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How to Get Better Sleep
Feb 22, 2021
Do you wake up feeling exhausted even though you went to bed at a decent time and tried to get enough sleep? If you have trouble sleeping at night, you might be anxious to find ways to help you sleep better. Establishing healthy sleep habits is important for the body to function normally, and for your overall health. Getting quality sleepis just as important to the biological clock of the body as eating your meals on time and getting proper nutrition.
What are some signs that you aren’t sleeping well at night? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night, or if you wake up several times in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep, there is a high likelihood that you will not feel rested in the morning. What can you do to improve the quality of how you sleep to best avoid the onset of sleep deprivation? There are certain changes you can make to your bedtime routine that can help you achieve a better night’s sleep. Implementing these changes into your lifestyle could be a simple fix to improving sleep quality and waking up feeling refreshed, recharged, and alert.
Here is a guide to our top solutions for sleeping better.
1. Get Some Daylight
Research has shown that spending time in natural light helps your body’s natural biological clock adjust to sleeping better at night. This is because the ‘sleep-wake’ cycle is partly regulated by exposure to light. When you spend time in natural light during the day, it alerts your body to stay awake and active. At night, when your environment is darker, it signals your body’s circadian rhythm to start slowing down and you become sleepier.4
2. Optimize Your Sleeping Environment
When you have trouble falling asleep, background noise and light matter a great deal. Try using earplugs if you live in an area with a lot of traffic or street noise. Additionally, using an eye mask and dark curtains or blinds can help block out light from the windows.4
Another factor that you can control is the temperature that you sleep in. Make sure that you feel comfortable where you sleep. Being too hot or too cold is sure to wake you up in the middle of the night or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place.
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule of when you go to bed for the night and when you wake up in the morning can help you sleep better.3
Many people are in the habit of sleeping and waking up at a certain time on the weekdays and greatly varying their sleep schedule on the weekends. This can disturb the sleep-wake cycle making you have trouble sleeping every day.
If you like to sleep in on the weekends, as many people do, try not to vary your schedule too much. Keeping the same sleep schedule helps your body adjust to falling asleep around the same time every day and staying asleep until morning.
Another helpful tip is if you have been in bed for more than about 20 minutes and can’t fall asleep, consider getting out of bed and doing something relaxing, like reading a book, until you feel sleepy. Lying in bed for endless hours trying to sleep can actually make you feel worse than getting out of bed and returning when you feel sleepy.4
4. Relax Before Bedtime
One of the most common reasons people remain awake at night is due to stress or anxiety. It can be helpful to dedicate some time earlier in the day to channel out some of that stress in a way that works best for you. Some tips are engaging in relaxing breathing exercises, gentle yoga, or meditation techniques as ways to help you relax before bedtime. Taking a warm bath or listening to music are other ways that can help your body and mind wind down after a long day.4
5. Stay Off Your Devices Before Bedtime
Although it might seem like scrolling through your phone or watching an episode of your favorite TV show in bed is relaxing, the blue light from electronic screens can actually be preventing you from sleeping well. Try to turn off all your electronics for up to one hour before you retire for the night. Electronics emit blue light, which signals to your body to stay awake. Blocking out this type of light helps you keep steady levels of melatonin, the hormone that rises when you feel sleepy.2
6. Limit Daytime Naps
Needless to say, if you don’t sleep well at night, you might resort to taking a nap during the day to make up for the sleep debt. However, daytime napping can prevent you from sleeping well at night, propagating the cycle of sleepless nights. Try to limit the amount of time you spend sleeping during the day. Napping for more than 30 minutes during the day could prevent you from attaining restful sleepat night, but find the length of time that works best for you.2
7. Limit Caffeine Late in the Day
If you are asking the question of “why can’t I sleep at night?”, you may want to consider your level of caffeine intake. Caffeine is a huge culprit in what keeps people awake at night. The effects of caffeinated beverages, like coffee, can last for up to 16 hours in the body. Caffeinated beverages have different amounts of caffeine in them, so being aware of how much caffeine you are ingesting is another helpful way of keeping track of your intake throughout the day. 4
While that morning cup of coffee is probably not interfering with your ability to sleep at night, try skipping your regular late afternoon cup. You can try switching to a beverage with less caffeine as a start.
8. Get Exercise During the Day
Getting proper exercise during the day can help you sleep at night by helping to reduce stress and improve your overall health. This can even include a short walk sometime during the day or early evening. But make sure you get your regular exercise earlier, rather than later in the day. Scheduling an invigorating workout routine as one of the last things you do in the day is not likely to help you sleep well. Leaving a three-hour gap between physical activity and when you go to sleep at night can help you sleep better.4
9. Avoid Alcohol at Bedtime
Drinking alcohol before you sleep can cause you to wake up during the course of the night. While small amounts of alcohol can be sleep-inducing, you are likely to get better quality sleep without drinking right before bedtime. Minimize your alcohol consumption before bedtime if you have trouble sleeping. The same principle applies to nicotine if you are a smoker.2
10. Snacking at Bedtime? Eat Lightly.
Going to bed feeling either hungry or too full will interrupt your ability to get a good night's sleep. This doesn’t mean you can’t snack before bedtime, but eating something light and healthy that can digest easily will promote better sleep at night. Examples of some light bedtime snacks are a glass of milk, fruit, or crackers.
11. Try Melatonin Supplements
Healthy sleep habits are inherently tied to physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Ultimately, the key to sleeping well on a daily basis comes down to allowing your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle to function properly. Several environmental factors, such as light and noise, regulate the sleep-wake cycle through fluctuations of the hormone, melatonin, which is produced when you are sleepy. If simply altering your external conditions in the ways suggested here don’t seem to be helping your sleep cycle, consider talking to a health care practitioner to see if a melatonin supplement may be right for you.
Be sure to schedule enough hours to sleep. With the hectic schedules that many people face today, sleep is often the first thing that is minimized. But, if you have trouble sleeping at night and don’t get good quality rest, it can start to take a toll on your overall health. On average, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but the exact amount of sleep varies from person to person. Give yourself enough hours in bed to manage your sleep needs.2
13. Don’t Stress About Lack of Sleep
If you have been experiencing more frequent occurrences of sleepless nights, it’s natural to feel stressed about not being able to sleep. But, this can worsen the problem. Try to relax before going to sleep and avoid focusing on thoughts about how to fall asleep. This will help your body fall asleep more naturally.
Importantly, before you resort to taking sleeping pills, try making these lifestyle changes that could help support your circadian rhythm. If you still have persistent trouble sleeping, check with your healthcare provider for advice on whether the root of your problem is something more serious or if sleep supplements are a good option for you. Restoring your sleep health can help you sleep well and be well.
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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