When you were young, you slept like the proverbial baby. But, as time goes on, it becomes that much harder to get a good night’s sleep. Too much caffeine, blue screens, the burden of responsibility: all contribute to difficulty falling asleep, or erratic sleeping patterns. No surprise, then, that 40% of Americans report not getting even the nightly minimum of seven hours of sleep.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to get a better night’s sleep. Some of them might not be appealing to you. For example, if you’re a coffee lover, you know deep down that your caffeine levels are a contributing factor to not being able to fall asleep at night. Still, if you’re really serious about addressing your sleeping issues – and reaping the health benefits – you will want to consider these seven science-backed ways to get a better night’s sleep.
Avoid Blue Light
If you’re addicted to surfing the web, checking your smartphone, or updating your social media, you might not like this one. Many modern technological devices use what is known as blue light. The wavelength of this light messes with your body’s natural sleeping system. The human body has a snazzy mechanism called a Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, or SCN for short. This contains thousands of neurons and is directly involved with melatonin production. Melatonin is the chemical that tells your body when it’s time to switch off. So, when you’re browsing through Facebook right before bed, your brain becomes confused due to the blue light and doesn’t know it’s time to rest. This explains the fact that using these kinds of screens makes you feel wide awake right before bed.
Now, if you can’t live without using your device in bed before going to sleep, you can download apps that change the wavelength of the light. Moreover, there are many cool inventions like these blue light blocking glasses that you put on to filter the blue light. They might look hilarious, but they’ll make sure your melatonin production isn’t interfered with, helping you get a better night’s sleep.
I know I’ve already mentioned caffeine above. It’s not fun to hear, but it’s absolutely true: tea, coffee, and sodas with caffeine will all hinder a restful night’s sleep. In scientific terms, adenosine is a chemical in your body that makes you feel sleepy. Caffeine acts as an adenosine blocker, so it can’t do its job effectively. The result? You don’t feel tired, even if you should be. And that makes it near on impossible to tell whether you’re getting the sleep you need.
The more active you are during the day, the less trouble you will have falling asleep at night. If you work in an office all day and relax on the couch all evening, you might wonder why you are getting a bad night’s sleep. The answer is: you need to exercise. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean pumping iron at the gym. You can try something easy and fun like taking a nice evening walk or doing a quick aerobics routine. If your body is in slump mode all day, you can’t expect your brain to signal it to sleep once you get into bed.
Sleeping issues can be a vicious cycle. For some, getting into bed at night becomes a stressful endeavor in itself. You worry so much about not being able to sleep that you’re not able to sleep. Thinking too much about it will only make things worse. Try taking a relaxing bath or reading a book before bed. A scientific theory known as stimulus-control therapy aims to eradicate the stresses surrounding your sleeping pattern. Experts in this area recommend avoiding looking at the clock or keeping it out of your eye line as you attempt to fall asleep. That way, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of getting a better night’s sleep.
Only Sleep When You’re Tired
It sounds simple, but many of us try to establish a regular sleeping pattern in order to complement our working schedule and overall lifestyle. However, if you’re not tired, you won’t fall asleep. It is much better to get five good hours of sleep than it is to lie in bed awake for hours on end. For example, if you start work at nine o’clock and don’t feel tired at eleven at night, don’t just force yourself to go to bed because you have to get up at seven or eight.
Address the Root Issue
You can read tips about sleeping, but sometimes the real issue is something else. Anxiety and stress are two contributing factors to sleep issues. Before you go to sleep, try taking a pen and paper and jotting down the things that are stressing you out. Next, figure out why they are stressful and what you can do about it. There is always something you can do to improve a negative situation. Moreover, writing it all down is a cathartic process which helps clear your mind, resulting in a better night’s sleep.
Restful Environment and Clutter
Last but not least, the environment around you will impact the rest you get. If there is trash all around your bed and the linens are musty, you can’t expect to sleep like royalty. Your bedroom should be a welcoming sleep environment. Did you know that when your brain interprets the clutter all around you it can release a hormone called cortisone? Cortisone is released when we become stressed. Thus, making sure the place where you sleep is clean and comfortable will prevent the release of this hormone, aiding you in your bid for a peaceful night’s sleep.
We all know how important sleep is to our overall functioning, but sometimes we are not very good at prioritizing it. I hope these pointers help you think about your sleep habits and get a better night’s sleep!
Cambridge graduate. Writer and thinker. Life enthusiast.