3 Helpful Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
Sleep affects everything from your mood and your fitness level, to how clearly you can think and even your susceptibility to sickness. For something so essential, it’s worth investing the time into learning how you can get the absolute best sleep possible.
While there are plenty of different things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep, below are three easy things anyone can start doing today.
Watch What and When You Eat and Drink
Just about anything that goes into your mouth can affect the quality of your sleep, including:
You’ve likely heard sometime in your life that you shouldn’t eat after a certain time. The people who adhere to this rule usually do it for fat-loss reasons, but there is actually another, arguably more important reason: what and when you eat and drink affects the quality of your sleep.
This is because of what happens inside of our bodies when we eat. When you eat something, a number of processes begin in your body, such as your blood sugar levels spiking. Some foods (such as sugar) cause these processes to happen suddenly, which can disrupt your sleep, while other foods (such as healthy fat and protein) cause these processes to happen more gradually.
For the best sleep possible, a good rule of thumb is to limit carbohydrates around four hours before your bedtime and stick with protein- and fat-rich foods closer to bedtime.
What most people don’t know about caffeine is that it can remain active in your body for up to six hours. This means that if your last cup of coffee was at 4 PM and you’re trying to fall asleep at 9:30 PM, your body is likely still experiencing the alertness caused by your last cup of coffee, making it harder to fall asleep than necessary.
Even worse, many foods and drinks other than coffee have caffeine in them, such as soda and tea. So if your nightly routine involves a nice steaming cup of Earl Grey tea, you’re loading up your body with caffeine right before you’re trying to fall asleep. Plus, even if you do manage to fall asleep, the active caffeine in your body may make it harder to benefit from deeper stages of sleep.
To avoid caffeine affecting your sleep, cut yourself off at least six hours before you plan to go to bed.
Alcohol may seem like it helps you fall asleep, but in reality, it significantly degrades the quality of your sleep. Similar to caffeine, even if you manage to fall asleep with alcohol in your body, you likely won’t be able to benefit from the most important, deeper stages of sleep.
Here’s a great list of the different ways alcohol affects your sleep from SleepFoundation.org:
- It can interrupt your circadian rhythm.
- It blocks REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
- It can aggravate breathing problems.
- It leads to extra bathroom trips.
The more you can avoid alcohol close to bedtime, the better your sleep will be.
Create a Suitable Sleep Environment
There are a number of things you can do to the environment in which you sleep to improve the quality of your sleep, including:
- Change the temperature of your room
- Reduce exposure to screens
- Create a wind down routine
Change the Temperature of Your Room
It’s better for your room to be cooler rather than warmer to facilitate quality sleep. Specifically, setting your temperature to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is often recommended.
Reduce exposure to screens
The fewer screens in your room — tv, phone, or otherwise — the better. Looking at screens in bed can trick your body into thinking that it’s still daytime, which can cause your body to release melatonin, the hormone that signals to your body that it’s time to sleep, later than it should, making the process of falling asleep much more difficult.
Create a wind down routine
Playing video games, exercising, or doing anything else that could be considered stressful close to bedtime can raise your heartbeat and release stress hormones — both of which can make it harder for you to relax and fall asleep. For optimal sleep, try to stick to only doing relaxing activities like reading closer to bedtime.
Think about how you feel when your alarm rips you out of a dream and forcefully wakes you up. Stressful, right? Well, your body experiences that same stressful sensation every time it hears a noise while trying to sleep. Even if the noise doesn’t wake you up, the response it creates inside your body can have a negative effect on your sleep. As best you can, try to reduce any noise inside your bedroom.
Use a sleep tracker
We can only improve what we know. Other than getting a sleep test in a lab (which is ideal), the next best thing you can do to get an idea of how well you sleep is to use a sleep tracker. Usually worn around the wrist, these trackers can show how long you slept, how many times you awoke, how long you slept in each stage of sleep, how many hours of sleep you should be getting based on your lifestyle, and even how different foods and activities affect your sleep.
As you gather more information from your tracker, such as how different factors like food, exercise, alcohol, caffeine, and stress affect your sleep, you can continuously optimize your lifestyle for the best sleep possible.
The best part is that these trackers have become very affordable, with some costing as little as $18 per month.