Getting a good night’s sleep is extremely important, as it’s the time when our bodies rest, recharge, relax, and repair any damage that’s been caused by inflammation, stress, or any other outside factor.
Unfortunately, most people are living in a state of chronic sleep deprivation, which is known to potentially cause a plethora of health complications. Studies show increased chances of cardiovascular dysfunctions, hormonal disbalance, obesity, metabolic issues, diabetes type 2, and impairment of cognitive functions. These studies also link insufficient sleep to an increase in vehicular accidents as reaction time and focus aren’t in optimal ranges.
Focusing on improving your sleeping habits and creating a healthy sleeping routine is crucial if you want to improve your health and wellbeing. Here are ten tips to help you out.
1. No Tech in the Bedroom
This tip is nothing new and it’s probably one of the first pieces of advice you’ll hear from every expert and read in every article. And yet, even though it’s one of the easiest ones, most people have a hard time adhering to it.
Tech gadgets emit what’s known as “blue light,” and it’s known to elevate your mood, increase alertness and stress, as well as heighten reaction times. This means your body is fully alert when it’s exposed to blue light, preventing it from creating melatonin and transferring you from fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest.
As hard as it may be, try removing your laptop, tablets, and phone from your bedroom. Most people have their TV in the bedroom, so if removing it sounds like mission impossible, at least settle for keeping your laptop and phone away.
Additionally, try to stay away from blue light at least an hour before bed. Many people have a habit of scrolling through their social media or replying to emails late in the evening, but try implementing a tech detox an hour before bed for a week and see how much it will improve your sleep.
If it’s really impossible to stay away from blue screens before bedtime, invest in a good pair of blue light blocking glasses as they’re really efficient in lowering the impact of blue light on your system.
2. No Food Close to Bedtime
Busy lifestyles sometimes make it hard to have meals at normal times, making people eat dinner very late in the evening. And if you haven’t eaten all day, there’s a big chance you will eat more than your body can digest at such a late hour, causing your body to delay sleep.
Experts agree on abstaining from food for at least three hours before bedtime. This will allow your body plenty of time to digest food and prevent it from causing issues with falling asleep while staying satiated so you don’t go to sleep hungry.
3. Sleep Loves the Dark
Your bedroom should be completely prepared for sleep. You might be using it for a variety of things during the day, but once you’re about to go to bed, it has to be the perfect sleep environment, helping you get good quality sleep.
First and foremost, get a pair of dark, thick curtains. Sleeping in the dark will help your body relax and stay relaxed, stimulating the production of melatonin. Unless you’re living in an area where there’s no light that can get through your windows, getting a good cover will prevent any city light, street lamp, or car passing by to disturb your sleep.
Second, the gap under your door can also be a potential light source that can reflect somewhere in the room and cause issues with your sleep. Turn off the hallway light before you go to sleep or place a rolled-up towel or a rag underneath your door to darken the room a bit more.
And third, you can always wear an eye mask. Some people dislike the feeling they get when their mask is on though, so don’t force it if you feel uneasy or uncomfortable.
4. Relax Before Bed
In order to achieve restful sleep, it’s imperative to unwind a few hours before bedtime, preparing your body and activating your parasympathetic nervous system. It’s all about creating a good sleep schedule that will allow you to take some time for yourself and do things that make you relaxed.
Some people like to take a long, warm bath, some prefer to meditate, and others say reading a book really puts them in sleep mode. Maybe your idea of winding down is completely different than someone else’s and that’s totally ok. Whatever works for you will be your best option as you’ll be able to stick to it without too much fuss.
5. Pre-Bed Stretching
Sometimes all you really need for better sleep is a nice stretching session. Stretching helps improve your blood flow, but also taps into your parasympathetic nervous system, letting your body know it’s time to relax, rest, and digest.
Avoid any dynamic stretches or uncomfortable holds and stick to easy, passive stretching exercises that will help you feel relaxed. One of the best poses you can do is child’s pose, as it’s known in yoga.
Start by sitting on your heels and spreading your knees wide. Stretch your arms in front of you and let your torso lie on the floor in between your thighs. Feel your entire back stretch and your hips open naturally. Rest your forehead on the floor and gently move it left to right to massage it and remove any tension that usually likes to build up in that area.
6. Belly Breathing
This amazing breathing technique is easy to learn and it’s really powerful in lowering your stress levels and helping you calm down in whichever situation you find yourself in. When it comes to healthy sleep, it’s one of the best breathing exercises you can try. You don’t even need to get out of bed for it.
Lie on your back and bend your knees, placing your feet close to your sitting bones. Open your knees to the sides and let them fall and open naturally. Close your eyes and place one of your hands on your stomach and the other on your chest.
Take a big inhale and feel the air fill out your lungs and then your belly, traveling from your mouth all the way to the edges of your stomach. Exhale and let the air deflate your stomach and then feel your chest drop as all of the air has disappeared. Repeat for 10 long and slow breath cycles.
7. Breathing Method
Breathing techniques in general are one of the best tools for helping you relax and reduce your stress levels. This particular method has limited research behind it, but a myriad of anecdotal evidence to support the claims behind it. The rhythmic breathing pattern helps you fall asleep faster and improves your overall sleep quality.
Lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Inhale and start counting to four, hold your breath for seven counts, and then exhale for eight long counts. Repeat the cycle up to four times. Some proponents claim you can fall asleep in as little as 60 seconds.
8. Implement a Healthy Sleep-Wake Cycle
Good sleep hygiene also depends on your waking time, and not just your nighttime routine. Try to get to bed roughly around the same time each night and wake up around the same time. Our bodies can adapt to basically anything and once you implement a healthy sleep-wake cycle that you can pretty much repeat every day, you won’t struggle with falling asleep in the evening or staying asleep in the morning.
You might need to use an alarm in the beginning and help your body wake up by exposing your eyes to natural, bright light. This activates your circadian rhythm and acts as an “on switch,” turning on all the engines in your body that were in sleep mode during the night.
9. Invest in Good Quality Mattress and Pillow
Where you sleep and how your body feels when you sleep matter. Having a mattress that hurts your back and a pillow that causes your neck to twist in a wrong way can severely impact your sleep as well as your physical health. A good quality mattress and pillow can help with the position of your body, improve your lymph and blood flow, and promote healthy sleep with fewer waking up cycles.
10. Soundproof Your Bedroom
Most people who live in cities have issues with outside noises like cars passing by, ambulance sirens, people yelling, or loud music coming from a bar right across your window. Even though you can’t control what happens outside, you can try to block the sounds as much as possible.
A good idea is to get a white noise machine that will block out most of the outside noise and help you fall into sleep by tapping into your alpha waves, which usually come right before sleep.
Additionally, if you’re able to, get good-quality, thick windows that will act as a soundproof shield from whatever happens outside.
Implementing healthy sleep habits will drastically improve your sleep quality, help you fall asleep easier, and prevent sleep disruptions. Listen to your body’s cues and start sleeping better and longer.