Can’t Sleep? 9 Tips To Help You Sleep Better
If you have trouble sleeping, or if you have a friend who can't sleep, check out these simple tips.
We've already covered common reasons for trouble falling asleep.
Today we're going to tell you how to get even better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed every day.
Why should you care? Well, not sleeping enough can lead to several health issues including diabetes, higher obesity risk, dysregulation of emotions, impacted brain function, and increased heart attack risk.
Even just a few days of broken sleep can take its toll on you, leading to poor memory, slower response times, and an increased risk of driving accidents.
Both the long-term and short-term effects of poor sleep, therefore, are clearly a problem. So here's a list of basic and ADVANCED tips to help you get the best sleep you possibly can.
Embrace The Dark Side!
Light plays an important role in sleep regulation. Exposure to natural lights or bright lights signals to your body that it's daytime.
Conversely, when it gets dark, your body gets the sign that it's time to go to sleep. So, the first thing you should do to improve your sleep quality is dim the lights once the sun sets.
You don't have to turn off all lights when the sun goes down, but switch off your white lights, and if you MUST, use yellow light instead. Ideally, yellow light lamps or yellow LED lights will have the same relaxing effect as dim lighting.
White light or light from flourescent lamps, computer screens, and phones emits blue light. And while blue wavelength light is good for you during the day, at night it'll disrupt your circadian rhythm. Blue light can make you feel alert and more awake, and it's useful for you during the day.
Try and get some sun exposure during the day and keep your room well lit. Come sundown, turn down the blue lights and let your body start producing melatonin naturally.
If you want to go one step further, you can use red wavelength light to stimulate melatonin production. Red light has the opposite effect of blue light on your circadian rhythm.
But you'll need an actual red wavelength light, not just a lamp with a red tint on it. But you won't need to go that far usually.
Simply dimming the lights and opting for softer, warmer colours post-sunset will make a huge impact on your quality of sleep.
Make Your Bedroom Cooler
This applies both literally and metaphorically. Literally, because a room temperature around 18 to 20 celsius is scientifically the best temperature for sleep.
The reason for this is that the human body tends to cool down and disperse heat as you get closer to bed. Your internal temperature drops when you fall asleep.
Any temperature changes that interfere with your body's core temperature will cause considerable sleep disturbances. This is why you find it harder to sleep in the summer as well.
You're not alone in this, a study of over 750,000 people correlated the same thing - that most people had worse sleep during the summer months.
Higher or considerably lower temperatures can both cause sleep disturbances.
Keep your room cool, literally. But not too cold. 18-20 C is the ideal room temperature for good sleep. You can tinker with this and even try going a little lower depending on your body temperature.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation tech or JPMR - is a technique that's used to create states of deep relaxation and calm by relaxing you physically.
The technique, invented by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s, is an all-natural, 10-15 minute exercise that can be done anywhere, and is effective against anxiety and sleeplessness.
The process involves tensing and relaxing all the muscles in your body one after the other. The process of tensing and relaxing muscles creates physical relaxation, which leads to a relaxed state of mind, and helps you fall asleep faster.
JPMR is especially useful if you're lying in bed but aren't able to sleep.
In a 2020 study, JPMR was proved to be effective enough to help COVID-19 patients get better sleep and manage their anxiety more efficiently.
Another study tested the efficacy of JPMR on burn victims. Burn victims often report extreme anxiety and trouble sleeping.
The study showed a marked decrease in anxiety in the patients who practiced JPMR as opposed to the group that didn't practice the technique. The bottom line is, when you're physically relaxed, it's very hard to feel anxious.
You can practice JPMR by looking up a video on youtube or even looking up the text and doing it yourself. It's very easy to do, and an extremely reliable way to fall asleep fast.
Treat Your Bed Like A Bed
Only use your bed for sleep and sex. This is easier said than done, especially if you work from home and use a laptop. It's hard to resist the temptation to use your laptop, either for work or entertainment, while lying in bed.
But if you want better sleep, you need to unlearn the habit of using your computer in bed.
If you're in bed, make sure it's either to rest, relax physically, or to have sex. Working from your bed, or even spending long periods of time in bed doing nothing can lead to unhealthy associations which confuse your biological clock.
You'll be conditioned to either expect work-related stress or stimulation of some sort(not just sexual) and this can lead to problems using the bed for its intended purpose, i.e., sleeping. If you work from home, set up a clear different space for work and play. Keep it away from your bed and only use your bed when you need to sleep, rest, or make sweet love.
Stop Sleeping During The Day
Naps during the day can be a great way to recover some energy, but more often than not, naps that extend for longer than 20 minutes can lead to broken sleep at night.
Getting deeper sleep during the day confuses your body clock, and can lead to you staying up later than usual.
According to one study, a nap of 30 minutes or less enhanced performance and learning ability and promoted wakefulness in individuals.
However, taking frequent long naps during the day led to higher morbidity and mortality rates, especially in the elderly. What you could try, is something called a "caffeine nap", which is drinking a cup of coffee/tea right before your nap.
If you have your caffeine almost immediately before you lie down for a nap, you'll wake up refreshed, thanks to the caffeine's effects kicking in and making you feel more active by the time you wake up.
This can also help you avoid long naps because you'll wake up from the caffeine, almost like an internal alarm clock. Just make sure you don't put much time between your caffeine ingestion and your nap, because then you'll be too stimulated to fall asleep.
We've spoken in elaborate detail about the sleep benefits of supplements like melatonin and l-theanine, and for good reason. Supplementation can be a very effective way to help you sleep deeper, fall asleep faster, and even get your body attuned to a new sleep cycle.
Incorporating a melatonin supplement can help you fall asleep faster, and get much deeper sleep. L-theanine is another supplement that can be useful to combat anxiety and aid deeper sleep.
Supplements like Gingko Biloba, Valerian root (Tagara), and lavender oils/aromatherapy can all promote better sleep.
If you're on medication or have any health preconditions speak to your doctor before you start with any supplements.
Always start with a low dose of your supplement, whether it's melatonin or L-theanine, and slowly work your way up to test your tolerance.
Some supplements like valerian root and melatonin can also lead to daytime drowsiness if you take too much or if you don't get enough sleep.
Keep this in mind if you start supplementation, and always speak to your doctor about potential interactions or side effects, if you're on any other medication.
Exercise and Cold Showers/Or No Exercise and Warm Showers
Most people already swear by warm showers when they need help falling asleep at night, and the link between showers and improved sleep has been well established.
But did you know that both warm showers and cold showers can be beneficial for sleep? Warm showers have a proven link to improved and deeper sleep, especially in older people, while cold showers after a workout, have shown links to improved sleep in athletes and others who took part in physical activity.
That aside, popular lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss swears by the combination of cold water exposure and melatonin, stating that it "knocks you like like an elephant tranquilizer".
The bottom line on showers is that a shower before bed is beneficial for sleep, but if you opt for a cold shower, do it 90 minutes or so before bed, to avoid the shock of the cold water keeping you up longer.
Read Before Bed (Or Write)
Reading a book before bed is one of the best ways to accelerate the sleep process.
Reading before bed has shown links to reduced stress by as much as 69% and promote deep sleep.
The process of exerting your imagination a little will also tire you out and get you ready to sleep. Plus it's not easy to read for 2-3 hours at a stretch as compared to browsing social media or youtube for the same amount of time.
You can read more about the health benefits of reading here.
On an interesting note, writing before bed has also shown to be effective at helping people sleep faster, by reducing distractions and easing anxiety.
A 2018 study found that people who spent five minutes writing out a to-do list or outlining their activities for the next day fell asleep 70% faster than those who didn't.
Writing can also help you organize your thoughts, but make sure you don't delve too deep into it and end up losing sleep instead. Read more about how journaling can help you sleep better here.
Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Finally, keep an eye on your alcohol intake. While there's nothing wrong with having a drink occasionally, heavy drinking before bed can disrupt your sleep.
While studies indicate that alcohol can help healthy people fall asleep quicker and get deeper sleep in the first few hours of sleep, it disrupts REM sleep which can lead to drowsiness, exhaustion, and poor concentration the next day.
That aside, alcohol WILL dehydrate you, so you're likely to wake up thirsty or hungover if you don't drink sensibly. Several studies have proved the efficacy of chamomile tea in aiding better sleep and reducing anxiety.
A cup of chamomile tea can help you fall asleep faster and better than alcohol will, and it doesn't negatively impact your deep sleep or REM sleep patterns. Opt for tea instead of alcohol if you're having trouble sleeping.
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