Sleep is essential to our health and well-being, yet many of us struggle to sleep soundly. Here are ten ways to improve sleep quality by instituting simple lifestyle changes, emphasizing light exposure, caffeine intake, and temperature control.
Light has a powerful impact on sleep quality. It tells the brain when it’s time to sleep and rise. Too much blue light from screens in the evening can be disruptive, while getting adequate sunlight in the morning is key to fine-tuning our sleep-wake cycle. Sunlight helps promote sleep-wake cycles by signaling your body when it’s time to sleep and rise, but artificial light is not enough to truly wake you in the morning. This means that in order to wake up all the way, you need to expose yourself to natural light – seen directly, not through a window – as soon as you get out of bed. On the other hand, artificial light too close to bedtime is enough to disturb circadian rhythms. The takeaway: natural light first thing in the morning is a must; artificial light before bed is a ‘no’.
Caffeine intake is a weighty contributor to sleep quality. We typically associate caffeine with coffee or tea, but sodas, chocolate bars, energy drinks, certain medications, and over-the-counter supplements also have it. Stop consuming caffeine at least six hours before going to bed, and limit consumption throughout the day in order to fall and stay asleep. Remember that caffeine has a quarter-life of about 12 hours, so if you drink a cup of coffee at noon, at midnight a quarter of the caffeine in it is still active and living its caffeinated life in your body to the fullest.
Temperature control plays a critical role in improving sleep quality. Typically, a bedroom needs to be cool – between 60 and 67°F – to promote deep sleep throughout the night; warmer temperatures can interfere with our body’s ability to fall and stay asleep easily without being disrupted by outside noise or light sources like street lamps or neighbors speaking outside.
Please exercise regularly, do! – but not before bedtime. Regular exercise can help promote better sleep, but pushing yourself in the vicinity of bedtime may interfere with sleep onset on account of increased heart rate and body temperature. Working out earlier in the day is best for sleep quality.
5. On the Wagon
Reduce alcohol consumption near bedtime; better yet, avoid it altogether. Alcohol may initially make you feel relaxed as you drift off, but tends to disrupt deep sleep as its effects wear off later into the night, leaving you feeling groggy in the morning as a result of poor sleep quality overnight.
6. No Naps
Limit daytime naps to less than 30 minutes or avoid them altogether if at all possible. Napping during the day can be beneficial for some people who need a little extra rest and relaxation, but long naps close to bedtime can interfere with nighttime sleep patterns and make it difficult for our bodies to adjust back into normal sleep rhythms again later at night when we want them to.
Stick to a consistent sleep routine by going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at roughly the same time each morning, even on weekends. Our circadian rhythms are sensitively tuned, and having regular habits helps promote better overall sleep quality because our bodies know which times are meant for which activity, even if we don’t always stick to the schedule perfectly.
Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, as this can disrupt digestion, which then leads directly to problems sleeping later on, because of indigestion symptoms: your nausea, heartburn, bloating, or acid reflux, that cause discomfort while trying to rest.
9. Winding Down
Reduce stress levels before going to bed by practicing calming activities like reading a book or doing light stretching exercises before tucking yourself in for the night. This will help ease tension in mind and body, allowing those muscles to relax, helping us drift off more quickly when we finally get into bed. It’s also important not to use any kind of device (laptop/phone) prior to sleeping, since they often generate anxiety.
10. Rubber Duckie
Take a warm bath about 90 minutes before climbing into bed. This advice has proven successful in lowering core body temperature, which prepares us for deep, restful sleep without interruption.
Light exposure, caffeine intake, and temperature control, as well as a host of other factors, work hand in hand with our circadian rhythms, helping us get better rest each night, so that we can wake up feeling refreshed and energized the next day.