How to Get Your Best Night of Sleep
We've all heard about the benefits of getting a good night's sleep but how many of us actually get the length and quality of sleep we deserve?
When discussing sleep patterns, what does a good night's sleep really mean? Is it sleeping for more hours, spending more time in REM sleep, keeping to a consistent sleep schedule? The answer is, it varies from person to person.
So, how can we as people figure out what's best for us and what solutions can be used to get the sleep we really need? Aside from the usual “put your phone away before bed,” we are not often provided with a holistic solution for better sleep. The answers actually start with what you do in the hours leading up to bed. After following these tips, hopefully you will not only understand your sleep personality a bit better, but also work towards getting your best sleep yet.
Develop a Consistent Sleep Pattern
It's tempting to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends but for the best sleep results you should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Studies show that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, two things that signal your brain to sleep. By keeping a consistent sleep pattern, you are conditioning your body to know when it is time to wind down and when it is time to wake up.
Limit Liquids, Especially Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking any liquid 1-2 hours before bed can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, but alcohol and caffeine can have other effects that will make it harder to fall asleep.
Alcohol can alter nighttime melatonin production, while also increasing symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleeping patterns. While you may fall asleep quicker, you will find yourself waking up more often throughout the night.
When consumed late in the day, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and can stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. Caffeine can stay in your system for 6-8 hours, so it's recommended that you do not consume past 4 PM. The next time you go for that afternoon cup of joe or espresso after dinner, think of how it might negatively affect your sleep!
Exercise, But Maybe Not Right Before Bed
Exercise can be one of the best ways to improve sleep by decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and helping you sleep through the night. You would think that exercising right before bed would be great since you'll be so tired after your nighttime cardio. Due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, exercising too close to bed can make it difficult to wind down as it increases alertness and adrenaline. However, studies have shown that not everyone is affected the same by late-night exercise, so listen to your body and do what is best for you!
Make Healthy Food Choices
Your diet and food choices help to regulate your circadian rhythm as well. Drastically changing what you eat can reprogram our body clocks, making it harder to fall asleep. Many researchers caution against eating a heavy meal before you go to bed. If your body is not used to this kind of meal, it can confuse your body and make it difficult to wind down. To set yourself up for the best night of sleep, you should focus on general healthy eating guidelines and stay away from skipping or shifting meals.
Establish a Nightly Routine
It's important to come up with a nightly routine that works for you. Taking a hot bath, meditating, reading a book, or journaling are a few suggestions of things you can incorporate into your routine.
If you absolutely have to be on your cellphone or laptop right before bed, try to reduce your blue light exposure by wearing glasses or downloading an app that can block blue light. When determining your nightly routine, remember that what works best for your roommate, partner, or friend may not be what works best for you. Find what you like and stick with it. Soon, falling asleep will be a breeze.
Perfect Your Room Environment
Your room environment can directly affect your sleep. You should purchase new pillows every 1-2 years, while your mattress should be upgraded every 5-8 years. If you haven't updated in a while, this can be an easy fix to your sleep issues.
Other factors that can affect your sleep are temperature, noise, and light. Determine what temperature works best for you and set it to that every night. Some people need to sleep in dead silence, while others like a little noise. If you are someone who needs something in the background, try a white noise app. Make sure you have shades or curtains on your windows so light cannot get in and wake you up before your alarm! Setting the perfect environment for you can maximize your sleep quality.
When you wake up in the morning you should feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead. You may still experience some sleepless nights every now and again, but having too many of these can negatively affect your life. When you have poor quality sleep, your immune system can weaken, you can have difficult thinking, and you can even start gaining weight. Following our tips is the first step in prioritizing your sleep and as we know, a good night of sleep will set you up for success during your day!