10 Tips for Better Sleep
Sleep. We all need it. The Mayo Clinic states that adults need around 8 hours of sleep per day for it to count as a good night’s rest.
So, why is it so hard to get it?
We all know why: Life. It doesn’t exactly leave much room for bedtime. Kids? No sleep. Stressful full-time job? No sleep. Both? Well, you get the picture.
We could name a billion different reasons why getting enough sleep isn’t that simple. But we only have so much writing space in this blog post.
So, let’s first go over a few sleep terms you need to know:
To paraphrase the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS): Wake up, live life, go to bed, repeat. This, readers, is our 24-hour cycle, thanks to our circadian rhythm.
Which is why it’s very important to watch your light exposure when going to bed. (For more information on the circadian rhythm, visit NIGMS’s site here.)
Rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep
The Sleep Foundation states that REM is mostly known for its dreamy effect on our sleep cycle. Remember those dreams you had, where you lost your teeth, flew over buildings or got chased by an unknown assailant? Well, you may have been experiencing REM sleep.
The Sleep Foundation also states that the REM cycle is responsible for keeping our muscles at bay during sleep, so that we don’t act out our dreams and hurt ourselves.
Think about personal hygiene, but with sleep. Just like medical professionals and your parents always tell you to wash your hands and freshen up every day, you should also keep a healthy sleep routine, therefore healthy sleep hygiene – as the Sleep Education site says in its article “Healthy Sleep Habits.”
Now that you have an idea about the 3 terms above, let us share with you 10 ways you can improve your sleep quality, get the necessary 8 hours and have the sleep hygiene of a rock!
1. Build a comfortable sleep environment.
It should go without saying that sleep is pretty much impossible if you’re not comfortable.
But it’s true. And it’s important. Think of your workspace. You’re expected to have a clean desk area without any distractions, right? Well, your sleep environment works the same way.
According to both the Mayo Clinic and Sleep Education, an ideal sleep environment is a cool, dark room with little to no light emission. Because our circadian rhythm is typically active in the daytime, having the lights on in your room while you’re trying to sleep can make your circadian rhythm think it’s daytime, leading it to suppress the sleep hormone, melatonin. As a result, sleep will be very difficult.
Thus, a proper sleep environment means no cellphones, no leaving the TV on and no leaving on that lamp on your nightstand. If you’re afraid of the dark, a small nightlight should suffice (not too little, but not so much to where your circadian rhythm gets distracted by its presence). And a little bit of sweet-smelling fragrance wouldn’t hurt either (for a list of the best fragrances for sleep, click here)
2. Avoid heavy meals.
You know those Chicken Express tenders that have been calling your name all day? Sure, it’s late now, but you wouldn’t want them to go to waste – HOLD IT!
Proper sleep hygiene says NO EATING BEFORE BED.
Registered dietitian Alexis Supan, RD explains in a Cleveland Clinic article that heavy or unhealthy meals (a bucket of fried chicken, for example) can disrupt melatonin production, therefore your circadian rhythm, therefore your sleep cycle. Plus, foods that are both unhealthy and in big portions can lead to fat buildup while you sleep. Not so great if you’re trying to lose a few pounds!
However, if you’re still super hungry, Supan recommends avoiding the potato chips and instead getting small snacks that are both healthy and protein-rich. (Example: veggies with hummus, Greek yogurt, etc.)
3. Limit alcohol intake.
Even though alcohol is seen as a relaxer or sleep aid for some, it is the quality of sleep that takes a hit.
Wellness sites such as Verywell Health state that alcohol messes with your hormones, especially melatonin. Sleep medicine specialist Brandon Peters, MD, who wrote the Verywell Health article about drinking and bedtime, adds that we should avoid drinking four hours before we go to sleep. Doing otherwise can lead you to sleep in short bursts, leading to those dreaded waking moments in the middle of the night. Not exactly great for those who want better sleep.
So, you heard the MD - best save that White Claw for the daylight hours!
4. Make a sleep schedule and stick with it.
We know. Easier said than done, right? Especially if you have kids or a full-time job that has inconsistent work periods. (If you want to improve sleep but have an irregular work schedule, check out Sleep Foundation’s tips here.)
But just like anything else in life, consistency is key to being the best at it. And your sleep schedule is no exception to this rule. So, try to schedule sleeping hours that best fit your daily schedule and stick to it as much as you can.
5. Listen to relaxing music.
Certified sleep science coach Jill Zwarensteyn sums it up in her 2023 Sleep Advisor article: Experts believe that music with 60 beats per minute is the sweet spot for good sleep. The music should especially be effective if the person sleeps within 45 minutes of listening. Experts often recommend genres such as classical and soft instrumental music, which they say are linked to steadier heart rate and lower stress levels.
6. Take short naps.
If you’re extremely tired during the day, 15-30 minutes of naptime should do the trick. This should help you get some necessary shuteye without going into deep REM sleep.
But be careful! The longer your naps are, the more likely you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and the more likely you’ll risk even more exhaustion the next day. So, short naps are usually the best solution.
7. Moderate your caffeine intake.
We’re very sorry, but you might have to save that Starbucks or Dutch Bros fix for the morning only.
The FDA states that caffeine can last up to 6 hours in a person’s system. Houston Methodist writer and former biomedical scientist Katie McCallum writes that although studies show that caffeinated impact levels vary from person to person, researchers usually recommend avoiding caffeine at around 2 or 3 pm.
8. Limit the activities you associate with your bed.
Yes, it’s very easy to do everything in bed. We all know the temptation of being under the covers with a bag of popcorn and Netflix. Or doing remote work that needs to be done ASAP – if we need to get stuff done but are too tired to sit up at a desk, the easy solution would be to just do our work in bed, right?
Sure, you can do that. But if you want to focus on sleep hygiene, doing too many non-sleep related activities in bed will confuse your brain into believing that the bed is for everything. And the goal is to focus on sleep.
9. Take a bath or shower before bed.
Especially if you live in humid states like Texas (where even the nights are humid).
Taking a bath or shower is not just for personal hygiene or testing out that bath bomb you’ve been wanting to try (even though both are extremely important). But a nice bath or shower also helps clear your mind and feel more relaxed. Researchers even recommend a bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed for better sleep.
10. Read a book.
To the bookworms out there, see that paperback copy of Game of Thrones on your bookshelf? How about that nice-looking volume of My Hero Academia? Come on, you know you want to.
And you should! Certified health and wellness coach Leigh Saner states on sleep health site The Sleep Doctor that nighttime reading is a great way to improve your sleep hygiene. It not only helps to reduce stress but can also enhance brain activity in a consistent sleep routine!
So technically, a certified health and wellness coach is giving you permission to get a cup of relaxing tea with a nice night of reading any book you want. And how can you possibly argue with a professional?
We know life happens. And life’s not going to stop being life. It’ll throw hurdles at the worst times and throw your plans (as well as sleep plans) off course.
However, that doesn’t mean we should give up on our health. How are we going to raise children, work, meet people, and do all the other life stuff if we can’t even be healthy enough to enjoy it all? So, it should go without saying that sleep is important. But to show how significant it really is, The Cleveland Clinic states that heavy sleep deprivation not only diminishes our daily performance but is also linked to long-term health issues such as high blood pressure, depression and an increased risk of car accidents. (To learn more about the risks of sleep deprivation, check out the Cleveland Clinic’s article here.)
n short, sleep is just as essential to our survival as air and water. So, please, promise that you’ll get as much sleep as you can so that you can feel good and survive.
(*DISCLAIMER: Do not use the information listed above as a substitute for medical advice. To find information on what is right for your sleep cycle, consult with your medical professional.)