18 Ways To Get A Better Night’s Sleep

18 Ways To Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Proper sleep is vital for your health – just as important as diet and exercise. Lack of sleep or broken sleep has negative impacts on your overall health immediately.

A bad night’s sleep causes issues with your brain function, hormone production and overall performance. It has also been linked to weight gain. (1,2,3,4,5).

Research has reported that the quality and quantity of sleep has been declining over the last few decades (6,7).

In order to be in your best health, a proper sleep routine needs to become a lifestyle habit. Here are some methods for getting a better night’s rest.

Limit Caffeine – Especially Late In The Day

Caffeine is an  ingredient found in most extremely popular drinks (coffee, tea, energy drinks) and is consumed by approximately 90% of the adult US population. It has many proven health benefits, such as improving focus and enhancing sports performance (8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15).

Unfortunately there are down-sides. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can disrupt sleeping patterns. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours.

One study found that drinking caffeinated drinks six hours before bed time negatively affected sleep quality (16).

Drinking caffeine after 3pm should be avoided in order to avoid these sleeping problems (17,18).

Get Enough Sunshine

sunlightYour circadian rhythm refers to your body clock, or the natural awake and asleep time that your body keeps (17,18).

This rhythm affects your hormones and essentially tells your brain when to sleep and when to stay awake (19,20).

Bright lights, whether natural or artificial during sunlight hours helps to keep your circadian rhythm in a healthy state. This means high energy levels during the day and improved sleep quality at night.

Research found that as little as two hours of bright light exposure during the daytime improved sleep quality and duration in elderly patients (21)

One study linked increasing exposure to bright light during the day time improved sleep in people suffering from insomnia. It also resulted in those patients falling asleep much quicker (22).

While most of the research focuses on individuals with severe sleeping problems,even if you have minor sleeping problems, you can help keep your circadian rhythm in check by exposing yourself to bright lights during daylight hours.

Manage Your Stress

effects-of-stress-and-what-to-do-about-it-infographicThis is easier said than done, but if you have a stressful job or just have too much on your plate then you are going to up all night worrying. Your mental health is directly correlated with your physical health.

If your job is making you worry too much then perhaps you need to find a new one, or perhaps there are people in your life that are taking a toll on your mental health, decide weather to change the way you interact with these individuals or perhaps cut them out of your life.

Reduce Light Exposure At Night

using-a-smartphone-at-nightBlue light can trick your brain into thinking it is still day-time at night by reducing a hormone – melatonin. This helps your body and brain relax into a deep sleep (23,24).

Blue light comes from electronic devices – like your phone or computer screens. It is generally advised to stop any ‘screen time’ about two hours before bed to allow your brain to settle into sleep patterns.

However if you don’t want to switch off your devices, you can get specialty sunglasses to block the blue light (25,26). Or you could download apps to change the color of the light that your phone emits.

Have More Sex!

health benefits of sexWhen you have sex there are certain hormones released in the brain that make it easier to drift of to sleep.

Regular sex and healthy sleep patterns are also closely related, if you are not getting adequate sleep your libido will drop and as previously mentioned sex will help with sleep, so don’t be shy about being intimate with  your partner.

Have A Consistent Sleep Cycle

A routine with your sleep cycle aids in the quality of sleep over the long-term.

There have been studies that look into the correlation between irregular sleeping patterns and low quality sleep (27).

Irregular sleep results in disruptions to your circadian rhythm and changes to the levels of melatonin – both of which are responsible for signalling for your brain to sleep (28,29,30).

Getting into a comfortable sleeping pattern will leave you feeling refreshed and waking naturally rather than to a chirping alarm. It will also improve the quality of your sleep.

Cut Down On Day Time Napping

While on the topic of sleeping patterns, long naps during the day will confuse your body clock and can result in a struggle to fall asleep at night time (31,32).

Research has shown that sleeping during the day encouraged feelings of tiredness rather than giving participants more energy (33).

However there have been some conflicting studies where the results did not show a link between naps and poor sleep at night.

This study concluded that 30 minute power naps actually improved brain function during the day   (34).

With that being said, if you did not get enough sleep the previous night than a day time nap should make you feel more refreshed.

If you like to have a day time nap and do not struggle to sleep well at nights, there is no need to change your behavior. However if you do find it difficult to rest at night, perhaps try skipping or shortening naps (35,36,37).

Try Using A Melatonin Supplement

Melatonin is a key hormone that the body uses to regulate relaxation and sleep time (38).

Therefore taking melatonin supplements are a very popular solution to sleeplessness. Insomniacs have had success falling asleep faster by adding a melatonin supplement to their diets (39,40).

Melatonin can also be helpful to combat jetlag as it encourages sleepiness and relaxation – important factors when trying to adjust to a different time zone (41)

Research has proven links between a 2mg dose of melatonin and improvements in sleep quality and quantity.

There are also reports of people being able to get to sleep faster and have higher energy levels (42,43). This is a safe supplement with no reported withdrawal or side effects.

Melatonin has effects on the chemistry of the brain and so it is recommended to begin on a lower dose to see how it affects you and then increase the dosage from there.

You should consult with a doctor before making any changes. Some countries may require a prescription however it is widely available in the US.

The dose should be between 1-5mg about 60 minutes before bed.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol causes sleeping issues like disrupted sleep, snoring or sleep apnoea (44,45). As little as one drink a night can have these impacts on your sleep quality.

Alcohol alters the hormone melatonin which is key to your body’s natural circadian rhythm (46,47,48,49).

Create A Better Bedroom Environment

bedroom-for-sleep

This image is a bit over the top but you get the idea

The area which you sleep will affect the quality and duration of your sleep. Aspects such as noise, temperature, light sources and furniture all play a part (50).

Studies have found that noise and lighting are the two main causes of sleep disruptions. External noise from traffic has been linked to poor sleep and on-going health issues (51,52,53).

Another study focused on the impact of noise and lighting of the sleeping patterns for women. The results saw a 50% improvement when noise and light distractions were taken away (54).

To achieve these benefits yourself, optimize your sleeping environment. Eliminate noise and lights as much as possible. Having a clean, relaxing space to sleep will improve the quality of rest you get.

Get The Right Bed And Pillow

Bed quality is an important factor in sleep (55). In fact it’s suggested that you upgrade your mattress every 5-8 years as the mattresses wear down over time.

The best mattress is dependent on your body and you will need to take into account your comfort and the type of support you need.

A study looked into the effect of a new mattress over 28 days. The results were improved sleep quality as well as less back, shoulder and joint pain (56).

Another study found that the proper bedding will enhance sleep while poor quality ones will increase discomfort and have negative impacts on sleep (57).

Relax In The Evenings

meditationRelaxation techniques have been used to treat insomnia and can help everyone with a pre-sleep routine. Techniques might include relaxing music, meditation,reading a book in the hour before bed,deep breathing just before bed time.

Studies have shown that using these relaxation techniques works to improve sleep quality (58,59,60).

One study concluded that massage helped to relax and improve sleep for patients (61).

Have The Right Bedroom Temperature

Body temperature is one of the most important factors in sleep quality. Whether too warm or cool, your sleep will be fitful if you aren’t within the optimal temperature – which is around 70 degree Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius.

Research has been conducted about the relationship between sleep and body temperature and the results show that changes in temperature decreases the quality of sleep and increases instances of wakefulness (62,63,64,65,66,67).

Try A Warm Bath Or Shower

Another relaxation technique is a warm bath or shower. Studies show that a warm bath helps people fall asleep faster and have better sleep overall, due to the relaxation they experience (68,69).

Other similar studies have had the same results – where a warm bath about an hour before bed improves the length and quality of sleep (70).

An alternative to a full bath is to participate in a relaxing foot-bath. Submerging your feet in warm water helps you relax and therefore encourages a good night’s sleep (71).

Stop Eating Before Bed

Eating a large meal before bed will lead to poor sleep due to hormone disruption. Eating inhibits the release of melatonin as well as another hormone called tryptophan. Both of these hormones help you feel tired and fall sleep (72).

Having said that, eating carbs a few hours before bed can help you fall asleep faster, according to one study (73).

Another study saw that an overall low-carb diet improved sleep in the long term (74).

Don’t Exercise Before Bed

While exercise is scientifically proven to improve your health and even your sleep, the time which you exercise can disrupt sleep.  Overall exercise boosts sleep quality and reduces insomnia (75,76,77,78,79).

A study on elderly exercise patterns found that exercise helped them to sleep up to 45 minutes longer each night as well as reducing the time to fall asleep by half (80).

Other studies into people who suffer from insomnia found that exercise reduced the amount of  time spent falling asleep by up to  55% as well as increasing the total amount of time asleep by up to 18% (81).

Obviously exercise is important for health and actually improves overall sleeping. However note that the timing of exercise can have negative impacts on sleeping, normally when exercising late in the evenings.

This is probably because exercise is a stimulant and increases adrenaline making you more alert. There are studies that contradict those findings, so it really comes down to you as an individual (82,83,84).

Reduce Liquid Intake Before Bed Time

Essentially, drinking too much before bed will mean you will wake up more often to go to the bathroom.

The medical term for this is nocturia – or excessive urination during night time which in turn affects sleep and your energy levels the next day (85,86).

Hydration is important but reducing your fluid intake in the evenings can help you have a more restful sleep. Avoiding fluids about 1 or 2 hours before bedtime is normally enough time for your system to settle. Getting into the habit of emptying your bladder before bed is helpful as well.

Some people are more sensitive than others, so if you are frequenting the toilet overnight, try reducing your fluid intake.

Find Out About Sleep Disorders

There are several medical issues that cause bad sleep so one of these underlying conditions could be a cause of sleeplessness or low energy.

One of the most common is called sleep apnoea. This is an issue breathing while asleep where your breaths are interrupted and can stop altogether.

Sometime this will startle you awake, or in more mild cases simply cause poor sleep quality.  This condition affects 24% of adult men and about 10% of adult women (87).

There is other well known medical sleep illness such as sleep/wake disorders or sleep movement diseases (88,89).

So if you struggle to sleep in a persistent manner, speak with your doctor to investigate the cause.

Summary

Getting good quality and good quantities of sleep is vital for your health and longevity. Studies have found that getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night means you are at risk for heart diseases and other health issues (90,91,92).

Another review study linked sleep deprivation and obesity, with poor sleep increasing obesity in children by 89% and adults by 55% (93).

Effects of stress infographic

Women using smartphone image

Bedroom for sleep image

meditation image

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