How many of us are actually getting the required amount of 7 or more hours per night? Show of hands? That’s not a lot of hands. About 35% of adults don’t get this required amount, according to the CDC. We don’t need to tell you how detrimental sleep deprivation can be. It can take a toll on your mental health as well as your physical health. Constant lethargy, foggy mind, and stress can all be results of sleep deprivation. To feel more energized for your days, think more clearly, and to manage stress, there are many mistakes you may be making that prevent you from getting quality sleep.
Here are some ways to get better sleep or fall asleep faster:
Increase exposure to light during daylight hours
Exposure to light during the day helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. If you do no expose your body to light (artificial or otherwise), your body will feel tired and sleepy throughout your day and into the night. Because the sunlight helps our bodies differentiate between daytime and nighttime, a lack of light exposure during the day will make you sleepy and make it difficult to sleep later when your melatonin levels drop. This is part of the reason people get jet-lagged on long flights.
Do not nap for longer than 30 minutes during the day
Heavy napping throws off your body’s sleeping cycle–especially in large durations–because the adult body does not need that much sleep to operate. Napping for longer than 30-minute intervals will make you less tired by the time bedtime rolls around, making it more difficult to fall asleep. If you want to fall asleep faster, avoid naps during the day unless you truly need it.
Reduce consumption of caffeine
Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages are great for staying awake (obviously) but not great for when you need to sleep later. Resist the urge to grab that second, third or fourth cup of joe in the late afternoon.
Wake up consistently every day
Setting an alarm to wake up at a consistent hour of each day regulates your body so you’ll fall asleep or get tired around the same time too. If you work inconsistent hours or days of the week, this may be a bit more difficult, but try to find a window where you can wake up consistently and fall asleep faster and more consistently for your bedtime. The same goes for your days off! We all want to sleep in on our days off, but avoid sleeping in more than 3 hours past the time you usually wake up. This can throw off your sleeping schedule too and make it more difficult to sleep on time that night.
Limit eating and drinking alcohol right before bed
It’s recommended to eat at least 2 hours before bed to allow your body to digest. You’ll find that if you eat too close to bedtime or snack late in the night, it may be harder to fall asleep or have a great sleep.
Alcohol right before bed could also affect your quality of sleep. If you want to get to sleep faster, make sure you’re not consuming alcohol 2-3 hours before bedtime. Studies show that alcohol negatively affects the quality of sleep in many ways–reducing the secretion of melatonin in the body resulting in disrupted sleep patterns. Drinking alcohol before sleep can also cause sleep apnea and oxygen desaturation.
Take a warm bath or shower
We’re not ones to deny a nice warm shower or bath in any case, but taking one 1-2 hours before bed will help relax your body and mind to prepare for bed. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil for a spa-like experience that has calming effects. Making this a part of your nighttime routine can help you decompress after a long stressful day. We’ll talk more about essential oils’ effect on sleep later.
Have a routine
Speaking of nighttime routines, having one helps a ton with sleeping. Going through the motions helps your body prepare for bed since there is a sequence involved that your body gets used to. It’s also like checking off a mini-list (if you’re a list person), so mentally you’ve checked everything off and are ready for bed.
Keep your room dark during nighttime hours
Having light on in the room while you’re trying to sleep can lead to bad quality sleep and grogginess during the daytime–yes, we’re talking about the TV too. Referring back to your body’s circadian rhythm, your body needs to differentiate when its daytime or nighttime which is affected by light. If you are used to falling asleep to the sounds of the TV, try a white noise machine instead.
Use a white noise machine
A white noise machine plays soothing, repetitive sounds that help some people fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. This ranges from waterfalls to birds chirping, or even the crashing of waves in the ocean, and creates an environment where your mind can relax and drift off without the disruptive blue light of your TV.
Reduce exposure to blue light at least 2 hours before bed
Blue light from devices like phone screens, TVs, tablets and more, are known to delay the release of melatonin, and in contrast, increases alertness disrupting your body’s circadian rhythm. See a pattern here? We’re probably all a little guilty of this, but putting your phone away from your bed could have many benefits. It’ll keep you from grabbing it and browsing for another hour past your bedtime, and when your alarm rings (assuming you use your phone’s alarm), you’ll have to physically get up in order to turn it off–no more hitting snooze.
Exercise during the day
Exercise, as we all know, has many health benefits, so it’s a must to incorporate into your daily routine. Studies show that exercise can even help sleep by deterring symptoms of insomnia in adults. In fact, one study showed that in people with severe insomnia, exercise reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30% and anxiety by 15%–increasing total sleep time by 18%. It’s quite possible that if you exercise right before bedtime, your body might need some time to adjust, so if you’re having this problem, try exercising during the day instead to improve sleep and benefit your body’s circadian rhythm.
Use a humidifier or aromatherapy diffuser
Humidifiers are great for those with sinus congestion, when you’re sick, or if you live in a dry climate. They relieve congestion by adding moisture to the air and helping the hairs in your nose to move freely so they can filter out bacteria that can cause colds or allergies. They also prevent dryness that may lead to bloody noses or irritation in the nasal passages that may disrupt sleep in addition to keeping skin hydrated so you don’t toss and turn from irritated dry skin. Ever get that dry, scratchy feeling in your nose and throat that makes you wake up in the middle of the night? A humidifier will provide relief by adding moisture into the air in your room, resulting in better quality sleep.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to relieve stress which promotes better sleep. If you prefer holistic approaches, this may be worthwhile to try. Scents and smells that travel through our olfactory nerves connect to the brain, sending signals to different paths like the limbic system and the amygdala, which dictate emotions, mood, and memory. This indicates that scents can trigger physical reactions in the body proving effective in various ways–including sleep.
You can use aromatherapy for your benefit in several ways: topically when diluted with water and rubbed gently into acupressure points on the body, with reed diffusers, candles, or even with aromatherapy diffusers (some are a combination of humidifiers and aromatherapy diffusers!). The six types of essential oils proven effective for sleep are lavender, lemon or yuzu, bergamot, ylang-ylang, clary sage, and jasmine. All have properties that relieve stress and have calming effects to help you achieve better quality sleep.
Keep your room cool
Keeping your room cool encourages deeper sleep. Your body naturally drops in temperature before bed, signaling that it’s time to get some rest. Keeping your room cool will trigger this response, but when a room gets too hot, it will block this signal or disrupt your sleep.
Your body temperature naturally drops before bed as we mentioned, but it also naturally gets warmer when you’re closer to waking up, which can make you feel like you’re sleeping hot or make you wake up sweating profusely. Keeping your room cooler can prevent this and regulate that optimum temperature throughout the night. So–what is the optimum temperature? It’s recommended to keep your room between 60-68 degrees to stimulate the production of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Meditation has been growing in popularity for good reason. It’s the practice of emotional wellness, caring for the mind, managing stress and promoting overall happiness. Practicing meditation is great for people who tend to be restless at night and have trouble clearing the mind before bed. Meditation is a practice, so it takes some time to get it right, but the benefits are worthwhile. Once you practice how to meditate, you’ll be able to use it to destress after each day and use your practice whenever you need to.
You’ve heard us talk about melatonin throughout this entire read, so you probably know by now how important it is to have healthy levels of melatonin in your life. If you feel like none of the above methods are helping, it might be worth it to look into taking melatonin supplements. Always consult your physician before taking supplements to see if it is the right option for you.
Getting good quality sleep is so crucial for your wellness and worth investing the time and energy in for overall better quality of life! It’s your source of energy, anti-aging, and recovery. Try these tips for getting better sleep for yourself and see how life-changing great quality sleep can be.