Getting a good night’s sleep is essential – after all, it’s the time that your body needs to rest, rebuild and heal after a long, stressful day of work and daily life. That’s before you factor in the impact a good night’s sleep can have on your mood, energy and ability to focus.
But did you know that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, more than 50 million American have chronic sleep disorders? That means that more than 50 million Americans are sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep problems have also been found to increase symptoms of depression or anxiety, as well as the risk of other chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart problems.
So it’s clear that sleep is ridiculously important for your health and wellbeing, but what can be done to help improve your sleep quality? Here are our suggestions for achieving better sleep and improving your overall quality of life.
Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day
Believe it or not, your body has a natural built-in clock designed to help you stay awake and go to sleep. Its called your circadian rhythm, and this nifty time-keeper affects your brain, body and hormones, like melatonin, to keep you on a natural sleep-wake cycle.
Lots of natural sunlight or artificial bright light helps your circadian rhythm to keep active and healthy. If you spend too much time in dark areas during the day, your circadian rhythm thinks its night time, making you more and more sleepy at the wrong time of day. Scientists even found that exposure to bright lights improved sleep time and quality by 80% in insomniacs. Even if you don’t suffer from insomnia, exposing yourself to brighter lights during the day – and staying away from them at night – is sure to improve your quality of sleep.
Speaking of which…
Decreasing Bright Light Exposure In the Evenings
Just as increasing bright light during the day improves your sleep, decreasing it in the evenings will help make your sleep even better. Again, this is related to maintaining the health of your circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, this is quite difficult to do, as bright lights surround us. Exposure to devices like smartphones, computers and TVs – and their constant ‘blue light’ – can really affect your ability to sleep, as it makes your body think it’s daytime when it’s night time. That’s even truer in the evenings.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can reduce exposure to bright light in the evenings, including:
- Set up night mode: most Apple and Android devices have a ‘night mode’ setting which reduces your device’s blue light. For example, you can set your phone’s blue light to turn on automatically at 6pm and turn off at 6am. It will help your circadian rhythm know it’s night time and allow you to go to sleep effortlessly.
- Energy-efficient LED light bulbs: That’s right, it’s as simple as changing your lightbulbs. LED light bulbs are now made with our melatonin and circadian rhythm in mind. They are designed to minimize the effects of blue light both day and night.
- Avoid the TV and Computer right before bed: This is a difficult one, but sadly, the blue light coming out of our favorite screens isn’t helping matters. If you simply avoid going to bed straight after watching TV or looking at the computer, you’ll find it much easier to go to sleep. Try turning all screens off 30 minutes (if not longer) before bed to improve the quality of your sleep.
Optimize Your Bedroom Environment
Making sure your bedroom environment is perfectly set up to your preferences is actually more important than you think. Things like temperature, noise and light all impact on your sleep ability. If you’re not at your most comfortable, then you definitely won’t relax enough to be able to sleep.
A few simple things you can try to optimize your bedroom environment are:
- Noise-canceling curtains: yes, these actually exist. These will help reduce the amount of noise that comes through your windows at the most important times of the night, canceling out even the most annoying noises like traffic or bar-heavy streets.
- Blinds or Curtains for light: Literally anything that will remove the light from your room will do here. You don’t need anything fancy. The most simple blinds or curtains will do. Also, remove all artificial lights like those from your phone and alarm clock.
- Invest in air conditioning: Most people will set up an AC in every room but the most important – their bedroom. If you’re too hot or cold, you won’t be able to sleep, so arguably, having an AC in here is just as important as any other room in the house.
Fix Your Bedroom Temperature
This one is just that important. There have been numerous studies done about having the optimal body and bedroom temperature to improve sleep quality. Many studies have found that, on average, 20 degrees Celcius is the most comfortable for most people. Of course, this is very dependant on your own personal preferences.
A good way of personalizing your AC is through a Sensibo device. This smart little device will turn the AC on when the temperature rises above your pre-set setting and will turn off once it hits the magical temperature sweet spot. Not only does this mean you get a sound night’s sleep, it also saves you money because the AC won’t be running all night.
Be Consistent With Your Sleep
Think of your circadian rhythm like a clock. It’s used to working on a constant and regular loop, based on sunrise and sunset. So if you go to sleep at irregular times, your circadian rhythm isn’t able to work efficiently and your levels of melatonin are altered, leading to poor sleep quality. If you struggle to go to sleep and have overall poor sleep quality, trying going to sleep and waking up at the same hour each day. This will allow your circadian rhythm to settle into a routine, leading to better sleep overall.
Don’t Drink Alcohol and Eat Late in the Evening
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere might struggle with this a little, but eating large meals before bed won’t help your sleep quality. In fact, this has been shown to decrease sleep quality because large meals negatively affect the natural release of melatonin and other hormones. Now, we’re not saying starve right before bed – that certainly won’t help your comfort levels. If you’re hungry, eat a small snack. This won’t disrupt your sleep quality, and may actually improve it.
Just like with eating late at night, drinking alcohol before bed also disrupts melatonin production. Alcohol is also known to increase the symptoms of sleep apnea and disrupt sleep. If you’re a person with poor sleep quality, try cutting out night-time alcohol from your routine.
Exercise Regularly, Just Not Before Bed
Exercise is very very important for your general health and wellbeing. It’s also shown to improve your sleep, as it reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality. However, exercising right before bed may actually do the opposite and create sleep problems. This is due to exercise causing the release of hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline, which create a stimulatory effect and increase alertness. Try exercising in the morning to get all the health benefits from exercise, without impacting your sleep.
Take Some Supplements
If you’re still struggling to fall asleep, then you might need to turn to external methods of help. Natural melatonin supplements are a very popular tool to improve sleep and are actually often used to treat insomnia. Studies have found that 2mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and made it easier to fall asleep.
If relaxing is your issue, some other supplements liked Ginkgo Bilboa, Valerian Root and Lavender may be useful to help you relax before bed and improve your sleep.