Ah, sleep. It allows neurotransmitters in our brain to reset, heals our body and re-energises us for the next day. Our quality of life can be heavily influenced by our quality of sleep. Yet, so many of us are sleep-deprived. After having done much research, and based on my own experience, here are the ways you could improve your sleep hygiene and sleep quality.
Here are 27 tips to improve sleep:
- Taking a hot shower or bath – Both can relax your muscles and nervous system making sleep easier.
- Keeping your room cool – Combining this with a hot shower or bath may help get you better rest. One study shows that a drop in body temperature can induce sleepiness and give us deeper sleep.
- Using lavender oil or incense – Studies show that lavender has a sedative effect. Try sprinkling lavender oil on your pillow or burning a lavender incense stick:
- Drinking chamomile tea – Research shows that chamomile has Benzodiazepine-like effects, which relaxes the nervous system. Sleeping will be easier if our nervous system is not activated/in fight-or-flight mode!
- Using Flux or Apple Night Shift mode – Blue light from our electronic devices can inhibit serotonin production in our body, preventing us from getting a good night’s sleep. Apps like Flux or Apples Night Shift removes the blue light from our screen which in theory, reduces the impact on our sleep quality.
- Scheduling automatic computer and internet shutdown – “Just one more episode/email/game!” is what many of us can face when going to bed. On both Mac and Windows, you can configure scheduled shutdowns to forcibly shutdown. It’s also worth configuring your router to only allow internet between sensible hours eg. between 7am and 11pm. The latter has worked very well for me recently!
- Journaling – Ever lay awake in bed with your mind racing 1,000 mph with a million -and-one thoughts? Well, good news: journaling is a great way to “braindump” whatever is on your mind on to paper. You may find that you come up with solutions to your problems which can be addressed later. In fact, studies show that putting words to emotions can improve our happiness.
- Meditating – Meditating regularly (not just before bed) has been shown to improve sleep. Try doing it during the day as well to avoid going to bed with a busy mind.
- Having a regular bedtime routine – The National Health Service in the UK recommends having a regular bedtime routine. As Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist once said: “neurons that fire together, wire together”. If you can get your brain to associate bedtime with relaxation, you are much more likely to have a good night’s sleep.
- Taking Chelated Magnesium (check with your doctor first though) – Magnesium has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia and Chelated Magnesium can have a relaxing effect on your muscles. However, always consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement, even if it’s available over the counter.
- Napping earlier in the day (or not at all) – Naps may give you more energy throughout the day, however, they can wreak havoc with your sleep rhythm. It is best to rest earlier in the day so you can feel tired when it is time for bed.
- Finishing work earlier – Ever find yourself up late because you feel that you haven’t had your daily leisure time or haven’t completed chores that needed to be done? By finishing work earlier, you give yourself time to unwind and chill out, so that you don’t need to stay up so late.
- Breaking up with caffeine – Caffeine has a half-life of up to 7 hours. This means that if you have a coffee in the afternoon at 4pm, by 11pm, there is still potentially up to 50 percent of the dosage of caffeine still active in your system. This is not ideal if you want to get a restful night’s sleep as caffeine fires up the nervous system with cortisol and adrenaline.
- Breaking up with alcohol – Alcohol may make you feel sleepy and relaxed, but it prevents you from entering deep sleep, thus the sleep you get is shallow and does not rejuvenate you, warns DrinkAware.co.uk. It might be time to stop having a glass of wine or beer in the evening.
- Avoiding heavy meals before bed – Whenever you eat food, your body has to do work to digest and breakdown that food. Fatty and protein-rich foods, in particular, can cause your body to work harder. When sleeping, you want your body to be relaxing, not working.
- Having a light snack before bed – Going to bed on an empty stomach isn’t good either. When we are hungry, this can activate our nervous system and fill us with adrenaline. In the age of cavemen, we needed adrenaline to hunt and gather or else we wouldn’t eat! A banana can be a good food before bed as it is a natural source of magnesium and potassium, which are muscle relaxants.
- Avoiding water-heavy food before bed – Foods such as salad and fruit, whilst healthy, can have a lot of hidden water content which can make us need to get up in the night to use the toilet.
- Getting an accountability partner – One thing I have right now is a “bedtime buddy”; someone I text when I am going to bed, and vice versa. This gives us a timestamped history of our bedtimes and acts as motivation.
- Recording your personal best for bedtime – Right now my personal best is 23:22. My goal is to get down to 23:00. It can be motivating when we see progress. I keep my personal best on a whiteboard which I can see at all times, and to remind myself of my mission: to improve my quality of sleep (and life!).
- Listing the benefits of an early night – This was an exercise I came up with the help of my own life coach. Some benefits I came up with include: improved mood, weight loss, providing better coaching, more money, more vitality. I also keep these benefits on a whiteboard for an easy reminder.
- Exercise during the day – People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to one study. However, try to avoid exercising within 2-3 hours of bedtime, as this will get your heart rate up making it harder to sleep.
- Listening to relaxing music – The right music can set the perfect atmosphere for sleeping and calm a busy mind. One study found that relaxing music improved sleep quality for traumatised refugees.
- Dimming the lights 1 hour before bedtime – A darker room will increase your melatonin levels will increase which will make you feel more tired.
- Slowing down during the day – How can you rest easily at night if your body and mind have been racing around all day? Pace yourself. Take regular breaks. Try to avoid being adrenalised and over-worked.
- Saying ‘no’ – It’s time to stop letting your life be dictated by others and taking on too much. We can only truly give from our overflow. You cannot do your best service for others if you are chronically tired. In fact, research shows Allow yourself the time and space to have plenty of time for unwinding in the evening.
- Seeing a trauma therapist – If you think you may have suffered childhood trauma or abuse, this could be affecting your ability to relax and sleep – in which case – it would be very wise to see a trauma therapist.
- Getting life coaching – Reading the theory is all well and good, but putting it into practice is a different matter entirely. Many of my coachees have read countless self-help books but found that they were not able to make lasting changes to their behaviours, habits or lifestyle. Luckily, life coaching is the process of transforming insight into action. A free life coaching session may be what is needed to take your life to the next level.
The author, Nick Hatter, is an Accredited Life Coach based in London and has been studying personal development for over 10 years. He has coached musicians, actors, CEOs and ex-military. Several of his coachees have their own Wikipedia page, have starred in notable films or have published books.
Note that if you are suffering from insomnia or sleep difficulties you should seek professional medical help; nothing in this article should be interpreted as medical advice.