If you’ve been having a bit more trouble getting to sleep of late, you’re in good company.
Sleeplessness worldwide is at an all-time high – but that doesn’t mean we just have to accept it as inevitable!
As it turns out, there’s actually quite a bit you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.
Here are some of our top tips.
Hold Yourself to a Regular Routine
First and foremost, you’re going to want to establish a regular routine.
Most people’s sleep schedule varies quite a bit throughout the week, especially when it comes to the weekends.
It’s certainly tempting to stay up and sleep in a couple extra hours come Friday, especially if you’ve been getting lousy sleep throughout the week.
The truth is, though, this is actually a really ineffective way to go about accounting for lost sleep.
You see, your body really likes to be able to anticipate whatever is going to happen next.
You have an entire daily hormonal cycle devoted to waking up and going to sleep on time – but the thing is, this only works if your brain knows roughly when you’ll be going to bed each night.
Regular bedtimes allow the brain to start producing necessary sleep hormones at the right time each night, greatly reducing the amount of time it takes you to get to sleep.
If you do miss out on a couple hours throughout the week, however, most experts recommend going to bed early, rather than sleeping in.
Sleeping in tends to make it harder to get to sleep that night, while a regular wakeup time keep your body’s internal clock from falling too far behind.
Establish a Soothing Nighttime Ritual
In addition to regular bedtimes and wakeup times, your body also tends to appreciate regularity when it comes to your typical nightly activities.
Specifically, establishing soothing nighttime rituals can help both your body and your mind wind down after a long, busy day.
Again, routine is your friend.
The more queues you can give to tell yourself it’s time for bed, the more quickly you’ll be able to get to sleep.
Some common rituals include:
- Meditating or Clearing your mind of the day’s worries can stave off anxiety and racing thoughts when you lie down for sleep.
- A number of journaling techniques have been found to improve sleep quality. Worry journals, thanksgiving journals, and daily sleep diaries have all been found to help with sleeplessness.
- Listening to music
- Taking a shower or bath
Again, keep in mind that the most important thing is to be consistent.
You’re essentially trying to train your mind to realize when it’s time to sleep, so you need to give it clear, recognizable signals.
Set up a Bedtime “Buffer Zone”
Regardless of which rituals you end up deciding on, one common thread to all effective nightly routines is setting up a so-called “buffer zone” around your bedtime.
When many of us have trouble getting to sleep at night, it’s because our mind is still so occupied with all the challenges of the past day.
Stress and worries play a major part in many people’s daily grind – and if you’re not careful, you might find yourself in a lot of trouble when it comes time to sleep.
To get your brain to power down the way it needs to, you need to set up some space between bedtime and the rest of your day.
For at least half an hour before bed, avoid absolutely anything that’s likely to give you stress.
That means no checking emails, no tense conversations, and no stressful housework.
Creating this kind of buffer zone gives your mind some much-needed breathing room, allowing it to slow down at a more natural pace before it comes time to hit the hay.
Steer Clear of Electronics at Night
One common mistake when it comes to setting up these kinds of nightly “rituals” and “buffer zones” is overreliance on your electronics.
While it might feel natural to pull out your phone or laptop when you’re having trouble getting to sleep, there are two main reasons why this is commonly considered a bad idea.
Electronics Wake up the Mind
For one thing, electronics tend to keep your mind engaged at a time when you really want to be powering down.
Pulse-pumping movies or stimulating video games confuse your brain, making it think you need to be “on” well after the busy part of your day has finished.
How Your Sleep/Wake Cycle Works
More than that, though, electronics also tend to have worrying consequences when it comes to your brain chemistry.
Your body relies on a whole cocktail of hormones to get you settled down for the night, but the one most closely associated with sleep is a chemical known as melatonin.
Your brain’s pineal gland starts releasing melatonin a little after sundown in response to the dimming light.
This gradually amps up throughout the evening, reaching its peak sometime in the middle of the night.
How Electronics Mess This Up
The thing is, though, melatonin secretion is very closely linked to the levels of light in your environment.
Exposure to any kind of bright light after sundown is likely to confuse your brain, slowing or even halting the release of melatonin.
The blue light of most modern electronics’ LED screens has been found to have an especially negative effect on melatonin production, which is why most experts recommend avoiding all kinds of electronics for at least half an hour before trying to sleep.
For best results, however, you really want to cut back as much as possible on all nighttime electronics use.
These block out all the blue light coming from your screen, replacing it with far less disruptive red wavelength light.
Get Outside & Exercise
If limiting your exposure to bright lights and electronics for some reason isn’t an option for you, an alternative solution is to simply increase your exposure to bright lights throughout the day.
Your brain really cares about how bright your nighttime environment is relative to how bright your world is during the day.
Because of this, many sleep experts recommend getting as much sunlight as possible in daylight hours.
This is particularly effective when paired with regular exercise, which helps wear out your body and get you ready for a good night’s sleep.
If you can manage it, morning runs are a great way to both soak up some early rays and get your body ready to face the day.
Physical exercise has been shown to greatly reduce rates of insomnia, while increased exposure to sunlight helps restore a balance to your sleep/wake cycle.
Build Your Ideal Bedroom
In addition to building these healthy routines, there’s also quite a bit you can do to improve the quality of your sleeping environment.
People often overlook the setup of their bedroom when trying to improve their sleep – but the truth is, if you can’t get comfortable when lying in bed, it’s simply impossible to get high-quality sleep.
Getting the Right Mattress
One particularly important facet of your sleep environment is your mattress.
Many people either ignore or fail to realize how bad a mattress they’ve been sleeping on until it gets truly unbearable.
But when you’re on the right kind of sleeping surface, your body will most definitely let you know.
High-quality mattresses are actually surprisingly affordable nowadays, and can typically be found at the lowest prices online.
Setting the Right Temperature
In addition to finding the right kind of mattress, you’ll also want to be sure your thermostat is set to the ideal temperature for sleep.
You need to cool down at night, both literally and figuratively.
Your body’s core temperature actually drops by about a degree as it gets later and later in the night, and because of this, cool bedroom temperatures typically make for better sleep.
For best results, most sleep experts recommend keeping the bedroom at around 65º Fahrenheit.
Watch What You’re Eating
Finally, another commonly-overlooked factor in getting the highest-quality sleep is your diet.
Although you might sometimes feel sleepy after eating a gigantic meal, quite a bit of evidence suggests that overeating before bed can actually make it more difficult for you to sleep.
Your stomach really isn’t designed to eat too late in the day, so meals shortly before bed can jumpstart your metabolism, delaying the onset of sleep.
Additionally, many find it helpful to avoid all kinds of caffeine in the hours before bed, including the caffeine found in chocolate and soda, as well as many supposedly decaffeinated coffees and teas.
Finally, although it might initially seem like a sleep aid, alcohol has profoundly negative effects on both the quality and the quantity of your sleep.
It disrupts your both your circadian rhythm and your REM cycle, making you more likely to wake up earlier than you’d like to in the morning, while also cutting down on the amount of high-quality REM sleep you get earlier in the night.
So there you have it – our top tips for improving your quality of sleep.
Always remember to make your sleep a priority.
Few things can improve your quality of sleep with so little effort, and a good night’s sleep really is a beautiful thing.
Hope that’s helpful – and pleasant dreams!