If you’re reading this, chances are that you don’t get great sleep. You’re not alone – neither does at least one in three Americans. That’s why we won’t bother with describing the effects of lack of sleep in this post. However, if you don’t know what it’s like to wake up with your energy level on empty and are here out of sheer curiosity, you can learn about them in our previous article (spoiler alert: they’re all bad).
Here, we’ll focus on making sure you’re doing everything right to help you get better quality sleep.
1. Sleep in bed
The first thing to do at the beginning of your journey to better sleep is to take a look at the place where you usually do it. Needless to say, if you have a tendency to nap on a couch, in front of the TV or at your desk at work, these are not the places we are talking about here. What we actually mean is your bedroom – a room in which you can find a bed and which is dedicated primarily to sleeping. So what can you do to transform it into a real sleep sanctuary?
2. Keep it cool
Sleeping in a stuffy room may make it harder for you to breathe during the night, and lack of oxygen might even make you wake up. The best bedroom temperature is thought to be around 18℃ (65℉). That may sound a little on the cool side for many, but that’s what the covers are for. Just remember not to stick your head under, because your brain loves cold. Actually one of the functions of melatonin, the main ‘sleep hormone,’ is cooling it down. A study, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, proves that wearing a cooler cap can even be a cure for insomnia.
3. Lights out and no blues
Light stimulates alertness and wakefulness, and although it might help you get up in the morning, it makes it harder to fall asleep in the evening because among other things, it suppresses the secretion of melatonin. Exposure to light during the night also disrupts your biological clock – it makes your body confused about whether it should be asleep or not. Now, the blue light (read bright TV/computer/mobile device screens) that we all know and love especially before bed, is much worse, because it’s an even bigger melatonin suppressant than regular light. And while cutting out you favorite series or social media browsing in bed may not be an option for you, you should definitely look into downloading an app that minimizes your exposure to blue light and makes your screen more sleep-friendly in the evening.
4. Drown out the noise
Another major factor is how loud your bedroom is. Noise coming from outside, whether you live next to a busy street or loud neighbors, is definitely not helpful. Earplugs are one way to go, but not all people find them comfortable. White noise can be very helpful as it can be used to drown out the unwanted sounds and make you more relaxed.
5. Bed is (almost exclusively) for sleeping
Finally, remember that your bed is a place that should be dedicated to sleeping and sex only. While reading or watching TV in bed might seem comfortable, it’s not doing your sleep any favors. What it’s actually doing is programming your mind to associate your bed with entertainment and alertness while the only association it should have is ‘rest.’
6. Two is a crowd when you’re sleeping
If you share the bed with your partner, here comes some bad news. The best and healthiest way to sleep is alone. However, if you can’t sleep without your significant other, at least don’t let your pets get on the bed – they tend to move a lot and can wake you up during the night.
7. Position yourself for restful sleep
Although studies show that the most common sleeping position used by around 41% of the population is the semi-fetal position, it is not perfect. Sleeping on the side can worsen heartburn or put a strain on your internal organs such as the liver or lungs. Sleeping on your back is widely recommended because it doesn’t put any pressure on your back, but it can also make you snore loud enough to wake yourself up, not to mention others. The truth is, there is no such thing as the best position except the one which feels good to you. And using a pillow is always a good idea as it keeps your neck in a proper position.
8. Exercise daily, sleep better nightly
Physical activity is of great help when it comes to sleep. Even 10 minutes of intense exercise a day can positively influence your ability to fall and stay asleep. Physical activity helps you relax, improves your well-being and minimizes the risk of developing a sleep disorder. Also, the more you exercise, the more time you spend in deep sleep which repairs muscle and brain cells. If intense physical activity is not an option, even a brief walk outside can make a difference. Meditation or some light yoga are also a good idea, especially shortly before going to bed.
9. Eat right, sleep tight
You probably already heard that the last meal during the day should be consumed no later than two hours before going to bed. Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb, as eating shortly before falling asleep can make you wake up more frequently during the night. Indigestion caused by overeating will also interfere with your sleep architecture and may make your sleep much less restful. On the other hand, there are some foods, especially those rich in melatonin, that can actually help you fall asleep. They include oatmeal, bananas, almonds and spinach.
10. No nightcaps
While drinking alcohol before bed might make you extra sleepy, it’s definitely not recommended. Alcoholic drinks disrupt your sleeping pattern and cause you to wake up a lot more during the night. All it can really do for you is cause you to get up feeling bad.
If you’ve tried all the above tips and still aren’t getting good sleep, check out Nightly – the first complete active sleep assistant featuring Sleep Stimulation technology which creates a calming sleep environment with soothing sounds which help maintain deep restful sleep. More on the app here.
- Epstein, Lawrence J. (2010). Improving sleep: A guide to a good night’s rest. Boston, MA: Harvard Medical School.
- Marano, H. (2003, November 1). How to Get Great Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200311/how-get-great-sleep
- Park, A. (2011, June 17). Can’t Sleep? Try a Cooling Cap. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/17/tip-for-insomniacs-cool-your-head-to-fall-asleep/