15 Tips to Improve Sleep Quality
On your journey to optimal health, sleep is your daily rest stop. However, stress can interfere with the quality of our sleep. How can you ensure your sleep is restful and healthy? Read on to discover 15 sleep tips you can use to improve the quality of your sleep.
The Connection Between Sleep and Optimal Health
Ideally, sleep is a simple process of letting go. But, how often is that case? Sleep is a complicated process, and a growing body of research shows that sleep affects a whole host of physical and cognitive functions including brain plasticity, memory, emotional processing, cardiovascular, respiratory, cellular function, and immune function.
Sleep studies indicate that sleep deprivation can diminish our brain’s ability to develop and remember, produce consistent emotional distress that has little to do with present conditions, put strain on the heart and lungs, stunt cellular functions, and undermine immune functioning.
In addition, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are strongly linked to insomnia in adults, adolescents, and children. In fact, insomnia is a common symptom that manifests along the road to both depression and anxiety disorders. The presence of insomnia itself tends to exacerbate pre-existing anxiety issues, which often lead to a vicious cycle of sleeplessness compounded by worry about the inability to fall asleep (Sivertsen, 2012).
How can I sleep better at night naturally?
Are you having difficulty shutting off your brain at night? It so, you’re not alone. Continual thinking is what our brains are designed to do. So, if your brain never seems to shut off, congratulations, you’re human! Here’s 15 sleep tips you can use to improve the quality of your sleep on your journey to optimal health.
15 Sleep Tips
1. Establish a consistent daily rhythm. Go to sleep and wake up at the same each day, even on the weekends.
2. Manage caffeine intake. Caffeine suppresses melatonin production, which is the compound that we produce naturally to ensure we fall asleep. Aim to have your last caffeinated beverage by 2pm at the LATEST.
3. Manage alcohol intake. Alcohol is the most common sleep aid in the world. Unfortunately, it interferes with our sleep more than it helps. Calculate your alcohol “cut off time.” It takes 1 hour to metabolize one standard drink. So, if you drink 2 drinks and your bed time is 10pm then you need to STOP drinking by 8pm.
4. Engage in regular physical activity. How we move during the day, has a big impact on our sleep at night. Morning exercise can help boost deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep stage. However, nighttime workouts can leave you feeling too energized and delay sleep onset. So, avoid all but the gentlest forms of exercise within 4 hours of going to bed.
5. Create a healthy sleep environment. Keep the bedroom cool (about 68 degrees F), completely dark, quiet, psychologically safe, and as environmentally green as possible. Use HEPA filtration for clean air and select organic/non-toxic bedding and mattresses.
6. Limit screen time and blue light exposure. Blue light exposure turns off melatonin. So, avoid blue light exposure from your phone, iPad, TV or other devices 90 minutes prior to bedtime.
7. Limit bed and bedroom activities. Use your bed for sleep and intimacy only. If you lay awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a non-stimulating activity such as deep breathing exercise, mantra meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation until sleepiness occurs again. Then, go back to bed.
8. Sleep aids. If you’re having difficulty falling asleep, try botanicals like valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, and/or hops. Melatonin is more useful for aging populations and/or those with circadian irregularities. Always couple supplementation with other sleep hygiene recommendations.
9. Focus on letting go of wakefulness. In the end, we cannot force sleep. We can set the stage and be receptive to it, but we cannot intentionally “go to sleep.” Efforts to do so typically backfire.
10. Use guided imagery to relieve stress and anxiety. Spending a few minutes engaged in a soothing, restful guided image journey, like picturing a calm ocean, can help you gently separate from the stresses of the day and prepare the mind and body to sleep.
11. Practice meditation. Meditation helps to calm down areas of the brain that can become hyperactive with anxiety. Expert meditators have been shown to spend more time in slow wave sleep, which is the restorative sleep stage.
12. Take an Hour to Power Down. For example:
- First 20 minutes: Get ready for tomorrow: pack your lunch, select your clothes, etc.
- Second 20 minutes: Hygiene time: brush your teeth, wash your face, shower, etc.
- Last 20 minutes: Calm down time: meditate, stretch, pray, intimacy, etc.
13. Use water to regulate your core body temperature. To fall asleep, your core body temperature must drop. Using water can help your body start this process. Take a hot bath 90 minutes before bed or a cold shower 30 minutes before bed.
14. Keep a worry journal. Writing down your worries about the following days/week can help you fall asleep sooner. Each night, take five minutes and write down, in detail, what you need to remember to do tomorrow and in the next few days.
15. Solutions to waking up at night because you have to use the bathroom.
- Don’t look at the clock! This will trigger you to do the math and get anxious if you only have a few hours left to sleep.
- Don’t turn on the lights. Use nightlights in the hallway/ bathroom so your eyes are spared from the light exposure.
- Breathe. Slowing down your breathing can help slow down your heart rate. When you are sleeping you want your heart rate below 60.
- Try the 4-7-8 breathing method: 1) Inhale for 4 seconds, 2) Hold your breath for 7 seconds, and 3) Exhale slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat 4 times.
Sleep is an essential, often neglected, component of health and wellness. Sleep is important because it enables the body to repair and be fit and ready for another day. In this way, adequate rest helps prevent a variety of physical and mental health issues. So, use these 15 sleep tips to optimize your sleep routines and improve your health and well-being.
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Be well and enjoy!
Disclaimer: The information provided through this Website is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Always consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program.
- Salo, P., Sivertsen, B., Oksanen, T., Sjösten, N., Pentti, J., Virtanen, M., Kivimäki, M., & Vahtera, J. (2012). Insomnia symptoms as a predictor of incident treatment for depression: Prospective cohort study of 40,791 men and women. Sleep Medicine, 13(3), 278-284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2011.06.022.
- Pavlova, M. & Sheikh, L. S. (2011). Sleep in women. Seminars in Neurology, 31(4), 397-403. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1293539
- Vriend, J., & Corkum, P. (2011). Clinical management of behavioral insomnia of childhood. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 4, 69–79. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S14057