How to get better sleep

When you go to bed in the evening, do you fall asleep immediately or you find yourself turning and tossing in the bed, until the early hours on the morning? And you know that dreadful feeling in the stomach when you calculate how many hours you have left until you have to get up and start preparing for work. It does ring a bell, right?

The average adult needs around 7-9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That can be impossible to achieve if you need around an hour to fall asleep or you wake too often during the night. So, even if you’re getting to bed on time, you still might not get the rest you need.

For some, a couple of hours a night might be enough, but this is not a healthy sleeping habit. What’s more, scientists link getting too little sleep to serious medical conditions. That’s why it’s crucial that you change your sleeping habits and get better sleep every evening.

You don’t know how to do that? Don’t worry. I’m here to help you. I’m going to offer you five invaluable tips how to get better sleep.

What do you need to get better sleep?

Before we start, let’s see what you’ll need to follow my advice:

  • ​Healthy exercise schedule
  • ​Change of drinking habits
  • ​Dark curtains for the bedroom
  • Basic computer skills
  • New pillow

​7 ​​Natural Remedies to ​Help ​You ​Sleep

Remedies to ​Help ​You ​Sleep

# 1 Limit caffeine

Do you like to drink coffee late in the evening? Then this can affect your quality of sleep. Let’s see why. Coffee contains caffeine, that amazing ingredient that makes it so delicious. But caffeine is a stimulant, which affects our system by giving us a boost of energy.

a cup of cofee

Adenosine is a neurotransmitter, responsible for regulating the sleeping/waking cycle. When it build-ups, your brain starts signaling your body that it’s time to rest. Caffeine works by binding to the adenosine receptors in the brain and deceives our body into thinking that it’s not tired when it is.

Caffeine doesn’t eliminate the build-up adenosine, so when it wears off, you crash. The effect of caffeine is strongest 30-60 minutes after consumption. That’s why some of you might think that it’s fine to indulge in a cup of coffee or Coca-Cola in the evening.

What you don’t know is that the effects might last up to six hours and disturb your sleep schedule, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The solution to getting better sleep is to limit caffeine consumption. If you want something tasty to drink in the evening, you can try herbal tea or milk, which will have a soothing effect on your body.

#2 Don’t exercise before bed

Exercise is good for your body. It keeps you fit, improves brain function, and keeps diseases at bay. However, too much exercise before bed might not be the best choice if you want to fall asleep quickly. Exercise raises your body’s core temperature and stresses your system. In simple words, your body gets overstimulated and finds it hard to relax.

I’m sure that it has happened to you at least once. You work so hard until it’s time for bed, but when you lie down, you can’t relax. Your brain and body are too wired.

Don’t take this the wrong way. A physical workout can reduce stress and tire you out so that you sleep better at night. But it’s better if you exercise early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

# 3 Turn off your screen

Have you thought about why you get so tired in the evening? Let’s get into some science details.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. During the day, melatonin production is off. But the photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in our eyes monitor the amount of blue light in our environment. When the amount of light begins to decrease, these ganglion cells send information to the circadian clock in the brain, which starts producing melatonin.

In this way, our body is in sync with the cycle of day and night. That’s why we sleep during the night, and we are active during the day.

But as you well know, light is everywhere these days. We have lightbulbs, street lamps, TVs, and so on. These all are great innovations, but the bad news is that they are messing with our sleep cycle because the photosensitive cells are sending information that it’s still daylight.

Fortunately, there are simple remedies for this problem:

  • ​Turn off your computer/phone/tablet screen as part of your wind-up ritual an hour or so before going to bed.
  • ​Use Windows built-in Night light feature, which changes the colors of the display so that you can sleep better. What’s great about this option is that Windows automatically disables it at sunrise and enable it back at sundown. Just make sure that it's turned on from “Settings.”
  • ​For those of you with an old operating system, download F.lux, which does the same as “Night light.”
  • Turn on the “Night Shift” option on your smartphone. Just go to Settings -> Display & Brightness -> Night Shift. It’s available for iPhones 5s or above.
  • Download “Twilight” for Android if you don’t have “Night Shift” available.
  • Get blue-light-blocking glasses. These glasses block all source of blue light, and they can be useful if you have fluorescent lights in your house. They also can come in handy if you love to watch TV in the bed or you can’t fall asleep without the TV on.

At first, it might take you awhile to get used to the changed colors of your display, but in time, you’ll find out that you sleep better at night. As a bonus, your eyes won’t get too strained in the evening.

# 4 Deal with your alarm clock

When I wake up during the night, my first business is to check the clock and see how much time I have got before work. Do you do the same? If so, this is a habit you need to break.

During the night we go through several sleep cycles, and we usually wake briefly during some of the sleep stages. Taking a peek at the clock is stressful, and you will probably have a hard time falling back to sleep, especially if you have an hour or two before getting up.

What you have to do is turn the clock against the wall so that you’re not tempted to check the time. This strategy is also excellent in case you have troubles falling asleep and keep on staring at the clock.

If your mobile phone is your alarm clock, keep it somewhere you can’t reach easily during the night. Also, if you happen to receive a lot of notification from Facebook, emails, or Messenger, they might disturb your sleep to a great extent. So, I advise that you either turn off notification for the night by selecting the “Do not disturb” feature.

# 5 Keep your bedroom dark and cool

Remember what we said about melatonin and its role in regulating sleep? Darkness is crucial for the production of this sleep hormone. That’s why it would be better if you keep your bedroom as dark as possible. You can achieve this by using blackout curtains to block the light from street lamps or nearby buildings.

You can buy a sleep mask in case you don’t want to bother with new curtains or you’re staying in hotel rooms often. It also might be an excellent idea to tape over any source of blue light on your computer.

As for the temperature, cool is better than warm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal room temperature is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s all up to what you’re comfortable with. The point is to find a balance – the room shouldn’t be too hot, or too cold or you won’t be able to fall asleep quickly.

You might also want to get a white noise generator to keep sound distractions at bay. For people living in the big city, quiet nights are a non-existent luxury. Something is always happening outside – speeding cars, neighbors that love to listen to music in the middle of the night, or passerby laughing and shouting. A pair of earplugs also might solve your problem.

# 6 Change your pillow

pillow

One of the reasons for poor quality of sleep is a pillow that’s not supporting enough, or it’s not the right height and softness. You should choose your pillow depending on your sleeping style – on the back, on the stomach, on the side, or a mixture of these. You can read more about it here, or you can just experiment until you find the one that suits you.

You shouldn’t forget to change your pillow every couple of years. You sleep on it every night and even if you wash the covers often, dirt accumulates, and you’re breathing it every night. Moreover, the pillow loses its firmness with time, and you’ll get less support.

# 7 Keep pets out of the bedroom

Credit: Spilltojill

If you have a dog or a cat and they share your bedroom with you, they might prevent you from getting enough sleep unintentionally. Dogs might bark during the night if they hear noises while cats are most active around 3-5 pm and they don’t care that someone is sleeping.

One research studied the effect of the dog’s presence in the bedroom on sleep efficiency. The results showed that a single dog doesn’t disturb human sleep as much as previously thought. But the position of the dog also mattered, and sleep efficiency was higher with the dog off the bed.

Cats, on the other hand, often get restless during the night. They jump, race, attack, and play with whatever they find. Nothing can compare to being woken up from a sound sleep because something is gnawing on your toes, hitting your face, or jumping on your chest. Try going to sleep after something like that!

If you don’t want to keep the cat away from the bed (or you simply can’t because she is scratching on the door all night begging to be let in), you can try to tire her out before bedtime. Keep her playing for about 30 minutes before going to bed and then feed her. Leave the door slightly ajar so that she can go to her litter box and food/water dish and scatter some toys outside the bedroom.

Getting enough sleep is as important as getting quality sleep – long hours of uninterrupted rest while your body is doing crucial maintenance. In most cases, it’s enough to adopt good sleep habits and manage stress. However, if you find that you can’t sleep through the night after you’ve made an effort to change your lifestyle, it might be time to consult a specialist to rule out a sleep disorder.

What do you think about these tips how to get better sleep? Have you got anything to add to the list? Share your opinion in the comment section. 

    Daniel Kruger

    A senior academic researcher, reviewer, and editor, Daniel Kruger is also an internationally accredited psychotherapist. He earned his PhD in Psychological Counseling and Guidance, and in the years since, he has taught in the Department of Psychological Counseling and Guidance himself.He has also authored papers that have gone on to appear in such world-renowned journals as the European Journal of Psychological Assessment, Psychological Reports, the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. Asia Pacific Psychiatry, and Computers in Human Behaviour.

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