By getting in this habit, you will be preparing your body and mind for sleep. This routine needs to only focus on things that calm you down and make you feel good. Avoid such stressful things as exciting games or shows, violent or emotional talks, work or paying bills.
Rather, follow a predictable plan or pattern often, doing it around the same time daily. It can be anything from setting your alarm for wake-time, a little sketching or reading to some light yoga or doing a face mask and even laying out tomorrow’s outfit. Basically, make it a low-key activity so you can fight after-dinner drowsiness.
Watch What You Eat or Drink
Not so many people regard diet as a factor of consideration for better sleep. However, what you eat or drink during the day or prior to sleeping can affect the quality of sleep. Essentially, limit or completely avoid caffeine intake after lunch. You might be tempted to take a few gulps of an energy drink, tea, soda or coffee but this is a recipe for distractions in your sleep schedule. The effects of caffeine can last up to six hours although it takes around 12 hours for your body to process it fully. The same is true for nicotine and alcohol. If you are unable to cut down on these, it is imperative to limit your intake to make it easier for you to sleep through the night.
Make your evening meals as light as possible. Cutting down on refined carbs and sugary foods can be richly rewarding. It takes longer for your body to digest these kinds of foods which in turn takes a toll on your bedtime, affecting the quality of your sleep. Instead, go for such nighttime snacks as milk, yoghurt, a banana, whole-grain low-sugar cereals and half a turkey sandwich.
And take lesser fluids during that period you are preparing for bed. Sipping plenty of pure, plain water is linked to healthier sleep and better health and hydration is undeniably good for your body. However, try to meet your water level requirements earlier in the day, particularly if you tend to use the bathroom more often at night.
Get Your Pets a Separate Bed
Pets are cozy and comforting; most people enjoy even the thought of snuggling up with Fido and Fluffy at bedtime. Yet, this is not so great for your sleep. Pets can be obnoxious at times; they are hot and fidgety which means that they can affect your sleep quality by waking you up at night.
They also track outdoor debris including dander and dirt among other not-so-cozy things and bring them to bed, which may not work so well if you have allergies. Having separate beds for your pets can be a great way to counter this. If you are worried that they’ll be lonely, you can work out a DIY project to make them something comfortable to snuggle up with.
Avoid Afternoon Naps or Keep Them Short
Most people find siestas rewarding, but if you are having trouble sleeping at night, you might want to cut down on those daytime naps. They could be the reason behind your late nights and the cause of the decline in the quality of your sleep. When you feel the urge to sleep during the day, try doing something else to occupy yourself. A little gardening, an emotional or thrilling movie and even a walk can help a great deal.
If you really have to nap, maintain short ones. There are a few impactful benefits that come with naps be it lowering stress, learning or boosting alertness. But successful napping comes down to two important keys – keeping them short and timing them right. They shouldn’t go for more than 30 minutes to avoid making you groggy. The most ideal time to take a nap can be that period around a natural midday energy dip. Any later than 3 pm. or if it goes for a long time your nighttime sleep can be affected and generally, it’s not recommended for those struggling with insomnia.
Exercise More Often
Generally, exercising in the morning is considered ideal, yet afternoons or early evenings can be perfectly fine too, depending on what works best for you. Moderate intensity cardio exercises have been known to counter insomnia especially when done regularly. It may take some time to realize significant results but once you get a grip of it, the results are more or less similar to the effects provided by sleep aids.
Set Aside a Time to Steam Off
If you’re stressed out by such things as your commute or work, consider setting aside a couple of minutes to release this tension when you get home. Designating a time for your stresses and worries can demarcate a busy day from a relaxing night by clearing your mind completely. It can be made of everything from zoning out to cool, relaxing music, jotting down a few things on your journal, a random walk with a friend to a 15-mitute treadmill jog. Basically, it has to be anything that will allow you process your day, wind down and just clear out the thoughts that may be stirring around.
Banish Blue Light
Electronic gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and PCs give off the sleep-stealing blue light. Their impact could even be greater than for TVs as you tend to hold them much closer to your face. Even beyond the light, these smartphones can be distractions that are virtually unlimited be it for late-night reading, emails, texting, social media or games.
Particularly, teens are more likely to lose sleep over smartphone-related distractions. At the very least, putting your smartphone in silent mode or leaving it outside your bedroom when you go to sleep can help in minimizing any form of disruption. Such functions as the ‘do not disturb’ mode can also be useful. When you get up in the morning, get some sun. In the same way darkness aids in drowsiness at night, bright sunlight can support wakefulness at daytime.
The purpose of this is to allow the sun regulate circadian rhythms. Let in as much light into your room or work area as possible. This has been proven to promote better sleep. Direct exposure to sunlight is also a good way to supply you with vitamin D, whose role in sleep is linked to neurotransmitters and hormones.
There are definitely going to be a few sleep stealers in your bedroom that could make it more difficult to fall or stay asleep. Whenever you can, it’s important to address all controllable distractions. Keep an eye out for all these – the environmental factors are rather common and much easier to fix. The following room preparation tactics can go a long way in improving your sleep time and quality:
Keep it Cool
According to research, the ideal sleep temperature borders around 60 and 70 degrees. Personal preferences can cause some variations but in order to maintain better, restful sleep, cooler temperatures are generally the best. Naturally, our bodies note a temperature dip at night which means that being too hot could work against that effect and prevent comfortable, deeper sleep. To know what works best for you, adjust the thermostat more often. With time, you might actually land on a temperature that’s ideal to keep you comfortable and asleep through the night.
Keep it Dark at Night
In our internal rhythms, light plays a pretty much significant role by affecting those mechanisms that usually govern wakefulness and drowsiness. Generally, the body is geared to be active in the light and get sleepy when it’s dark. Sleep professionals suggest that you keep a very dark bedroom at night. This implies turning off lamps, clocks and all electronics. People living in cities where nightlife means all light could have a little problem. However, a good way to counter this challenge is by using light-blocking shades or dark drapes to minimize the amount that comes in through the windows. Eye masks and blackout shades can even be more important for those whose sleeping schedule involves sleeping way past sunrise. This is because bright sunlight can make the last couple of hours of sleep less restful.
Diffuse or Reduce Noise
Some people can sleep through a concert but others awake at even the slightest breeze or faint creak. Earplugs or ambient noise can be helpful for light sleepers. A good way to diffuse any background noise and prevent bumps that could bother you at night is using white noise machines, fans, sound conditioners or apps designed to play nature sounds. Calming music and ambient noise can also help drift off for those whose minds are sent running by silence. If you find any noise distracting, maybe earplugs are just what you need. However, if you’re weary of headphones or earplugs, you might opt for wrist alarms or a vibrating phone to get you some peace of mind.
Make it Cozy and Sleep-Friendly
Vacuum and dust regularly. Bedrooms tend to see more of dirt, shed skin cells, dust mites and dust more than the other rooms as this is where most of your day is spent. Giving your upholstery, the mattress and carpets a vacuum once every one or two weeks can help keep your sleep area healthy and clean. This can be particularly important for people with asthma and allergies.
Keeping your bedroom clutter free can also transform your sleep experience. You may not be a neat freak but once you realize the serenity associated with a tidy and clean bedroom, you will never go back. Unfortunately, most of us do not have a nightly cleaning or turndown service at our disposal. However, that does not mean that taking a few minutes off your busy day to tidy up quickly is such a bad idea. Nightstands fitted with drawers, catch-all storage bins and a clothes’ hamper can be the best aids for quick de-cluttering.
Keep Bedroom Activities Minimal
Sleep hygiene dictates that the bed be used only for sleep and getting intimate. Having this in mind, your brain can associate your bed with sleep and only that, not with other activities such as reading, eating, watching TV or gaming. Such things could pull your intellectual and emotional attention making it less relaxing and more distracting. They press to-dos whenever you’re ready for sleep and make it harder to turn off your stressful thoughts. Keep all waking activities in another room, or rather, have a comfy chair or separate desk in your bedroom.
Make the Environment Tranquil
The small things that surround you can affect the quality of your rest and comfort much as their distraction potential may seem very minimal. The colors you paint your room with can influence the quality of your rest. Rather than a glossy paint, give your bedroom a matte finish. Whatever makes you happy, be it a cool, blue color or the warm yellow, incorporate that in your room’s walls.
The element of tranquility can also be cultivated by diming lights in the evening a couple of hours before your bedtime. A smart light bulb can taper off the light gradually or even change the hue, encouraging natural drowsiness. Green it up a little if you have to – having a few plants in your room can freshen indoor air to provide you with a cleaner place to snooze. The best at purifying pollutants include spider plants, Boston Ferns, snake plants, English ivy and chrysanthemums. Contrary to what most people believe, plants in your bedroom at night are not all that bad. As a matter of fact, snake plants and aloe give off extra oxygen at night, which makes it a perfect option.
Adopting good habits prior to sleeping is another important part when you want to make better rest a regular part of your life. There are certain things that you can do to prevent common sleep problems and support better rest at night. Some of the best bedtime rituals you can try out are as outlined below:
Use a Heat Pack or Take a Warm Bath
A nice cozy soak in a warm tub coupled with some calming music and scents is the epitome of relaxation. It also helps your body’s sleep cycle. Once you’re out of the tub, body temperature drops naturally in about one to two hours. Baths have been known to influence drowsiness. This is mostly due to mimicking the natural temperature drop that coincides with sleepiness in the normal circadian rhythms. Having a hot bath around two hours before bed is ideal for the temperature drop. Also, spend some time with a heated blanket or a heat pack, and remember to keep your bedroom cool!
Use Dim Lights in the Evening
If you want to use lighting to your advantage, a good way to go about it is by dimming down during the couple of hours that lead up to your bedtime. Switch off bright halogen or fluorescent bulbs and go for dim lamps for the bedroom and living areas instead.
Installing a dimmer switch or utilizing lamps with smart light bulbs can be particularly beneficial. Use bulbs that elicit some form of softness or warmth. Kelvins under 3000 work great. Lower Kelvin temperatures are rather yellower and thus dimmer, whereas higher Kelvin temperatures tend to be bluer and brighter making them less ideal for great sleep. Opt for lumens below 450. Lower lumens tend to be dimmer and as such better for evenings. Higher lumens, however, are better for workspaces and daytime use.
Switch off the TV Earlier
While watching a couple of shows on TV is often relaxing and entertaining, it is not necessarily the wisest thing to do before you go to bed. Millions of people have taken this up as a common evening routine. What they fail to realize is that the cool glow from the TV screen gives off a melatonin-suppressing light that could keep you up much longer than you may have intended.
Those shows that usually keep you glued on your seat’s edge may also prove difficult to put off when it’s time to sleep. The alternatives, with frightening or emotional content could cause stress or anxiety, even for grown-ups, making it harder to feel peaceful and calm at night. Consider keeping shows more light hearted during the hours before you go to bed. If your TV has one, use the dimmer function and ensure there’s a set off time which is at least a half an hour before your bedtime. Generally, sleep experts advise against having a TV in your bedroom at all, and particularly for children’s rooms.
Stretch Out a Little
Some yoga or light stretching could help in providing relief for tensions and aches from a hectic day. This makes it much easier to get settled in and comfortable in bed. A study has found stretches to relieve leg cramps. Oftentimes it’s recommended for those suffering from back pain. The concept of this exercise is to lightly stretch out some sore areas and limber out, not necessarily breaking a sweat, which is why it has to be kept gentle.
What to Do During Sleep
There are certain breathing techniques that could be effective reducing stress and anxiety to provide a rewarding sense of calmness. Before going to bed, you can try breathing deeply while exhaling through your mouth. This can be done as many times as you wish until you are able to reach your intended level of relaxation.
Opt for Separate Blankets
Most people find comfort sleeping close to their significant other and often, it’s been reported as an indicator for healthy relationships. Yet, coupling up can sometimes mean sleeping less in turn causing such undesirable things as resentment, bad moods and more fights. Your partner may be a snoring machine which means that even if you don’t wake up consciously, your sleep won’t be as restful. If your preferences differ from your partner’s you might want to consider using separate blankets or even better, go for a dual-sided temperature control device to keep the peace. Alternatively, exile your partner to another room or the sofa for a week to see if it makes a difference.
The kind of effect smell has on the mind is very powerful. Many may not realize this but scents have been known to promote relaxations ever since the medieval times. Lavender oil, for instance, has been known to reduce blood pressure at night and enhance the quality of sleep even in hospital settings. It has also been known to have some pretty significant sleep effects to people suffering from heart disease besides easing up the effects of depression and insomnia in younger women.
Ylang ylang and chamomile are regarded as relaxing. For better sleep at night place a few drops of lavender oil in a jar and add a little water. Dab some of it on cotton on your nightstand. Use a diffuser or mix up linen spray to get this effect.
Keep Mattresses and Pillows Comfy and Clean
Best mattresses and pillows provide support for your body as you rest. They are a very important part of the sleep equation. If your bed no longer supports you or is of incompatible firmness, it could leave you with restless and painful nights. On average, your mattress should serve you for about ten years. This means that if yours is older and you find hotel rooms more comfortable to sleep in, it’s time to replace it.
Research indicates that people who use old mattresses can realize better sleep quality with lesser pain when they swap to new beds. Washing your linens weekly and making your bed can be some pain but slipping into a fresh, clean bed is totally worth it. In the middle of the skin cells, sweat and oils excreted by your body at night without mentioning all the dirt from the day and all those other things your bed is exposed to, your sheets can get a little grimly and downright unsanitary.
It’s more exciting to get into a bed with clean sheets; it’s simply comfortable and works perfectly as your go-to after a busy day for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Getting Back to Sleep When You Awaken at Night
Be Keen to Your Body
Be mindful of your feelings. This way, you can see what possibly works best for you. Keep a sleep tracker or sleep diary as it can be helpful to identify trends. If better sleep is made a part of your life, it can take a little work especially if it doesn’t come naturally, but it’s something still worth prioritizing. Good rest can set the stage on our looks, feelings, learning and interactions with others.
Relax and Minimize Stress
One of the most enormous sleep stealers is stress – this is an undeniable fact. In between work, money, family, relationships, busy schedules and all those other things you have to constantly think about, you might get caught up and all you need is a peaceful night’s sleep. Those with higher levels of stress have been reported to experience less overall sleep with most cases of insomnia.
Failing to get enough sleep can also cause stress, which could also contribute to disrupted sleep cycles. As far as possible, try to keep off from stress and maintain a regular sleeping pattern. There could never be any better way to sleep than knowing that you have nothing else to worry about. After all, sleeping is one of the best ways you can run away from your troubles.
Rather Than Sleeping, Focus on Relaxation
Once in bed, the biggest trick is to focus on relaxing behaviors such meditation, breathing or muscle relaxation – not on achieving just sleep itself. Some people consider thinking about it or forcing sleep. This could create anxiety, bring on insomnia and actually make sleep more elusive.
Expressing gratitude can have rewarding benefits for sleep and mood. Gratefulness is considered a positive thought, which makes it imperative to employ in your sleep schedule for better sleep quality. It helps improve sleep by reducing worry. You can try to mentally jot down those things you are grateful fore before going to sleep and express it a little more often.
Prayer and Meditation
Another huge source of relaxation and stress reduction can be drawn from meditations and praying, in accordance with what you feel would work best for you. There are several different forms of meditation including quiet contemplations and guided practices. Mindfulness has proven effective in helping with sleep and insomnia, and most people seem to find comfort and solace in bedtime prayers.
Sleep with a Clear Mind
If you are one of those people who settle into bed to lie there only thinking about the things you have to do, you might find it useful to write down all of these ideas before slipping into your bed. Come up with a to do list on everything you want to do the next day. Be it paying bills, sending emails or performing chores, you can actually clear them off your mind and attack them the following morning if you write them down. While on this, ensure that the lights are down all through.
If All Else Fails
Engage Your Imagination
People who often ruminate, find their minds racing up at night or otherwise dwell on responsibility, can richly benefit from one habit that may help is guided imagery. It involves following prompts by imagining a scene, experiencing it, drawing your thoughts beyond yourself and strictly focusing on relaxation and calmness. You can practice this with a therapist, or utilize audio tracks, apps or videos posted online to guide you through the process.
There are certain over-the-counter supplements and medicines that could have a stimulating effect on your body. There are also those that can cause vivid dreams which might disturb your sleep, be a recipe for snoring, and even impair rest. Avoid antihistamines, caffeinated pain killers, cold medicines, diet pills, B vitamins and ginseng guarana before going to bed.They have been known to cause insomnia. With a doctor’s prescription, however, you might want to consider one of these supplements to aid in better sleep at night:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Valerian Root
- Glycine and
However, these sleep supplements can only be used one variety at a time as sleep aids. Using more than one doesn’t guarantee more superior results; instead, it exposes you to greater risk factors.
Consult With Your Doctor or a Therapist
There are specific conditions from thyroid problems to sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome to acid reflux among others that may impact sleep in some unexpected ways that are rather undesirable. Medications could have a huge effect on restfulness or insomnia. When you notice certain changes in your sleep patterns, daytime tiredness, the amount of sleep you need or if you’re having trouble falling asleep, inform your doctor as soon as possible. If improving sleep hygiene habits doesn’t help much, it could be a sign that you have a disorder associated with sleep.
Leave the Bed If You Can’t Sleep
If you’ve tried relaxing and are simply unable to shut your mind down or feel a little restless, leave the bed. Instead of tossing and turning while thinking about that inability to get sleep, sit on a chair or in another room, then try reading a book or listening to calming music till you are tired and convinced you’re ready to go back to bed.
Resources & Further Reading