We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep are plentiful – it improves both our physical and mental health and makes us more productive during our waking hours. But are we getting enough sleep? Even for those of us with a solid eight hour sleep time built into our schedule, the answer could be no. As it turns out, more doesn’t always equal better.
People have their own unique sleep needs. Some of us can do well on six hours, while others are dragging if they get less than nine. But, according to sleep researchers, what matters more than logging hours in bed is getting to a relaxing, recharging sleep. So even if we hit the hay early, if we’re tossing and turning, those extra hours aren’t helping us.
Optimizing your sleep depends heavily on three factors: preparation (building good sleep habits), environment (modifying your surroundings for optimal sleep), and timing (getting the sleep you need when you need it).
Take a look at the list below of some ways to improve your sleep hygiene. By employing some (or all) of these practices into your sleepy time routine, you can make your sleeping hours work for you. The goal here is to walk you through how to improve the quality of the sleep that you get. Once you do that, you can fine tune and dial back the amount that you get to match what you really need. The result will be a more refreshed, more rejuvenated feeling when your alarm goes off the next morning.
1. Timing of Sleep – For the best sleep, we should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Even on weekends, you ask? Yes, even on weekends. Sleep experts say it’s best to wake at the same time and then nap later in the day. This allows for extra sleep without disrupting the normal wake/sleep schedule.
2. Preparation for Sleep – Making habits that help us fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and be more comfortable while we rest is critical to our sleep quality. Start a healthy “sleep routine” of winding down that starts long before your head hits the pillow.
During the day, regular exercise is one way we can prepare our bodies for restful sleep. And we don’t need to wear ourselves out – just engaging in some physical activity in the morning or afternoons will work wonders on how we rest at night.
Make an evening ritual for yourself that will signal to your body that it’s almost time to rest. Cut screen time at least one to two hours before bedtime; those bright screens confuse our brain about what time it is, leading to more choppy sleep. After you’ve unplugged, meditation is a great way to unwind and prepare our bodies for sleep. Start simply by just visualizing a dream you’d like to have to relax yourself. If you find you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, relax, focus on sleeping, and try to visualize where your dream left off.
Going gently on our bodies daily is another key ingredient to restful sleep. Folks should limit their intake of alcohol and caffeine. Studies have shown that while a nightcap could help you fall asleep; imbibing diminishes the quality of the rest. As far as caffeine is concerned, drinking too much during the day can result in a reduction of the amount of REM sleep we get (the most restful phase of sleep).
3. Sleep Environment – This one may sound like a no-brainer, but first and foremost, make sure your bed is comfy. Splurge on the right mattress, grab some good pillows and make your bed in good sheets.
Before you settle in for the night, check and adjust the room temperature. Studies have shown that optimal sleeping temperature for most adults is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, hit the lights. LEDs and other lights from electronics can cause just as much disruption to your sleep cycle as a glowing tablet screen. If you can’t get your bedroom dark enough, try using a sleeping mask to help you get better rest.
And finally, make sure your space is quiet. Noisy neighbors? Try using an ambient noise device to drown out sounds, and lull you to sleep even faster.
Are you still awake? Good. So, try putting these tips into practice. Not only will you feel more rested, you may find that you actually need fewer hours of sleep to get that rejuvenated feeling. It’s a win-win, for your mind and body.