The magical 8 hours. Elusive for some - impossible for others. We all know how badly we feel when we don’t get enough sleep or wake up multiple times during the night.
Sleep recharges our brains and helps reset our hunger hormones for the next day (yes, that’s right, getting enough sleep can help you feel less hungry). It’s also imperative for my athletes and people who exercise regularly - sleep is your best biohack when it comes to recovery!
Duration is important but quality is equally so. Getting to sleep, being able to stay asleep, and waking feeling well rested can feel super challenging depending on what’s going on in your day to day.
These are 5 tips to improve sleep quality no matter how many hours you find yourself getting lately.
Keep your bedroom cool. Try dropping the thermostat down (if possible) before crawling into bed. Cooler temps will help your body and brain get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. Another detail to consider is your bedding and pillow - cooler, easier to breath fabrics like cotton may be more conducive to keeping temps down while you snooze.
Dim the lights. Bright lights trick our brains into thinking it’s time to be awake. Try dimming the lights around your house as you go about your evening routine, wear blue-blocking glasses after the sun goes down and try to eliminate screen time 30-60min before bed. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin, an important hormone for quality sleep. Black-out curtains in your bedroom or using a sleep mask can also be really helpful.
Cut down the caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 6 hours. That means your afternoon cup of joe may actually be preventing you from getting the quality sleep you need. Try replacing it with a balanced snack, decaf, or sparkling water. Alcohol disregulates blood sugar and can negatively impact REM cycles. You may be able to fall asleep faster after a few glasses of wine but you’re probably not getting into your deeper stages of sleep, which can leave you feeling groggy and not well-rested.
Get into a routine. Your body learns to follow a natural sleep/wake cycle. You can help promote healthy sleep cycles by getting to bed and waking around the same time every day. Creating a routine around bedtime is important! This also means if you’re trying to go to bed earlier, it’s best to move your bedtime up in 30min intervals. Getting into bed 2 hours before your normal bedtime will just leave you feeling awake and frustrated.
Read instead of scroll before bed. Shut down your electronics 30-60min before bed. I know this is a tough one but TRUST ME. This is one of the habits that will make the biggest impact on your sleep quality. Backlit screens stimulate the hormone that tells our brain to be ‘awake’. Try wearing your blue-blocking glasses as soon as the sun sets and pick up a real book (not a e-book, sorry), magazine, or audiobook to read or listen to before bed instead of scrolling or answering emails. You’ll thank me later!
Granted, getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep may not be possible for everyone. I’m looking at you shift workers, caretakers of tiny humans and/or elderly. You may be in a chapter of your life where sleep feels elusive and that’s ok.
Please also keep in mind, these tips may not apply to anyone with a sleeping disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea. However, if you’re someone who’s been meaning to work on your sleep hygiene and you’ve been dragging your feet - try implementing a few of these tips at a time and see how they make you feel.
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