How To Improve Your Sleep In 8 Steps
Why is sleep so important? Why do you feel “off” on days where you don’t get proper sleep? The truth is, sleep is crucial to our survival because it promotes our health during times when we’re awake. When our sleep is disturbed, we face many consequences for our mental and physical health: first, sleep boosts our immune system. Second, sleep decreases our chances of being diagnosed with medical illnesses. Lastly, sleep enhances our psychological health and well-being. Therefore, it is definitely worth incorporating these simple lifestyle changes into your day to experience a good night’s sleep.
What is blue light exposure? Sadly, this form of light is the type of light we are exposed to the most in our modern world today— it is the light that comes off of screens. Blue light threatens your sleep because it tricks your brain into thinking that it is daytime, which reduces sleep-inducing hormones such as melatonin (1). To avoid blue light exposure at night, you don’t necessarily have to refrain from using screens. Several solutions may ensure you have a good sleep: first, you can invest in a pair of blue light glasses to block the light rays that prevent the expression of melatonin (1). Second, you can download an app on your smartphone or computer that blocks the blue light coming off of your screens (1)! Last, you can easily just refrain from screentime two hours before you plan to go to sleep (1).
You may find yourself working in your bedroom from time to time. However, if you want to ensure you get a good night’s sleep, you need to make sure your bedroom is solely a place of tranquillity and relaxation (2). You can do this by minimizing distractions in your bedroom and making it as comfortable as possible (2). Here are some tips to increase your comfort:
- Choose high-quality mattresses and bedding
- Minimize light as much as possible (e.g., through blackout curtains)
- Keep the noise level to a minimum
- Find a comfortable temperature
Your body has a circadian rhythm that cycles every twenty-four hours. Circadian rhythm may seem like a fancy term— but it is just the cycle that regulates the amount of time your body is asleep and awake every day (1). If you want to enhance your sleep quality, it is best to be consistent with the times you sleep and wake up (1). The reasoning behind this is highlighted in a sleep study: participants that did not sleep and wake at the exact times every day not only experienced poorer sleep, but their levels of melatonin (which signal our brains to sleep) were irregular (1).
Exercise is the most evidence-based method to ensure better sleep: it reduces symptoms of insomnia, it reduces the time it takes to fall asleep by a significant amount, and it improves your health (1). Therefore, if you begin to exercise every day, you will notice that you fall asleep faster, into a deeper sleep, and have less anxiety (1). However, exercising too close to your bedtime can reverse these effects (1). Exercise stimulates your adrenal glands, enhancing your wakefulness and alertness— thereby decreasing your sleep quality and quantity if done in the evening (1). Therefore, it is best to end your exercise sessions at least two hours before bedtime.
Caffeine. It is one of the most widely used substances because of the energy and wakefulness it brings for us, which can sometimes help us overcome sleepiness. However, coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and even some food items contain lots of caffeine— so we may be getting more of it throughout the day than we need. If you try to use caffeine for a jolt of energy during the day, you may find that you will develop sleep deprivation as a long-term effect as it stops your body from relaxing naturally at night (2). So to make sure you have a good night’s sleep, you should minimize your caffeine intake, avoid consuming it later in the day and evening and don’t rely on it as a source of daily energy (2).
As previously mentioned, melatonin is the primary hormone that lets your body know it is time to go to sleep. You can purchase melatonin (and many other sleep supplements) using this link at Health Works. The best part is that it is possible to take melatonin as a supplement for those who may have trouble falling asleep, and it is one of the most effective methods to help you enhance your sleep quality (1). Another benefit of taking melatonin is that there are no withdrawal effects since it is created by your own body, compared to other sleep drugs that harm your sleep long-term (1).
As humans, we heavily rely on our social relationships. Indeed, sleeping next to your loved ones may increase your sleep quality and efficiency. For example, a study illustrated that when participants slept next to a loved one, their sleep duration increased as well as how well they think they slept (3). This weird connection between sleep and who you’re next to exists because of our sense of smell: it turns out that when we are accustomed to our romantic partner’s scent, their scent can act similarly to the effect of melatonin on our brains (3)! So cuddle up next to your loved ones for some sweet dreams.
Unfortunately, stress is an inevitable part of life that we must experience. However, minimizing the amount of stress you experience can increase your sleep quality and duration! Having stress and worrisome thoughts decreases the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep you experience. This association exists because the more stressed out you are, the more you will stay awake to think about the stressors in your life that will come the next day. To reduce your stress, you can do many things:
- Take stress-relieving supplements before bed (you can purchase them right here at Health Works using this link)
- Try Aromatherapy with essential oils
(1) Mawer, R. (2020, February 28). 17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better#8.-Dont-drink-alcohol
(2) How to Sleep Better. (2020, July 30). Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/healthy-sleep-tips(3)Hofer, M. K., & Chen, F. S. (2020). The scent of a good Night’s sleep: Olfactory cues of a romantic partner improve sleep efficiency. Psychological Science, 31(4), 449-459. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620905615