A little nighttime reading
Get Better Sleep: Essential Tips for Great Sleep Everyone Should Know
Despite spending a big part of our lives sleeping, many people know little about sleep. And it’s not surprising. Schools and doctors don’t teach much about the topic. It’s not something most of us paid attention to in our younger years. Sleep issues usually emerge as we age, long after we’ve already established stubborn bedtime habits. Nighttime is that “invisible” part of our lives; we have little awareness of what goes on with our bodies in those wee hours.
If you want to make sure you’ve got the basics down to get better sleep, check out these essential tips to help you sleep:
Create the optimal sleep environment
Most people know that the best sleep environment is dark, cool and inviting. But let’s dig in deeper.
Keep it dark: Even small amounts of light can disturb your sleep and disrupt your body’s melatonin and cortisol levels. Worse, “bedroom light intensity” has been linked to cancer and other health issues. Take a concerted look at your room at night for the slightest sources. Light can creep in from an alarm clock, a full moon peeking through blinds or a hallway nightlight. Try to darken the room with light-blocking curtains and by eliminating ambient light sources. For more on how sources of light, including blue light, affects sleep, read more here.
Keep it cool: Sleep experts say the ideal room temperature for uninterrupted slumber should be between 60 - 67 degrees Fahrenheit, with 65 degrees being optimal. Some forms of insomnia are associated with the inability to properly regulate temperature during the night. Specifically, sleep disturbances can be attributed to a body’s inability to shed heat before bedtime. Try keeping your thermostat set to the ideal range. If you have issues with temperature regulation, try sleeping in temperature-regulating fabrics, such as wool or linen, or even sleep naked.
Keep it comfy: Aside from light and temperature, your sleep environment is also improved with a comfortable pillow, mattress and bedding. 93% say a comfortable mattress, 91% say a comfortable pillow and 86% say the comfortable feel of sheets/bedding are important to getting a good night's sleep. The ideal pillow provides proper support for the head and neck to keep you from tossing and turning, while no one can deny the power of finding the “right” mattress. Sleeping against clean, cool bedding can also foster a sense of comfort and well-being, as well as assist temperature regulation. Invest in creating your coziest bed to create a welcoming sleep environment.
If you're interested in finding a pillow that fits your sleep style, that's what we do here at Slumbr. Take our Pillow Quiz to find your comfiest pillow.
And if you're looking to purchase a new mattress, check out Slumbr's Unbiased Mattress Buying Guide here.
Calm down and quiet the mind before bedtime
Put down the digital devices: It’s common to use digital devices before bedtime, whether it’s your smartphone, tablet or computer. These devices emit blue light, which disrupts your circadian rhythms and inhibits the production of melatonin (crucial for sleep). If you can’t put that device down, consider turning down the brightness of the screen and increasing the distance between your eyes and the device before bedtime. Apple’s iOS features Night Shift mode (which shifts the colors your screen emits to more reds), which is a helpful feature. Or download the free app F.lux, which does the same for laptops.
Address anxiety: One of the most acute causes of insomnia is general anxiety before bedtime. Bedtime is the time of day when you’re able to reflect on daily happenings. At times, you might dwell on negative things that happened during the day. If anxiety and racing thoughts are keeping you up at night, try journaling or recording voice memos on your smartphone before bedtime -- pouring out your to-do lists, rants or worries.
Get out of bed if you can’t get to sleep, and try sitting in a dark room until you feel sleepy again. Elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone) can keep you up at night so do what you can to balance your levels throughout the day. Some management tools include physical exercise, listening to relaxing music, laughing, meditation and mindfulness.
For some relaxing bedtime meditations, go here.
Eliminate noise: Whether it’s the hum of a heater, outside cars passing or a partner snoring, noise can easily ruin a good night’s rest or awaken us abruptly. If sound is a problem, consider custom ear plugs that sit more comfortably in your ears. You can also check out white noise machines or apps that dull harsh noises. Even keeping a simple fan next to your bedside can help.
Establish a routine and good sleep hygiene
Stick to a schedule: Good sleepers often adhere to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. They get up and go to bed around the same time every day so their bodies can establish an effective rhythm. Set your alarm clock to consistently wake you up at the same time every day. Try to get to bed at the same hour each night. Integrate repetitious sleep rituals into your daily life, such as taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music. This will ease the transition into sleep.
Practice smart eating: Try to cut out caffeine later in the day (after 2 pm). Avoid heavy meals and/or alcohol right before bedtime. In particular, spicy and fatty foods can be problematic if eaten later in the evening. There are a few foods scientifically-proven to promote sleep when eaten in moderation before bedtime. These include tart cherry juice, walnuts, a slice of turkey or ham lunchmeat, air-popped popcorn, almond butter on whole-grain toast or a cup of herbal tea.
Additionally, the more balanced your blood sugar level is throughout the day, the better you will sleep. Try to avoid eating a carb-heavy meal right before bedtime. The inevitable spike followed by drop in blood sugar during the night will trigger a stress response in your body, waking you up in the middle of the night.
Hydration is also critical to get better sleep. But if you drink too much liquid before bed, you might find your sleep disrupted by middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.
Keep fit and active: Daily exercise and physical activity are sleep-promoting overall. Studies have shown that those who regularly do aerobic exercise experience higher-quality sleep, fewer depressive symptoms and less sleepiness in the daytime. It also helps people fall asleep faster at night. Even if you have insomnia, regular exercise can improve your sleep after several months, as it impacts your sleep-inhibiting stress response.
Finally, if you've heard or tried all these fundamental ways to get better sleep and are looking for natural sleep remedies, check out Slumbr's list of natural (and surprising) ways to get better sleep.