One-third of all Americans aren’t getting enough shut-eye. Are you one of them? Slogging through the day with low energy and mental alertness can lead to dangerous situations at work and during the commute.
And in general, healthy sleep is more important than you might think. Studies have shown that poor sleep quality can lead to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and more.
Too many people wrongly assume their insomnia is the result of poor genetics or other factors outside of their control. While that is true for some, the reality is that many people unknowingly sabotage their own ability to find a pleasant night’s rest.
It’s time to take control of your poor sleep quality and kick the habit. Here are 7 healthy sleep habits that can lead you to a deeper, longer, better sleep.
1. Manage Your Light Exposure
Light exposure has a significant impact on your circadian rhythm. During the day, natural light stirs the chemicals that keep you alert and active. Once the light fades away, this gives your body a cue that bedtime is approaching.
If you work abnormal hours, blue-light from certain lightbulbs can mimic the effect of natural light. Many electronic devices, from our monitors, phones, and tablets, emit blue-light. But during the nighttime hours, you should work to limit your exposure and prepare your body for sleep.
At least an hour from sleep, avoid the use of electronic devices. Of course, who am I kidding? Even I struggle to do this.
If you absolutely must scroll through Twitter on your phone, turn down the brightness of your device. Many devices have apps and programs that will do this for you.
2. Sleep on a Consistent Schedule
We have always been creatures of habit. On a consistent sleep schedule, you’ll more easily fall asleep and wake up at your regular times.
Most of us manage a consistent schedule during the weekdays, but what about during the weekend? One reason Monday is so difficult is that we have to readjust our sleep patterns once again.
If you opt to stay up late Friday and Saturday night, make an effort to wake up on time. You’ll be more tired, but this means you’ll be ready for bed when Sunday night rolls around.
3. Maintain a Nighttime Ritual
Since you should avoid electronic devices before bed, it’s the perfect opportunity to do something more relaxing. A calming nighttime ritual, such as reading a book or taking a bath, serves two helpful purposes.
A relaxing task before bed can help reduce stress, which is one of the prime causes of insomnia. This is my personal favorite cure, especially if I find I’m tossing and turning as soon as I get in bed.
Likewise, by always doing the same task right before bed, your body will be prompted to prepare for sleep.
4. Improve Poor Sleep Quality with a Better Bed
If you’re not sleeping well, the mattress is likely at fault. Without adequate padding, a mattress can cause back and shoulder pain that persists throughout the day. Do you even know how old your mattress is?
You should normally replace your mattress every 7 or 8 years.
Everyone sleeps differently and has their own mattress preferences. This means that even on a new mattress, you may be uncomfortable and have difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Be mindful of your sleeping preferences. Mattresses tend to be created for a certain kind of sleeper. For example, the Layla mattress is the best mattress for side sleepers. With the wrong mattress, or an old one, your sleep quality will suffer.
5. Be Mindful of Food and Beverages
People with insomnia are not strangers to caffeine. Whether through coffee, tea, or soda, many people need their daily caffeine fix to make it through the day. But if you enjoy these beverages too close to bedtime, their lasting effects will make it more difficult to sleep.
Five hours before bed, stop partaking in caffeine. Also, make an effort to avoid alcohol. It can help ease you into a sense of sleep but will significantly decrease your sleep quality.
As bedtime nears, don’t eat a greasy or filling meal, as digestive problems can delay or interrupt your sleep. Some studies suggest that a lack of protein inhibits sleep. If you must eat before bed, choose a light snack high in protein, such as nuts or yogurt.
6. Remove Distractions from Your Bedroom
The state of your bedroom may be responsible for your sleep apnea. If you want to sleep better, make every effort possible to improve the state of your room.
Especially during the summer, heat is a prime distraction from a good night’s rest. Reduce the heat in your room for a more pleasant atmosphere. I’m too cheap for this, so I prefer a fan pointed towards my bed.
Nowadays many rooms are covered in blinking lights of electronic devices. Turn these away from your sight or hide them entirely. Their light could inhibit your rest.
Is the morning light waking you up too early? If you find your sleep is cut short by daylight or sounds from outside, consider investing in blackout curtains.
7. Hit the Gym
Multiple studies have proven that regular exercise enhances sleep quality and reduces insomnia. In one study, participants experienced a 25% reduction in sleep apnea over a three month period.
Daily exercise is but another weapon to regulate the medley of chemicals and hormones that help our body come to a deep sleep. And as everyone knows, it’s a great way to burn off extra energy and ensure you’ll be tired when bedtime rolls around.
Take care not to exercise too close to your bedtime, however. Your body needs time to come down from its stimulated state.
Still Not Sleeping Well?
In many ways, sleeping is a skill like any other. Many of these methods rely on training your body to lull itself into a restful state. But for some people who suffer from chronic sleep apnea, these tips aren’t enough.
If you’re still suffering from poor sleep quality, medication can help. Speak to your doctor to discover if sleeping pills are right for you.
Looking for more health tips? Keep an eye on our health section to stay in-the-know.