We all know how it feels when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep – you spend the day feeling cranky, foggy and looking… well, let’s just say not your best.
However, if sleep deprivation or irregular sleeping becomes a recurring occurrence, it could affect more than just your day or daily productivity – it could have serious effects on your health, including brain health, hormones, and even your metabolism, which could, in turn, lead to weight gain. Other than getting a good quality of sleep, it is also important to get the appropriate amount of sleep every night because too much sleep is just as bad as too little.
So, if you are someone who spends most nights tossing and turning in your bed, getting your sleep frequently interrupted, or suffer from any other unhealthy nighttime (or daytime) habits which leave you with negative outcomes during the day, and if you’re wondering how to sleep better, then scroll down to see some of the changes you should be making.
Get as much sunlight as you can during the day
Because of our body’s circadian rhythm – aka internal clock – we know it’s time to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it is light. A number of studies have found that getting as much exposure to natural light during the day will make for better sleep at night and a healthier circadian rhythm.
In one study, adults suffering from insomnia who were exposed to bright light during the day saw significant changes in both duration and quality of sleep, with sleep efficacy going from 77.5% to 90%.
Be consistent with your sleeping pattern
Our circadian rhythm predispositions us to feel tired towards the end of the day and more energized during, when the sun is out. So, if we listen to it, and keep a regular and consistent sleep-wake cycle, then we will ultimately sleep better at night.
That means going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding long naps during the day, and not sleeping in even on the weekends. Eventually, you will get used to this pattern and soon, won’t even need an alarm clock at all.
Ditch your electronics
With how glued we have all become to our electronic devices, it’s really no wonder we’re having difficulties sleeping. Because our brain tunes itself into a pattern of sleeping when dark and being awake when light, being exposed to light, and especially blue light from our phones or laptops, as we are trying to sleep will make it more difficult to do so.
So, if possible, try not to use electronics or watch TV 1-2 hours before you sleep, but if you must, then you could install a blue light filter on your device (some newer models already come with it installed) or invest in blue-light-blocking glasses.
Reduce caffeine intake
Coffee seems to have become the holy grail of the modern working person, with tired workers chugging it down in an effort to stay awake and focused. But even though caffeine is beneficial in giving you a boost of alertness (and a boost to your metabolism) it may also be contributing to your sleeplessness as well.
That’s because we may be drinking it too late in the day, which will only serve to disrupt our sleeping cycle.
In one study from 2013, it was concluded that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime had a significant negative impact on the quality of sleep the subjects got. So, if you already have trouble sleeping, then maybe skip coffee altogether after 3-4 pm.
Exercise – but not right before bedtime
Exercising regularly can help us maintain our health, makes us happier and more energetic in general, and can lead to better sleep quality.
A number of studies have shown that exercising provides a number of positive impacts on people suffering from chronic insomnia. One study concluded that aerobic exercise improved sleep quality, mood, and quality of life on elderly people with insomnia, while another showed that it could reduce pre-sleep anxiety as well as improve sleep quality in middle ages patients.
However, working out too close to your bedtime can have the opposite result from what you’re aiming for. That’s because it may, depending on the individual, give a boost of energy which makes it harder to fall asleep.
Take a melatonin supplement
If all else fails, you could also turn to supplements.
Melatonin is the hormone which tells our brain that it is time to sleep, so taking a supplement of it has proven to be notably beneficial to treat insomnia and sleep irregularities. It is one of the most popular sleeping aids available, but it depends on the country whether you need a doctor’s prescription to purchase it.
One study showed that 2 mg of melatonin supplement taken before bed over a period of three weeks improved the quality of sleep as well as next morning alertness. Another study showed similar results, and neither study found any withdrawal symptoms if the subjects stop taking the supplement.
And on a final note, see also: Study Finds That Sharing A Bed With Your Dog Results In A Good Night’s Sleep. So that’s worth considering…