On average, humans spend one-third of their lives sleeping, and the quality of sleep you get affects your health to a large extent. Poor sleep can have you waking up on the wrong side of the bed, ruining your mood, and leaving you unproductive at the end of the day. Getting quality sleep is as vital as any other activity you carry out to stay healthy, like dieting and exercising. There are a host of practical tips that can enable you to get better quality sleep, which we will be discussing in this guide.
#1 Do not disrupt your body’s clock
The body’s clock regulates your sleep-wake cycle, also called the circadian rhythm. This cycle is responsive to light and darkness, which is why you become sleepy at night and are awake during the day. You should try as much as possible to sync with the cycle, so you can enjoy better sleep and feel refreshed when you wake up. To maintain a regular sleep-wake routine, you should do the following.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day: Going to bed and waking up at a particular time every day, sets a rhythm for your body clock to follow. You can achieve this by choosing a specific time at night to go to bed when you are exhausted and setting the alarm to wake you up at a specified time in the morning.
- Avoid taking long naps during the day: Taking long naps during the day may cause you not to feel sleepy early enough at night. If you are trying to maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle, this deviation will disrupt it a little, which may eventually tell on your sleep quality. It is advised that you take about 15-20 minutes of power-naps to feel energized and still maintain your sleep-wake cycle.
- Avoid snoozing: Most times, you get tempted to ignore the alarm and get an extra hour of sleep in the morning, especially during weekends, day-offs, or holidays. When it becomes a habit, your sleep-wake cycle gets disrupted.
#2 Expose yourself to bright light during the day
Since your body’s circadian rhythm responds to light and darkness, it is recommended that you expose yourself to bright light – natural or artificial- during the day. Your eyes send signals to the brain when it receives bright light causing you to stay awake and alert during the day. This way, you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, while being energized during the day, and getting quality sleep at night. You can follow these tips to get sufficient bright light during the day.
- Go for a walk in the morning: Taking a walk in the morning can allow you to get enough sunlight to get your day started. This exercise will impact your circadian rhythm such that at that time, your body will know you should be up and about.
- Allow sunlight into the house: When you are at home during the day, raise the blinds to let sun rays in. If you do not have time to take a walk in the morning, this is also a way to get sunlight in the morning. You can do your morning activities by the sunny window. At work, raise the blinds.
- Use bright artificial lights: Early in the morning, when the sun is not out, or on cloudy days, you can use bright artificial lights to maintain your circadian rhythm.
- Carry out outdoor activities: Take any chance you get to receive sunlight. Walk short distances, exercise outside, sit for a while in the sun, or take your coffee outdoors.
#3 Reduce your exposure to bright light at night
Just as bright light affects your circadian rhythm, making you stay awake during the day, it may also cause your brain to think it is still day time when you get exposed to it at night. A lesser amount of light enters your eye at night, and melatonin is secreted from the brain. When this happens, you begin to feel tired and sleepy. So to go to sleep faster, you should reduce your exposure to light with the following tips.
- Turn off the light when you want to sleep: Close the blinds, turn off the lights, and make sure that your room is dark or dimly lit to help you fall asleep faster. If there is a need to move around your room at night or down the hallway to the bathroom, you should use dim light. You can install dim night lights beside your bed or use flashlights to help make going back to sleep easier.
- Use sleep masks or blackout curtains: If you sleep with a partner, it is advisable to use sleep masks just in case he/she turns on the lights without warning. These sleep masks prevent disruption of sleep. Blackout curtains are also useful in keeping the sun out, so your brain can produce more melatonin.
- Avoid blue light at night: Blue light or tech light is emitted from electronic devices like computers, smartphones, and televisions. It disrupts your sleep cycle because it sends signals to your brain and inhibits the amount of melatonin produced. To fall asleep faster, avoid exposure to blue light by doing the following.
- Put your phone away before bed: It is advised to stay away from your smartphone one hour before you sleep. if you must use your phone within the hour before you go to bed, turn down the screen’s brightness.
- Avoid Watching TV Late into the Night: Late-night shows may be appealing, but you should avoid them. Watching TV at night may affect your regular sleep time, reduce the production of melatonin, and make falling asleep difficult.
- Use specialized glasses: If you have to use your phone at night, you can wear glasses designed to reduce the blue light that gets into your eye.
#4 Make sure your room is comfortable enough
Your room should be conducive enough to guarantee that you get quality sleep. A serene and peaceful environment is also a stimulant of sleep. To make your bedroom favorable, you should do the following
- Get rid of noise: As much as you can, eliminate noise from your bedroom. When you cannot control the noise coming in, you can use earplugs to shut yourself out from the noisy environment or sound machines and fans to tune the noise to the background.
- Make sure your room is clean: sleeping in a dirty and untidy room can mitigate good sleep. Tidy up your room, make your bed, and remove things that will keep you uncomfortable.
- Sleep in a cool place: Your bedroom should be fresh and well ventilated. Try to maintain a room temperature of about 60° to 65° Fahrenheit so that you can be comfortable during the night. You can also set the temperature to fit your preference.
- Set your bed aside for sleep and sex. Keep work away from your bed. Try not to use your phones or laptops in bed. That way, your mind will associate the bed to just sleep and sex, making it easier for you to fall asleep once you are in bed.
- Use humidifiers: Dry air makes the throat parched, making you uncomfortable, hence the need for humidifiers. They will help improve the moisture content of the air in the bedroom.
#5 Watch what you eat and reduce your liquid intake before bed
During the day and at night, before bed, you should mind what you eat. Your choice of food can affect your sleep quality. Try eating healthy late-night snacks instead of heavy meals. Spicy foods and carbs right before bed might cause indigestion. Those heavy meals eaten right before bed can cause discomfort and indigestion capable of keeping you awake at night.
Drinking too many liquids right before bed can make you wake up frequently to use the bathroom. This need to urinate frequently disrupts your sleep and may eventually lead to insomnia. Alcohol may affect your circadian rhythm and cause other sleeping disorders like snoring. Caffeine helps to keep you energized, but it is bad for you during the night because to go to sleep, you need to be relaxed. It is advised that you avoid taking caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bed.
#6 Sleep on a comfortable mattress
Get a mattress that does not impact your spinal alignment, keeping you comfortable, and increasing the quality of sleep you get at night. The right mattress and pillow have numerous benefits, such as alleviating snoring and pains in the back and joint.
- Change your old mattress: If your mattress is old and sagging, there are chances that the quality of sleep you are getting is not satisfactory. Get a new one that suits your preferences and watch your sleep disorders improve.
- Use clean sheets: Sleeping on clean sheets reduces the risk of breathing in allergens that may cause a reaction or any severe health condition.
#7 Good self-care
Exercising daily, whether heavy or light, is an effective way to increase your sleep quality. It increases your sleep time and reduces wakefulness at night. As much as exercising is beneficial to your health and sleep quality, it is not good to do it late or before bed. When you do so, falling asleep may be difficult as the adrenaline hormone is released, and alertness is heightened.
Very often, you do not just fall asleep once you hit the bed. It may only happen when you are very tired or drunk, which is not a healthy habit. So, to sleep faster and more healthily, you should spend the hour before bedtime doing something that calms your mind down. Some of these relaxing activities are listed below.
- Reading a book
- Listening to soft music
- Breathing exercises
- Getting a relaxation massage
- Body scan exercises
#8 Relaxation-inducing supplements
Taking melatonin supplements can enhance your sleep quality and shorten the time you spend in bed before falling asleep. It helps you adjust to a new time zone, which is useful to shift workers. However, you may need to seek medical advice before using it.
#9 Wear comfortable nightclothes
It is advisable to have particular clothes for sleeping. These clothes should be comfortable, light, and fit loosely. Night clothes are preferably made from silk, cotton, or wool for hot and cold nights. Wear night wear suitable for the weather.
#10 Sleep tracking
You may want to try recording your sleep in a diary to help you understand the quality of sleep you get every night. There are mobile apps with features that enable you to log and figure out when your sleep is deteriorating or improving. Getting a digital sleep tracker is an even smarter way of keeping sleep records.
Having a warm bath before bed is an effective way to relax. Warm water soothes the nerves and enhances sleep quality. If your sleep quality is poor, you may want to seek medical attention to rule out sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea. Other sleep-related problems like snoring and insomnia will need the attention of a qualified health professional.