We spend about one third of our lives sleeping. Like eating and drinking, sleep is integral to our survival. However, many of us still find it difficult to get a good night sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that about 30% of adults in the United States have symptoms of insomnia. That means, between you and your parents, one of you slept poorly last night.
Some of the common effects of poor quality sleep include irritability, moodiness, poor memory, lack of concentration and excessive daytime sleepiness. These would lead to poor performance in school and in the workplace. All in all, it is a pretty awful situation to be in.
Fortunately, in many of us, these symptoms of insomnia are caused by inadequate sleep hygiene. This means that we can easily reverse the undesired effects of poor quality sleep if we follow some simple tips and advice. We have assembled a list of 14 easy hacks for you to improve your sleep quality and supercharge your life!
Develop Healthy Sleep Hygiene Habit
1. Avoid Long Naps
I will be the first to admit. I love my power naps! A midday nap always leave me feeling refreshed and alert for the later part of the day. Yet, it is best to keep them short and sweet if you do not want them interfering with your nighttime sleep. Most studies recommend that power naps should not last beyond 30 minutes. Any longer can leave you groggy and disoriented.
Besides the duration of naps, the timing of the nap also plays an important role in sleep hygiene habits. It is wiser not to take your naps late in the afternoon or in the evening as it can leave you too alert by bedtime. An ideal time to take your power nap would be about 2pm. You would enjoy the benefits of a restorative nap without it affecting your sleep at night.
2. Increase Exposure To Sunlight During The Day
Once again, this has got to do with the natural body clock we call the circadian rhythm. Exposing ourselves to sunlight during the day and then toning it down as the day progresses will send a message to our body that it needs to get ready to wind down.
If it is not possible to get yourself any sunlight during the light, a bright light device would also be a viable alternative.
3. Disable Your Snooze Button
Who is guilty of this? Setting multiple alarms in the morning so that we can wake up in phases. Hitting the snooze button multiple times hoping to get an extra 10 minutes of sleep? I used to do that myself until i realized that i actually feel more tired with that extra sleep! This is because the periods of “sleep” between your snoozes are not restorative in nature. Ultimately, this confuses your brain and disrupts your sleep/awake schedule.
As much as possible, wake up at the first ring of your alarm and start the day!
4. Exercise Regularly
In a study published by Journal of Sleep Medicine, they found that adults with chronic insomnia achieved better sleep quality after a 16 weeks period of moderate aerobic exercise. During these 16 weeks, they exercised 4 times per week. Overall, they experienced longer sleep duration, faster sleep onset and improved sleep efficiency.
The Journal of Physiotherapy also reported similar outcomes. They concluded that regular exercise has positive effects on sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults.
However, although exercise is fantastic for sleep, we should not get carried away and go for a high intensity workout just before bedtime. Vigorous exercise should be performed way before bedtime to give the body ample time to cool down and get ready for bed.
5. Watch Your Diet
No prizes for guessing the main culprits here. Caffeine and alcohol play a huge role in affecting your nighttime sleep. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and having it at the appropriate time can work wonders for your focus and energy. However, too much of it too late in the day would reduce your sleep quality by over-stimulation of your nervous system. Caffeine can stay in your system between 6 to 8 hours before they are flushed out. Therefore, you will have to work backwards from your bedtime to decide when you are going to take that shot.
And this is just the caffeine that is in plain sight. There are many other products that may contain caffeine. Examples include chocolate, some weight loss pills or painkillers.
Alcohol would be caffeine’s partner in crime here. Alcohol has been shown to affect the production of melatonin, a key hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Fluctuations in melatonin levels would disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and throw us off our sleeping game.
There are also foods that may promote sleep. Almonds and walnuts are natural sources of melatonin and may help to promote sleep. Besides their sleep boosting effect, these nuts also contain healthy natural oils making them a great alternative when you feel the urge to snack.
6. Say No To Cigarettes
Who has ever turned to their cigarettes for a little perk-me-up when they are feeling a little dull or listless? I am guessing… a lot. Well, the thing is cigarettes contain nicotine which is an extremely potent stimulant. With over-stimulation, falling asleep naturally would be difficult and the quality of sleep would suffer. We would then wake up tired and guess what you reach for to perk yourself up? The perfect example of a vicious cycle. Therefore, nip it in the bud and stub out that butt.
Practice A Relaxing Pre-Bedtime Routine
7. Take A Relaxing Bath Or Shower
Having a warm bath or shower 1 to 2 hours before your bedtime has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce the time needed to fall asleep. The relaxing nature of a warm bath helps but the key reason for this is the change in body temperature. This enables us to go to bed with a lower body temperature that allows us to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
8. Listen To Soothing Music
Music is the language of the soul and having some soothing music playing in the background would help you to settle down before bed. A study by John Hopkins School of Medicine has shown that listening to ocean sounds improved sleep quality by a whooping 38%!
In a more recent study, it was demonstrated that music significantly improved sleep quality and sleep duration. A really interesting finding that came from this study was that the participants found music to have a better effect than medications itself!
9. Practice Some Gentle Yoga Before Bed
In a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative therapies in Health and Medicine, yoga helped to reduce sleep disturbances in ladies with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and subsequently improved their sleep quality and efficiency. Yoga has also been demonstrated in other studies to reduce stress and relieve tension. Overall, it is an amazing item to add to your pre-bedtime routine. It takes minimal effort but yields great rewards. Check out the video below for some tips on how to do a quick and easy yoga routine before bed. It is ultra convenient and you can do it on your bed without any special equipment and it only takes about 5 minutes.
10. Try Acupressure
Acupressure is a traditional treatment originating from China thousands of years ago. It works by applying pressure at specific points in the body known as acupoints. These acupoints are believed to correspond to different organs and systems in the body. The core concept behind acupressure relates to the notion of “Qi” which can best be described as the bioenergy within our body. Traditional chinese medicine (TCM) generally believes that poor sleep is due to a disruption of Qi in the heart and liver system. They propose that acupressure to the acupoints corresponding to these systems would aid in improving sleep quality.
In a study published in Sleep Medicine Review, it found that acupressure improved sleep quality in patients by almost 20%. It did this by improving the sleep latency and sleep duration without any side effects. Combined with the fact that acupressure is non-invasive and easy to administer, it can be a useful tool to improve your sleep.
Watch the video below to find out where to apply the acupressure!
Optimize Your Bedroom For Better Sleep
11. Control Your Bedroom Temperature
Have you ever found it difficult to get comfortable because the room was too warm and you were sweating bullets? Or consider the converse where you were shivering away struggling to get comfortable under the sheets? Studies have found that the ideal body temperature for good quality sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything out of this range would cause us to have more frequent awakenings and result in poorer quality sleep. However, everyone has a different tolerance to temperature. Hence, make your own judgement about your perfect sleeping temperature!
12. Eliminate Loud Noises
If your house is next to a busy road, you know what I am talking about. Loud traffic noises are very disruptive as they tend to wake us up in the middle of our sleep. With frequent awakenings, we will not be able to get the restorative sleep that we need for our body to recover. In these cases, you can invest in soundproof windows if budget permits. Alternatively, a white noise machine works too.
Sometimes, these unwanted loud noises come from the most familiar of sources, your sleeping partner, who is snoring away like a freight train. In this situation, you may consider noise cancelling earphones or moving to a different room if it is too unbearable. It might be worth noting that snoring can be a sign of sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea. So, it would also be sensible to get your sleeping partner checked out by a sleep professional.
Aromatherapy is the application of essential oils from aromatic plants. This is done through inhalation, massage or bathing. Inhalation is the easiest to achieve and maintain through the night as you can just pop it in an air diffuser. Many studies have validated the effectiveness of aromatherapy in improving sleep quality. One such recent study conducted in Texas found that aromatherapy improved the sleep quality of participants by a substantial margin. However, out of all the fragrances that are available, you would want to bet your dollar on lavendar as the research on lavendar is the strongest currently. Aromatherapy is definitely a winner in my book because it is easy to execute and relatively inexpensive.
14. Paint Your Walls Sensibly
We are all creative at heart but we might want to think twice before expressing that artistic flair on our bedroom walls. Bold colours in your bedroom will deceive the mind into thinking it needs to stay alert and hence prevent you from falling asleep easily. When choosing bedroom wall colour, go with neutral colours, pastels or muted shades. These soothing colour schemes will relax your mind as you turn in for the night.
Wrapping It Up
A good night’s sleep is not a distant dream but something easily achieved. With the correct sleep hygiene habits and some simple hacks in your home, you will be able to sleep faster, sleep longer and ultimately sleep better.