A good night’s rest can be as elusive as the white rabbit. Roughly 1 out of 5 people suffer from sleep loss or untreated sleep disorders. And it is indeed suffering. Lack of sleep leads to a plethora of problems that affects one’s mental, emotional, and physical state. For some, the idea of attaining a good night’s sleep is impossible. However, there are some things you can do to try and change this.
1. LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE
This seems like common sense, but it can be really hard to kick a caffeine habit. If you have trouble sleeping you’ll be tired throughout the next day. This means you’ll be tempted to have another cup of coffee or energy drink to power through the day, starting the cycle again.
Aim to have no more than four cups coffee (400mg caffeine) a day, and enforce a cutoff at 2 p.m. It may be difficult at first to get over that afternoon drag, but it will pay off once your body adjusts and you begin getting better sleep.
The reason behind the cutoff is that caffeine can affect a person’s sleep cycle even six hours before going to bed. It seems daunting to give up that extra pick-me-up, but breaking the cycle and letting your body get uninterrupted sleep will make the effort worth it.
2. WATCH HOW MUCH ALCOHOL YOU DRINK BEFORE BED
The relationship between sleep and alcohol is complicated. On one hand, it can
help you feel relaxed and sleepy (nightcap, anyone?). But while it may not seem harmful to have a drink or two before bed, your REM cycle can be interrupted as the effects of the drink wear off later on in your sleep.
REM stands for rapid eye movement. During this period in your sleeping cycle, your eyes literally move around involuntarily. This is the period of deepest sleep, when you begin to dream. When this part of the sleep cycle is skipped or shortened, you aren’t able to fully complete the cycle between REM sleep and non-REM sleep. When you don’t get REM sleep, it’s like charging your phone overnight, then waking up and seeing it didn’t charge all the way. Your body, like that phone, has enough power to work, but it’s not at its max charge and can only run for so long.
While you don’t have to forgo drinking if you want to get a good night’s rest, consider a cutoff 2 to 3 hours before you plan on getting some shut-eye.
3. AVOID SCREENS
In this day and age, it can be hard to get away from near-constant screen use. It’s common to watch TV, play around on the computer or scroll through social media at the end of the day to relax. And just about everyone has a phone that they stare at.
Studies have shown the light from phones is more harmful than we may think. Blue light suppresses melatonin and affects your circadian rhythm twice as much as any other light wavelength. Not only that, it lowers your quality of sleep and causes you to wake up frequently throughout the night, which of course means REM sleep is not being reached.
Good news: You don’t have to completely stop using your phone at night. There are apps you can download to filter out the blue light, or you can adjust your settings to dim your screen.
4. TAKE NOTE OF YOUR EATING HABITS
Turns out, your diet can disrupt your sleep pattern. Eating too late in the evening, eating sugary foods, or even eating in bed is not ideal if you’re trying to sleep better at night. You may have heard that certain foods can cause strange dreams. Besides that, it hurts your resting energy expenditure, and your body spends energy digesting food instead of slowing down for the night. Try to not eat after 7 p.m. so your body has time to properly digest your meal.
5. TURN YOUR BEDROOM INTO A SANCTUARY FOR SLEEPING
A repetitive routine will help train your brain into getting used to shutting down for the night. If you eat in bed, your brain can associate your bed more with eating, not sleeping. Similarly, if you spend a lot of time in your room working at a desk, a part of yourself may be unable to relax because of the association with work.
Making your bedroom a haven of relaxation and a place to unwind is one of the best ways to train your body into sleeping better in your room. Invest in a couple of things like blackout curtains, good quality bed sheets, and pillows that fit your needs. It may sting to buy an expensive pillow, but it is totally worth it. Decorate with a calming color palette. Blues and grays are soothing, neutral colors that will help create an atmosphere ideal for relaxation and r.
6. FOLLOW THE SAME NIGHTTIME ROUTINE EVERY NIGHT
Similar to #5, this has to do with patterns already established in your brain. Beginning to develop healthy nighttime habits will help your body enter into relax mode. If you create a routine that you know you can stick with, your brain will associate that routine with shutting down for the night.
It doesn’t have to be an hours-long ordeal, but if you watch TV or read until a certain time, then get up around the same time to brush your teeth, wash your face, etc., you will eventually associate those night time actions to getting ready for sleep, signaling that it’s time to wind down.
7. TRY AND WAKE UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY, EVEN ON WEEKENDS
This one is probably the hardest. During the week it may not be a problem because you have to wake up for work, but no one wants to wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturday.
While the thought seems outrageous, it can help you stick to a routine that your body and sleep patterns will thank you for. Also, waking up early on the weekends may motivate you to be more productive throughout the day—and slip in more time for weekend fun.