In a perfect world, getting a good night’s sleep would come naturally to all us. Falling asleep would be easy, noises and thoughts of overdue work would never interfere with our rest, and we all would wake up happy to hear our alarm ringing with no urge whatsoever to hit the snooze button. But sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. And getting a good night’s sleep is very often a struggle.
In case you stumbled upon this article after a sleepless night, we won’t even bother you by describing the effects of lack of sleep. You can learn about them in our previous article (spoiler alert: none of them are positive). Instead, let’s rather focus on what you should do to not let that happen again.
Is your bedroom a sleep sanctuary?
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?
Ensure that the room is properly ventilated. Sleeping in a stuffy apartment might 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℉). If it seems too cold for you, using a blanket is fine as long as you don’t cover your head with it. 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.
Cooler surroundings can also stimulate your metabolism to burn more calories during the night. But for this to happen your whole body has to be exposed to the cold.
If you’re serious about turning your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary, you should also make sure that it’s as dark as possible. Light stimulates alertness and wakefulness and while it might help you get up in the morning, it will make it harder to fall asleep in the evening. Exposing yourself to light during the night disrupts your biological clock – it makes your body confused about whether it should be asleep or not.
As for using devices with bright screens- let’s face it, almost all us can’t resist the temptation to use our phones in bed. To lessen their impact try minimizing your exposure to blue light. You can do so by downloading an app that adjusts the colors on your screen to make it more sleep-friendly in the evening.
Another thing you should pay attention to 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 solution here, 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.
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, you are not doing yourself any good by it. You are programming your mind to associate it with entertainment and alertness while the only association it should have is ‘rest’. If you are sharing your bed with your partner, we also have some bad news for you. The best and healthiest way to sleep is to hog your bed to yourself and yourself only. If you really can’t stand sleeping without your significant other, at least try to avoid letting your pets get on the bed- they tend to move a lot and can wake you up during the night.
Are your habits sleep-friendly?
After you made sure that your bedroom meets all the rules for good sleep environment, it’s time to analyze your habits.
There is a lot of debate around the perfect position for falling asleep. Studies show that most popular one, used by around 41% of people, is a semi-fetal position. Sadly, it is not perfect. Sleeping on the side can worsen heartburn or put a strain on your internal organs such as liver or lungs. Sleeping on your back is widely recommended as it doesn’t put any pressure on the back but it can also worsen snoring. The truth is, there is no such thing as ultimate best position except the one you in which you personally feel good. And using a pillow is always a good idea as it keeps your neck in a proper position.
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 phase which repairs muscle and brain cells. If intense exercises still don’t sound good enough for you, 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.
Food and drinks
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 might make your sleep much less restful. On the other side, there are some foods, especially those rich in melatonin, that can actually help you fall asleep. Some of them are oatmeal, bananas, almonds and spinach.
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.
- 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/