If you’ve ever found yourself tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, and desperately trying to get to sleep, then it may be time to improve your sleep hygiene. Between 50 – 70 million adults in the U.S. alone experience problems getting to sleep, making sleep deprivation a super common problem that can be alleviated with a few simple tweaks to the bedtime routine. We have put together some top tips to help you drift off to sleep and catch up on those much-needed zzz’s.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the practice of good sleep habits; these habits are crucial for promoting a good sleep-wake cycle, which improves your overall health and well-being. Everything you do during the day, including what you eat and drink, can impact how well you sleep at night, so maintaining good sleep habits is the first step to gaining control of your sleep.
Eat your way to sleep
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean eating a tub of cookie dough and passing out on the sofa – eating your way to better sleep involves including plenty of sleep-friendly foods in your diet. There are times when vitamin deficiency can interfere with sleep, so to combat this, stock up on leafy greens, almonds, bananas, kiwis, fatty fish, and cherry juice, all of which are known to have sleep-promoting properties as well as health benefits.
Caffeine can play havoc with sleep; in fact, the body still feels the effects of it between 3 – 7 hours after it has been consumed. Limiting caffeine intake to the morning is the best way to prevent it from interfering with sleep; however, everyone has a different tolerance to it, so some may be able to drink it in the early afternoon and still be able to fall asleep easily.
Try sleep techniques
Whether you’ve spent the day frantically running errands, working super hard, playing even harder, or you’re just not particularly good at falling asleep, it’s worth learning a few techniques to switch your brain off before bed. A technique for those days when your mind is buzzing with endorphins from a workout or playing online games is a technique devised by track coach Bud Winter to help WW2 pilots drop off to sleep in less than two minutes. This technique is all about relaxing the muscles and breathing deeply to achieve a state of relaxation super-fast. Another technique is the 4-7-8 method which combines meditation and visualization along with a breathing pattern that could have you sleeping in as little as 60 seconds. Try a few different techniques to find one that suits you and helps you to relax the quickest.
Avoid screens before bed
The screens on our laptops, phones, and tablets emit a blue light that interferes with our body’s natural circadian rhythm – our internal body clock. When exposed to this blue light, our bodies think it’s still daytime, which means that the production of the sleep hormone melatonin is inhibited. Avoiding screens before bed and spending time in a darkened room will help to stimulate melatonin and therefore induce sleep much faster.
Exercising during the day is absolutely vital to improving sleep quality – just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day is shown to have great benefits on the body as well as promoting a better quality of sleep. Exercising outside is even better as exposure to natural light helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm and keep your sleep-wake cycle in check.
Keep a regular sleep-wake cycle
By going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (yes, even at the weekends!), the body’s internal clock is regulated. This means that after a few weeks, the body will naturally give itself cues to start drifting off and waking up at those times, making it much easier for you to fall asleep.
By making a few simple adjustments to daily routines, it is possible to fall asleep much faster and improve the quality of sleep at the same time.
Story by Elena Shevchenko