Good quality sleep is just as important as getting enough exercise and following a well-balanced diet. Even one night of poor sleep will affect your brain function, hormones, and stamina. Long-term, it can lead to changes in your metabolism, increasing your risk of gaining weight as well as developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Getting enough rest might seem impossible when you’re wide awake at 3 AM and staring at the ceiling, but you have more control than you think. Following some simple, science-based tips can make the difference between slumber and drowsiness.
Stick to a Sleep Schedule
We’ve all heard the terms “morning person” and “night owl.” A morning person is someone so full of energy when they show up to work that they irritate the groggy night own who couldn’t fall asleep early and needs at least two cups of coffee to form coherent sentences.
These terms actually have a scientific basis, and they refer to your circadian rhythm or internal clock. This is a biological process that serves to regulate your sleep. Since it can be influenced by external factors to a certain degree, you can adjust it to suit your current needs. The best way to do that is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This will set your body to produce sleep-inducing hormones at the right time, so you don’t spend your night counting imaginary sheep.
Create a Relaxing Environment
If you have to sleep in a bright and noisy bedroom, it’s not likely that you’re going to wake up feeling rested. To minimize noise, you can replace your windows with double-pane or install soundproofing panels and inserts. To reduce light, you can use heavy curtains which also help with the noise.
Don’t neglect the mattress. You need to be able to sleep in a comfortable position, or you’ll be tossing and turning all night, which will disrupt your sleep cycle. Since the ideal degree of firmness is so subjective, we recommend you to visit ASL Reviews to look into Sleep Number reviews. This technology uses air bladders to allow you to set your firmness level via remote control.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
As you may already know, caffeine is a stimulant. That’s why we drink it to feel more alert. It works by blocking adenosine receptors, and since adenosine is a neurotransmitter that causes sleepiness, your daily cup(s) of coffee makes you feel more awake. At least for a while. The effect of caffeine reaches peak levels in about 30 to 60 minutes and has a half-life between 3 and 5 hours. This is how long it takes your body to eliminate half of the caffeine you ingested. The other half will still circulate for a long time and interfere with your ability to fall asleep, as well as how rested you feel in the morning.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant, which explains why people with a low tolerance tend to get very tired from it. Although you may feel that a couple of glasses of wine in the evening help you fall asleep faster, this habit will have a negative effect on your sleep quality. It disrupts your circadian rhythm and worsens symptoms of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Regular exercise is, scientifically speaking, one of the most effective ways to improve both your rest as well as your overall health. It ameliorates the symptoms of sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea and increases the time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of your sleep cycle. The more vigorous your exercise routine, the better you’ll rest.
This may not be what you want to hear, but it can take several weeks of regular physical activity to start experiencing its full effects. You’ll need to be patient and choose a routine you can stick to. Even a daily 10-minute walk can improve the quality of your sleep.
One study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that moderate-intensity exercise four times per week reduced the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep by almost 50% and prolonged their sleep by 42 minutes.
Keep in mind that high-intensity workouts increase cortisol levels – a hormone that can interfere with your sleep patterns resulting in light sleep with frequent waking – so you’ll want to avoid this at least three hours before bedtime. Low-impact exercise like yoga can help induce rest in the evening.
Pay Attention to What You Eat
Eating a large meal shortly before bed interferes with the release of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and melatonin, resulting in poor quality sleep. Moreover, reducing sugary foods and refined carbs has been shown to improve sleep. With that being said, you don’t want to go to sleep hungry because you’ll have trouble dozing off, and the hunger will keep your brain alert all through the night. It’s better to have a small snack like a banana or a small bowl of whole-grain cereal (but make sure it’s low in sugar).
We already discussed alcohol and caffeine, but you also shouldn’t drink lots of water before bedtime, as it might make you wake up during the night to go to the bathroom. Of course, staying hydrated is very important for your health, but you might want to not drink any fluids one or two hours before going to sleep.
Keep Your Naps Short During the Day
Although short, 30-minute naps enhance brain function during the day, long and irregular naps can confuse your internal clock, making it harder to fall asleep and negatively affecting dream quality.
In fact, a 2012 study published in the Physiology & Behavior journal found that the participants experienced more daytime sleepiness after napping. On the other hand, several studies also show that if you’re used to taking naps during the day, it might not influence your sleep at night. You can try limiting your naps and see if it helps.
Increase Your Exposure to Bright Light during the Day
While exposure to light in the evening disrupts your ability to sleep, during the day, it helps you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society observed the effect of timed exposure to bright light on sixteen men and women between the ages of 62 and 81, all having had symptoms of insomnia. After 12 consecutive days, researchers found that it took participants 83% less time to fall asleep.
You can try increasing your exposure to natural light by taking more walks or by sitting out in your garden or balcony. If that’s not possible for practical reasons, you can try getting a light therapy lamp.