Getting good quality sleep will help you be more productive and feel more alert during the day. Good sleep is also important for good physical and mental health: people suffering from poor sleep or sleep disorders have an increased risk of health issues including heart disease and high blood pressure.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy, whether that’s because you’re up late working or simply can’t fall asleep due to stress or anxiety.
So how can you make sure that you get the best sleep possible? We’ve compiled a list of 7 tips that will help you get the best quality sleep you can.
1. Avoid Stimulants Close to Bedtime
Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can make falling, and staying, asleep extremely difficult. Try to avoid having any stimulant 4 to 6 hours before you go to sleep. This means avoiding:
- Energy drinks
- Certain medications
Stimulants work by making you feel more alert, less drowsy, and more energetic. You can imagine how eating or drinking stimulants close to bedtime could make falling asleep quite difficult.
2. Go to Sleep and Get Up At the Same Time Each Day
Our bodies follow what’s called a circadian rhythm, which is a fancy way of saying a sleep-wake cycle. Having a particular sleep schedule will help your body get into a natural sleep-wake routine.
Keeping to a particular schedule will help you feel refreshed and energized after getting good, quality sleep. Changing or adjusting your sleep schedule even by just an hour can significantly affect how well-rested you feel when you wake up.
Set a time when you are going to go to bed each night. Make sure this is a time that’s feasible for all days of the week, both on work nights and on your days off.
You should also wake up at the same time each day, which means no sleeping in 3 extra hours on your days off. This can throw off your sleep-wake cycle. Instead of helping you “catch up” on sleep, it will actually cause you to feel more tired in the long run.
3. Limit Naps
Quick 15-20 minute power naps can be great for a little pick-me-up during a particularly long day.
But naps that last longer than that can interfere with your sleep schedule, meaning it will disturb your nightly slumber. If you nap for longer than 20 minutes, you probably aren’t going to be tired at your scheduled bedtime. This will end up shifting your sleep schedule, which can lead to poor sleep and not getting enough sleep during the night.
Limiting the length and amount of naps you take during the day will help improve the sleep you get at night.
4. Avoid Bright Light at Night
The hormone that induces sleep is called melatonin. Melatonin is controlled by your body’s exposure to light.
During the day, when you should be awake and alert, you are exposed to natural light which inhibits melatonin production. At night when it’s dark, you aren’t exposed to light. This allows for the production of melatonin, which causes you to fall asleep.
However, this melatonin cycle is often disrupted by exposure to unnatural light during the evening hours. Light from televisions, lamps, phone screens, laptops, and street lights outside your window can all interfere with your natural hormone production of melatonin at night.
Exposure to light at night time will result in a lowered amount of melatonin, which makes it much more difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Avoid this by limiting light exposure at night. This means avoid phone, computer, and television screens starting at least 1 hour before bedtime. Make sure your windows are blocking all light from outside via blinds or curtains. You should also dim your home lights or use fewer lights to avoid being overexposed to light at nighttime.
Daily exercise has been shown to help people have deeper, and higher quality sleep compared to people who do not exercise daily.
Don’t think this means you have to become a gym rat to have a good night’s sleep. Even just 10 minutes of light cardio per day can help promote better sleep. You could take a walk, go to a yoga class, dance around your apartment, or take a bike ride. Anything that gets your heart rate up will do!
It’s thought that morning and afternoon exercise can help promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Some people find that evening or nighttime exercise keeps them up at night, while others don’t have this problem. Find which time works for you with your schedule and your body.
6. Have a Pre-Sleep Routine
Establishing a relaxing routine for right before you get in bed can help soothe you and get your body ready for sleep. You could take a relaxing bath, light candles, read a book, listen to soothing music, practice meditation techniques, or simply put on your favorite pajamas.
Try not to do anything too stimulating like watching TV or looking at your phone. If you find yourself stressing over your day or thinking too much, you can try writing down your thoughts in a journal or a notebook to calm your mind.
Having a routine that helps relax you and put you in a calm state of mind before bed will reduce stress and help you fall asleep quicker and easier.
7. Relaxation Techniques
Practicing mindfulness or meditation techniques are proven to help improve sleep quality and length, while also helping to fight insomnia and other sleep disorders.
A Harvard study showed that people who practiced mindfulness techniques were less fatigued, less depressed, and has less insomnia than those who did not practice these techniques.
You can work a quick meditation into your pre-sleep routine, or you can opt to practice mindfulness throughout your day to help improve your sleep quality.
There’s nothing worse than plodding through your day, exhausted, only to come home and toss and turn for hours on end. Following these 7 tips will make this a thing of the past. You’ll be able to get quality sleep every night with these suggestions.
If you have any other questions or want more information on getting quality sleep, contact us.
Written by Dr. Gilmore. Cara is an expert in getting a good nights sleep.