Sleep is the foundation of nearly every aspect of your health, from your focus, your mood, your energy levels, and your correlation to diseases. So not only is it essential to get enough sleep each night, but it is also important to get good quality rest so your body can heal and repair itself.
If you have a hard time falling asleep, you regularly wake up during the night, and you feel tired and restless throughout the day, you are likely not getting the high-quality sleep that your body needs for optimal health and wellness. Fortunately, getting better quality sleep may be as easy as improving your night-time habits.
Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep
1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Inconsistent bedtimes can disrupt an individual’s circadian rhythm, which is the internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours. When our internal biological clocks are disrupted, we are more likely to experience poor quality sleep and, often, less sleep. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is essential to getting enough sleep each night and good quality sleep. Similarly, regular bedtimes have been found to improve memory, cognitive flexibility, mood, energy levels, and better weight management in adults. Therefore, we recommend sticking to a consistent sleep schedule each night, even on weekends, for more sleep and better quality sleep.
2. Turn Off Electronics
We are all guilty of spending too much time lying in bed on our phones. But as you scroll through social media one last time before hitting the pillow, you may not realize that you are disrupting your sleep by looking at your electronics. For one, the blue light emitted from the screen suppresses melatonin production, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. When our bodies do not get enough melatonin, we can experience insomnia at night and tiredness during the day.
Looking at electronic devices before bed also stimulates our brain, making it harder to fall asleep, and sometimes stay asleep. This negatively impacts the quality of sleep you get and the number of hours you clock each night. We recommend putting your phone or tablet away at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Instead, try picking up a book or doing a meditation practice to quiet the brain.
3. Keep Your Room Cool and Dark
There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night sweating or spending most of the night tossing and turning while kicking off the comforter. If you go to bed cold, then why are you waking up uncomfortably hot?
At night, our body temperatures drop, and the heat leaves our bodies through our hands and feet to reduce our core temperature. If the room temperature is too warm, our internal body temperature can become disrupted, causing us to wake up and have poor quality sleep. The optimal room temperature is around 65°F. We recommend creating a cave-like feeling by closing the blinds, turning off all lights, and sleeping with a fan on. Also, change your bedding in the warmer months, so you avoid getting too hot at night. By creating a sleep oasis before going to bed, you are setting yourself up to have a good, restful night’s sleep.
4. Don’t Eat Fatty Foods Before Bed
Research points to a correlation between obesity and heartburn (reflux) due to the excess fat around the abdomen that creates pressure on the stomach. This pressure can cause the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus that feels like an uncomfortable, burning sensation in the chest or throat.
When we eat too close to bedtime, we can trigger and even exacerbate the symptoms of heartburn. Between the stomach and the esophagus, a muscular valve opens and closes when digesting food. When we do not allow enough time for our bodies to digest food, this valve can remain open, allowing digestive juices to flow back up into the esophagus and cause reflux. Similarly, when lying down, your body will have a more challenging time keeping food down, causing a backflow.
Another side effect of eating too close to bedtime is indigestion that causes feelings of nausea and discomfort. Indigestion is typically caused by eating too much, too fast, or fatty, greasy foods. To avoid having feelings of discomfort when trying to fall asleep and throughout the night, we recommend avoiding eating a large and, especially, unhealthy snack/meal at least 2 hours before bed.
5. Create a Caffeine Curfew
Most of us consume caffeine for one reason, to keep us awake and feel more alert. Drinking coffee, tea, or even caffeinated soda late in the afternoon and evening may have adverse effects on your sleep.
The effects of caffeine usually set in within 30 to 60 minutes of consumption and can last for 4 to 6 hours, depending on an individual’s metabolism. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors, which are chemicals produced in the brain that promote sleep. Normally, the longer we are awake, the more adenosine is built up. When we consume caffeine, these receptions are blocked, creating a feeling of alertness and awakeness. Therefore, when caffeine is consumed too late in the day, our body and brain continue to be stimulated, making it harder to fall asleep when we are ready to “hit the hay.” So for the best night’s sleep, we encourage you to stick to decaffeinated beverages at least 5 hours before your bedtime.
6. Get Enough Exercise During the Day
Studies have found that regular physical activity throughout the day can improve your sleep quality by promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and regulating your circadian rhythm. By engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise several times a week, you can improve your sleep quality and the times it takes to fall asleep.
Exercise also promotes weight loss, which lowers an individual’s risk of developing or worsening obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) symptoms. As discussed above, OSA negatively affects sleep quality and inhibits the body from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Experts recommend individuals avoid engaging in high-intensity exercises too close to bedtime. This strenuous activity can stimulate the nervous system, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead, if you are exercising in the evenings, focus on low-intensity movements such as yoga, stretching, walking, biking, and swimming.