There is a big difference between staying in bed for the prescribed amount of time, and getting a good night’s rest. Sometimes you go to bed early and you get out of bed late, but you just don’t feel like you’ve had enough sleep! Do you know that feeling? It is as if all of that time spent in bed was just a waste. This week we are going to give you a couple of tips on how to improve the actual quality of your sleep. We are going to assume that you have enough time to sleep, but that you don’t approach bedtime with the right attitude. Read on to see how you can make your sleep experience better and more effective!
Get a better nighttime routine
Preparing for bed is more important than you might think. A lot of us tend to race through the day and try to fit in as many things as possible into our overly busy schedules. This is understandable, because you have to see family and friends, you have to stay active and you have to get your work done. But the problem with this kind of lifestyle is that your body never really finds a proper rhythm. It won’t have any cues to say that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. Here’s what you should do to improve your nighttime routine so that you will sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.
Set a time to go to bed and stick to it
With this erratic lifestyle that we spoke of, it is possible that you never get to bed at the same time two nights in a row. This has to stop. Research shows that going to bed (and waking up) at roughly the same time every day improves the quality of your sleep. So decide on a time that you have to be in bed by, and try your best to stick to it. You will find that if you stick to a routine such as this, it gets easier to fall asleep at night. If you are someone with a busy nightlife, it might not be a bad idea to set an alarm to remind yourself that bedtime is approaching. I know it sounds lame, but sooner or later you will have to decide between having a good social life and getting enough rest. Rest wins.
Try not to look at screens for at least an hour before you go to bed
This is a tough one. A lot of people like to watch series or scroll through Instagram until they fall asleep. The thing is that looking at bright light before you go to bed is kind of counterproductive. The bright light stimulates your eyes and brain to think that it is still daytime. So when you lie down a few minutes after tricking your body into thinking that it is not bedtime yet, it shouldn’t come as a shock that you struggle to fall asleep. If you have to read or look at picture before bed, try an old school magazine or a paperback novel. You’d be surprised at how soon you will become drowsy if you read a book in soft light…
Maybe you don’t have the luxury of cutting out on screen time before bed, because you just have to finish that report for work? This is obviously not ideal, but if that is the case, try to get an app that filters out the blue light from your screen. Most modern cell phones come with a built in blue light filter, but if yours doesn’t have that function it’s not a train smash. There are a couple of blue light filter apps available on the App Store and Play Store. And for your PC or laptop, you can download a cool program called f.lux for free. I use this program to filter out the blue light and I must say, it is quite cool. You can customize the levels of brightness and amounts of blue light being filtered out. So if you work late at night, go check it out!
Beware of what you take in before bedtime
We spoke in depth about what to drink and what not to drink before you go to bed in last week’s post. But here is a quick recap. If you want to experience better sleep, try to avoid caffeinated drinks up to five hours before you go to bed. We know that five hours is a long time to go without coffee or Coke, but give it a shot. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to fall asleep if you do…
Alcohol is another substance that you should try to avoid before going to bed. Even though it might initially make you drowsy and help you to fall asleep fast, it can be disruptive later at night. Studies have shown that consuming alcohol before bed decreases the amount of restorative sleep experienced in adults. Scientists suggest that falling asleep after waking up when alcohol leaves the bloodstream is difficult. On top of that, once you do fall asleep, you might be subject to fitful dreaming.
A general rule of thumb is also to avoid drinking anything for at least an hour before you hit the hay. Empty your bladder before you go to bed to avoid those disruptive midnight trips to the loo.
Create a relaxing ritual to prep yourself for sleep
Taking a warm relaxing bath before you climb in bed might do the trick. Or maybe you prefer reading a book (paper copy, mind you). FYI, according to a study that was conducted at the University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. So if you don’t enjoy reading, we suggest that you start acquiring a taste for it.
It doesn’t really matter what your ritual is, as long as you have one. This might sound a bit mystic, but it is not. All you are trying to do is to create a trigger that tells your body it is time to start getting ready for sleep. If you follow the same pattern each night, your internal clock will catch on soon enough. And before you know it, you will start feeling tired around the same time every night. Which will lead to falling asleep around the same time every night… And that is exactly what you want, isn’t it?
Some ideas for a better nighttime ritual
If you don’t like taking a bath and you can’t stand reading, don’t stress! There are a whole lot of things that you can do to relax yourself to sleep… Do some relaxing stretches and breathing exercises. This will slow down your heart rate and stimulate the release of melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone.
Making a journal entry can be part of your bedtime routine. Writing down key dates and things that stress you tend to clear your mind from clutter, and helps it to relax. Make a note of this: Research showed that writing down an important fact makes it easier to commit that fact to memory. So writing down the fact serves a double purpose really. Firstly, once you wrote it down you know that you don’t need to think about it anymore. And secondly, for some reason the fact that you don’t have to think about it anymore makes it easier to remember. Scientists are not sure why this is the case. But whether it is simply a placebo effect or some kind of biological process, it works.
So stop stressing about the small things and write it down. You will sleep better at night.
A lot of us can’t fall asleep because we are so focused on what still needs to be done. Haven’t you had enough of this sort of thing? Aren’t you tired of lying awake and thinking about tomorrow? If you want to get better sleep at night, try to put together a short plan of action for the following day. Put out your clothes that you want to wear the following day. Prepare your lunch pack before you go to bed and put that important file that you have to take to work next to your car keys. The idea is to de-clutter your mind. The fewer things you have to remember for tomorrow, the easier you will fall asleep.
Make your bedroom a safe haven
We often underestimate how our surroundings affect our sleep. But think about it, isn’t it easier to fall asleep somewhere that is well known to you than in a strange place? Your bedroom should be a safe place for you. When you think about the number one place that you would like to fall asleep in, your bedroom should be it.
Here are some tips on how to optimize your bedroom for a better night’s rest:
Keep it clean
Don’t clutter your bedroom with all sorts of things that are unrelated to sleep. Sure, if you stay in an open plan bachelors flat this might be difficult, but try it anyway. Don’t pile all of your clothes on the floor next to your bed. Put your sports equipment somewhere out of sight and don’t let your pets sleep on your bed. Breathing in cat or dog hair while you sleep will most probably lead to a partially obstructed airway. This will induce snoring and quite possibly obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring might not affect your sleep so much as your partner’s, so be considerate!
Air out your blankets in the morning when you get up and make your bed.
Make sure that it is dark at night
The smallest amount of light can distract you from getting in a proper night’s rest. If there are lights outside your window, put up thicker and darker blinds or curtains. When you get in bed, put your mobile phone face down on the floor. That little reminder light can really mess up your sleep! Turn your digital alarm clock away from your bed, so that the light doesn’t keep you from sleeping as well as you should. (Apart from the light from your clock, being able to see the time while you lie in bed can also impair your sleeping experience. Especially if you struggle to fall asleep, looking at the clock might just make you anxious and make it even more difficult to fall asleep).
Your bedroom should be quiet
If you live in a busy apartment building or on a busy street. Creating a quiet environment to sleep in can be quite tricky. So what do you do if you can’t reroute the traffic outside your window or shut up the noisy tenant above? You could get noise cancelling earplugs, but that might be a tad expensive. If you don’t enjoy sleeping with stuffed ears, try putting on a background sound that cancels the noise from outside. White noise is probably your safest bet. Seeing as it is sound that ranges across a whole lot of frequencies, it has the best chance of cutting out that annoying frequency that keeps you awake. If you don’t like white noise, try listening to soothing sounds of rain falling or distant waves rolling in. There is a myriad of apps available and you can even use YouTube to stream relaxing bedtime sounds.
Get a quality mattress and pillow
A mattress or a pillow can really make or break your sleep. Everyone has a different style of sleeping, so there is not one universal mattress or pillow that guarantees the best night’s sleep. But when it comes to choosing a mattress, always make sure that it is big enough. You should be able to stretch out comfortably on your bed. If you share your bed with a partner, there should be enough space for both of you to lie in the most comfortable position imaginable.
Your pillow should support your neck and it should definitely not restrict airflow. If you wake up with a stiff neck or a sore back, you should seriously consider getting a better pillow or mattress, or both!
Hopefully this article helps! There is nothing quite as frustrating as waking up feeling drained, so please try out these tips and let us know if they made you feel better.