If you have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep, then you’re not alone. In fact, two-thirds of all adults in the US alone cannot clock up the required hours.
The amount of sleep we need changes as we age, but normally, adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep every day.
Sleep plays a vital role in protecting both your physical and mental health, as well as improving the quality of life and safety. Sufficient sleep protects your immune system, enhances learning, keeps you active, and helps you with decision-making. It also allows you to maintain hormone balance and heart health.
On the other hand, sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, risk-taking behavior, and a high risk of diabetes and obesity. It claims over 800 lives each year due to fatigue-related car accidents. Thus, we cannot stress enough the importance of a good night’s sleep on a daily basis.
What is Really Important for a Good Night’s Sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a good night sleep indicates:
- Falling asleep in less than 30 minutes
- Sleeping for at least 85% of the total time you’re in bed
- Waking up no more than once in the middle of the night
You aren’t doomed to toss and turn forever. While you might not be able to control everything that interferes with your sleep, your regular habits and behaviors could be modified to encourage better sleep—this is reported to be as beneficial to health and well-being as winning the lottery.
There are several factors at play in terms of achieving a good night’s sleep. Let’s help you learn how to improve your sleep and be more productive and energetic during the day.
#1: Increase Your Exposure to Light
During the Day:
Enjoy the bring sunlight during the day. Have a cup of coffee outside or take your breakfast next to a sunny window. The bright sunlight will make you feel fresh and help you wake up faster.
Spend enough time outside during the daytime. Consider taking those short work breaks outside in bright sunlight. You can also walk your dog and exercise outside during daylight rather than at night.
Let enough natural light into your room. Keep your blinds and curtains open during daylight, and when in office, consider moving your desk a little closer to the window.
Use a light therapy box if necessary. This simulates sunshine, which is incredibly beneficial during short winter mornings.
#2: Decrease Your Exposure to Blue Light
Keep your eyes off bright screens within 2 hours of your bedtime. If you don’t already know, the blue light emitted by your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or TV can be very disruptive. To minimize the impact, consider using small-screen devices, installing light-altering apps like f.lux, or simply reducing the brightness.
Late-night TV is a no-no. The light from your TV suppresses melatonin—a naturally occurring hormone that helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle—and that isn’t ideal for a good night’s sleep. Also, most TV programs are stimulating, not relaxing. Therefore, listen to audiobooks or music instead.
Backlit devices aren’t that great either. Backlit tablets are more disruptive compared to e-readers that don’t have their own source of light.
Make sure your room is dark before going to bed: Use shades or heavy curtains to block light from your windows. You could also try putting on a sleep mask if that helps. You may as well want to cover up the electronics emitting light.
If you suddenly wake up at 3 am, try not to turn on the lights. You may need some light so that you can move around without breaking stuff. In that case, consider setting up a dim nightlight near the hall or using a flashlight. This will help you to fall back to sleep easily.
#3: Optimize the Environment of Your Bedroom
Your bedroom environment plays a huge part in providing a good night’s sleep. There are several factors to consider, such as noise, temperature, furniture arrangements, external lights, etc.
Studies show that external noise, especially from traffic, can cause sleep deprivation and several long-term health issues.
A 2017 study on the bedroom environment of women showed that around 50% of participants achieved better sleep quality when light and noise diminished. So, if you want to optimize your own bedroom environment, consider minimizing light, external noise, and artificial lights on devices like an alarm clock. Also, keep your bedroom clean and quiet to ensure a more relaxing environment.
#4: Get a Comfortable Bed, Pillow, and Mattress
Ever wondered why we sleep better in hotel rooms?
Besides a relaxing environment, bed quality can also impact your sleep. There’s no such thing as “bad sleeping positions.” Many believe sleeping in weird positions cause neck and shoulder pain, but who can really keep track of how they sleep at night? It’s the mattress you’re sleeping on that helps you relieve neck pain—unless you have a bad mattress.
It’s recommended that you change your bedding at least once in every five to eight years.
One study looked at the advantages of a new mattress for a month, revealing that it reduced neck and shoulder pain by 60%, back pain by 57%, and back stiffness by 59%. And that’s not all; it also enhanced sleep quality by 60%.
If you haven’t changed your bedding in the last five or six years, maybe it’s time to buy a new one.
#5: Pay Attention to What You Consume
Don’t go to bed stuffed or hungry. Avoid large meals, in particular, within a few hours of bedtime. Your discomfort may keep you awake.
Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine deserve caution as well. The stimulating effects of caffeine and nicotine take hours to wear off. And the worst part is, these effects can cause sleep deprivation. While alcohol may make you feel a bit sleepy, it will disrupt your sleep later in the night.
As you can see, healthy sleep habits can make a significant difference in your quality of life. Try to resolve your worries and concerns prior to bedtime. Jot down whatever’s on your brain and save it for tomorrow.
Stress management will also help you to sleep better. Start with the basics, like setting priorities, getting organized, and delegating tasks. If you still have trouble sleeping, consult with your doctor and identify the causes so that you can achieve the good night’s sleep you deserve.