Lacking focus? Feeling tired? A major reason for feeling tired is a lack of proper sleep 1Niu, X., Zhou, S., & Casement, M. D. (2021). The feasibility of at-home sleep extension in adolescents and young adults: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 101443.. Good sleep helps us regulate our mood 2Triantafillou, S., Saeb, S., Lattie, E. G., Mohr, D. C., & Kording, K. P. (2019). Relationship between sleep quality and mood: ecological momentary assessment study. JMIR mental health, 6(3), e12613., our diet 3Zuraikat, F. M., Makarem, N., Liao, M., St‐Onge, M. P., & Aggarwal, B. (2020). Measures of poor sleep quality are associated with higher energy intake and poor diet quality in a diverse sample of women from the go red for women strategically focused research network. Journal of the American Heart Association, 9(4), e014587., and aids us in physical 4Kline, C. E. (2014). The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 8(6), 375-379. and cognitive functioning5Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment..
Tips on How to Sleep Better
1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time
Every day, including weekends and vacations. An irregular sleep schedule is associated with a decrease in average sleep time6Kang, J. H., & Chen, S. C. (2009). Effects of an irregular bedtime schedule on sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue among university students in Taiwan. BMC public health, 9(1), 1-6.. The first step in healthy sleeping is waking up at roughly the same time every day. In my experience that is easier than having a set time for bed, which follows naturally if you wake up regularly at the same time.
2. Set a relaxing bedtime routine
Such as listening to calming music, reading a book or taking a warm bath. As an example, I try to stop working at 8 PM. Evenings are for entertainment and spending time with loved ones.
3. Make sure the ambient temperature in your room is pleasant for you
A bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (~15.6-19.4 °C) helps promote sleep 7Harding, E. C., Franks, N. P., & Wisden, W. (2019). The temperature dependence of sleep. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 336. 8Okamoto-mizuno K, Mizuno K. Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31:14. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-14..
4. Make sure your bedroom is quiet.
Turn off noisy distractions such as a TV. Silence unwanted noise with earplugs or use “white noise,” such as from a fan, sound machine or an app.
5. Make sure your bedroom is dark
Use thick curtains or blackout shades to block out unwanted light and turn down the lights on your digital clock as you start you evening routine. Your bedroom should have no blue light 9Tosini, G., Ferguson, I., & Tsubota, K. (2016). Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Molecular vision, 22, 61.
6. Take a shower before bed
A warm shower or bath before bed may improve sleep 10Haghayegh, S., Khoshnevis, S., Smolensky, M. H., Diller, K. R., & Castriotta, R. J. (2019). Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep medicine reviews, 46, 124-135.. The opposite may be true for for hot days, where you might want to try cooling yourself down. Try it for yourself.
7. Make sure you are comfortable
A Sleep Foundation poll found that people rated the comfort of their mattresses, room temperature and pillows the most important factors for their quality of sleep.
8. Make sure you eat right
Finish eating meals 2-3 hours before bedtime. Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack 11Paoli, A., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A., & Moro, T. (2019). The influence of meal frequency and timing on health in humans: the role of fasting. Nutrients, 11(4), 719..
9. Exercise may help you sleep better
The benefits of exercise are numerous. One of them is that it helps you sleep better 12Kredlow, M. A., Capozzoli, M. C., Hearon, B. A., Calkins, A. W., & Otto, M. W. (2015). The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. Journal of behavioral medicine, 38(3), 427-449.. The benefit may depend on your already excisting baseline level of activity.
10. Caffeinated products may hinder your sleep
Try to limit how many caffeinated products you consume in the afternoon. If you are sensitive to caffeine, than avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Similarly avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime. One study found that caffeine even 6 hours before bed time caused people to experience lower quality of sleep 13Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195-1200..
11. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but objectively the quality of sleep suffers. Similarly avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime, because even a small amount of alcohol disrupts sleep. 14Pietilä, J., Helander, E., Korhonen, I., Myllymäki, T., Kujala, U. M., & Lindholm, H. (2018). Acute effect of alcohol intake on cardiovascular autonomic regulation during the first hours of sleep in a large real-world sample of Finnish employees: observational study. JMIR mental health, 5(1), e9519.. Alcohol and nicotine in your body can disrupt sleep and can cause nighttime waking. For optimal sleep, skip them close to bedtime or altogether .
12. The bed is for sleeping
Use your bed only for sleep and sex. This is such common advice. But for the life of me I cannot find a scientific article to back it up. Just experts. I can understand the reasoning. Our brain tends to be primed for the environment that it is in. We see this in memory science or priming. If we generalize these findings we may be able to say that if we use our bed for activities other than sleep, then it is less likely to sleep when it’s time to sleep.
13. If you cannot sleep do something boring
If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Do something that’s not very exciting. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends reading something boring, doing easy chores or playing an instrument Again, I can’t find a source for this that isn’t from a blog basically.
14. Regulate when you drink fluids
It’s easier to sleep if don’t need to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night so stop drinking fluids 3 hours before bed and visit the bathroom before going to bed.
15. How much sleep do I need?
Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep, if you are an adult. Teenagers (13-18 years) should sleep 8 to 10 hours. Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours. Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours. Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours (including naps). Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours (including naps)15Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., … & Hillard, P. J. A. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep health, 1(1), 40-43.. The hours you need to sleep vary with your age and your individual genetics. It also varies with the time of the year (more during winter when there is less sun) and when you are sick and your body needs more time to recover. So be mindful and don’t expect perfect adherence.