We spend about one third of our lives sleeping. Like eating and drinking, sleep is integral to our survival. However, many of us still find it difficult to get a good night sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that about 30% of adults in the United States have symptoms of insomnia. That means, between you and your parents, one of you slept poorly last night.
Some of the common effects of poor quality sleep include irritability, moodiness, poor memory, lack of concentration and excessive daytime sleepiness. These would lead to poor performance in school and in the workplace. All in all, it is a pretty awful situation to be in.
Fortunately, in many of us, these symptoms of insomnia are caused by inadequate sleep hygiene. This means that we can easily reverse the undesired effects of poor quality sleep if we follow some simple tips and advice. We have assembled a list of 24 easy hacks for you to improve your sleep quality and supercharge your life!
This is a sleep quality assessment that measure the sleep quality in adults. It may help to differentiate between poor and good sleep quality by measuring the following: subjective sleep quality, sleep onset time, sleep disturbances, use of sleeping medication and daytime dysfunction.
Develop Healthy Sleep Hygiene Habit
1. Sticking to a sleep schedule
Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule on all days of the week. Our body has an inbuilt clock known as the circadian rhythm. Having a consistent sleep schedule regulates your circadian rhythm. Over time, this would prime your body to wake up naturally as well as feel tired at a certain time.
Of course this does mean we have to bid farewell to our sleeping in during weekends. On the bright side, think of all the extra work we would get done!
2. Avoid long naps
I will be the first to admit. I love my power naps! A midday nap always leave me feeling refreshed and alert for the later part of the day. Yet, it is best to keep them short and sweet if you do not want them interfering with your nighttime sleep. Most studies recommend that power naps should not last beyond 30 minutes. Any longer can leave you groggy and disoriented.
Besides the duration of naps, the timing of the nap also plays an important role in sleep hygiene habits. It is wiser not to take your naps late in the afternoon or in the evening as it can leave you too alert by bedtime. An ideal time to take your power nap would be about 2pm. You would enjoy the benefits of a restorative nap without it affecting your sleep at night.
3. Increase exposure to sunlight during the day
Once again, this has got to do with the natural body clock we call the circadian rhythm. Exposing ourselves to sunlight during the day and then toning it down as the day progresses will send a message to our body that it needs to get ready to wind down.
If it is not possible to get yourself any sunlight during the light, a bright light device would also be a viable alternative.
4. Disable your snooze button
Who is guilty of this? Setting multiple alarms in the morning so that we can wake up in phases. Hitting the snooze button multiple times hoping to get an extra 10 minutes of sleep? I used to do that myself until i realized that i actually feel more tired with that extra sleep! This is because the periods of “sleep” between your snoozes are not restorative in nature. Ultimately, this confuses your brain and disrupts your sleep/awake schedule.
As much as possible, wake up at the first ring of your alarm and start the day!
5. Avoid sharing your bed with children and pets
We know you love your kids and your furry friends. However, it would be best to show your affection for them by tucking them into their own beds. Co-sleeping with children will disrupt your sleep as their movements may wake you up. There is also the added fear of injuring your little ones as you toss and turn in your sleep. When I had my first son, we practiced co-sleeping and every night I was literally on the edge of my bed, worried that I might roll onto him and injure him. Soon after we moved him to his own room and I am happy to say that I sleep like a baby now.
On the other hand, your furry friends are really comfortable to hug and you are not worried about crushing them. But, they may bring with them hair, fluff, fleas, pollen and all sorts of allergens. These may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night with a congested nose. Thus, keep your bed to yourself and your partner!
6. Have regular exercise
In a study published by Journal of Sleep Medicine, they found that adults with chronic insomnia achieved better sleep quality after a 16 weeks period of moderate aerobic exercise. During these 16 weeks, they exercised 4 times per week. Overall, they experienced longer sleep duration, faster sleep onset and improved sleep efficiency.
The Journal of Physiotherapy also reported similar outcomes. They concluded that regular exercise has positive effects on sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults.
However, although exercise is fantastic for sleep, we should not get carried away and go for a high intensity workout just before bedtime. Vigorous exercise should be performed way before bedtime to give the body ample time to cool down and get ready for bed.
7. watch what you eat
No prizes for guessing the main culprits here. Caffeine and alcohol play a huge role in affecting your nighttime sleep. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and having it at the appropriate time can work wonders for your focus and energy. However, too much of it too late in the day would reduce your sleep quality by over-stimulation of your nervous system. Caffeine can stay in your system between 6 to 8 hours before they are flushed out. Therefore, you will have to work backwards from your bedtime to decide when you are going to take that shot.
And this is just the caffeine that is in plain sight. There are many other products that may contain caffeine. Examples include chocolate, some weight loss pills or painkillers.
Alcohol would be caffeine’s partner in crime here. Alcohol has been shown to affect the production of melatonin, a key hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Fluctuations in melatonin levels would disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and throw us off our sleeping game.
There are also foods that may promote sleep. Almonds and walnuts are natural sources of melatonin and may help to promote sleep. Besides their sleep boosting effect, these nuts also contain healthy natural oils making them a great alternative when you feel the urge to snack.
8. limit cigarette smoking
Who has ever turned to their cigarettes for a little perk-me-up when they are feeling a little dull or listless? I am guessing… a lot. Well, the thing is cigarettes contain nicotine which is an extremely potent stimulant. With over-stimulation, falling asleep naturally would be difficult and the quality of sleep would suffer. We would then wake up tired and guess what you reach for to perk yourself up? The perfect example of a vicious cycle. Therefore, nip it in the bud and stub out that butt.
Practice a relaxing pre-Bedtime routine
9. Wind down from work
In an era where working from work is common, it can be difficult to separate work and home. But, it is critical that you allow yourself some time to power down before your bedtime. Get away from your workspace physically and mentally. This will calm the body and mind down in preparation for your bedtime.
10. take a relaxing bath or shower
Having a warm bath or shower 1 to 2 hours before your bedtime has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce the time needed to fall asleep. The relaxing nature of a warm bath helps but the key reason for this is the change in body temperature. This enables us to go to bed with a lower body temperature that allows us to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
11. Listen to soothing music
Music is the language of the soul and having some soothing music playing in the background would help you to settle down before bed. A study by John Hopkins School of Medicine has shown that listening to ocean sounds improved sleep quality by a whooping 38%!
In a more recent study, it was demonstrated that music significantly improved sleep quality and sleep duration. A really interesting finding that came from this study was that the participants found music to have a better effect than medications itself!
12. read a book (the kind made from paper)
What better way to relax than to immerse ourselves in a story by our favourite author, away from the worries and stresses of everyday life? Reading a story is one of the most efficient ways to bring our minds away from the daily incessant bombardment of negative news in the media. Studies have also shown that reading can reduce stress level in humans significantly.
13. practice some gentle yoga poses before sleep
In a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative therapies in Health and Medicine, yoga helped to reduce sleep disturbances in ladies with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and subsequently improved their sleep quality and efficiency. Yoga has also been demonstrated in other studies to reduce stress and relieve tension. Overall, it is an amazing item to add to your pre-bedtime routine. It takes minimal effort but yields great rewards. Check out the video below for some tips on how to do a quick and easy yoga routine before bed. It is ultra convenient and you can do it on your bed without any special equipment and it only takes about 5 minutes.
14. Practice Meditation
People have practiced meditation for thousands of years and millions swear by it’s effectiveness. Meditation can help to reduce stress, control anxiety and improve memory. All these benefits contribute to a relaxed state of mind and allows the practitioner to enjoy better quality sleep. And the amazing thing is, no special equipment or training is needed. You just need a comfortable space (your bed) and your mind.
15. Try Acupressure
Acupressure is a traditional treatment originating from China thousands of years ago. It works by applying pressure at specific points in the body known as acupoints. These acupoints are believed to correspond to different organs and systems in the body. The core concept behind acupressure relates to the notion of “Qi” which can best be described as the bioenergy within our body. Traditional chinese medicine (TCM) generally believes that poor sleep is due to a disruption of Qi in the heart and liver system. They propose that acupressure to the acupoints corresponding to these systems would aid in improving sleep quality.
In a study published in Sleep Medicine Review, it found that acupressure improved sleep quality in patients by almost 20%. It did this by improving the sleep latency and sleep duration without any side effects. Combined with the fact that acupressure is non-invasive and easy to administer, it can be a useful tool to improve your sleep.
Watch the video below to find out where to apply the acupressure!
Optimize your bedroom for better sleep
16. control your bedroom temperature
Have you ever found it difficult to get comfortable because the room was too warm and you were sweating bullets? Or consider the converse where you were shivering away struggling to get comfortable under the sheets? Studies have found that the ideal body temperature for good quality sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything out of this range would cause us to have more frequent awakenings and result in poorer quality sleep. However, everyone has a different tolerance to temperature. Hence, make your own judgement about your perfect sleeping temperature!
Recently, we did an interesting experiment where we tested out various methods to keep cool without AC. These methods were supposedly all “tried and tested” by online bloggers but our results will surprise you…
17. Eliminate loud noises
If your house is next to a busy road, you know what I am talking about. Loud traffic noises are very disruptive as they tend to wake us up in the middle of our sleep. With frequent awakenings, we will not be able to get the restorative sleep that we need for our body to recover. In these cases, you should invest in soundproof windows. However, it can be a hefty investment and it would be a good idea to read our guide here on how to choose the correct soundproof windows that gives you the best value for your money (hint: you will save at least 30% from reading our guide).
Sometimes, these unwanted loud noises come from the most familiar of sources, your sleeping partner, who is snoring away like a freight train. In this situation, you may consider noise cancelling earphones or moving to a different room if it is too unbearable. It might be worth noting that snoring can be a sign of sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea. So, it would also be sensible to get your sleeping partner checked out by a sleep professional.
18. Avoid bright lights at night
In the day, we want to immerse ourselves in the bright sunlight. But, as night falls, we should reduce our exposure to bright lights to align our circadian rhythm to the notion of sunrise and sunset. By doing so, we prime our brain and body to increase production of melatonin, the powerful hormone that induces sleep. With increased melatonin, we would find it much easier to achieve great quality deep sleep leaving us rejuvenated by the next day.
Besides the lights from our ceiling lights and lamps, the bright blue light emitted by our electronic devices can also affect the production of melatonin and our sleep quality. Therefore, give your FaceBook update a break and switch off that phone. If you must use electronic devices, a pair of light filtering eye glasses might help.
19. Invest in comfortable bedding
As mentioned earlier, we spend ⅓ of our lives sleeping so it would definitely make sense to invest in a comfortable bed. All mattresses have a life expectancy. Beyond which, mattresses start to lose their support, resulting in aches and pains for the user. When purchasing a mattress, you should always check with the retailer the expected life expectancy. When the time is up, make a change!
Another major part of bedding are your pillows. Pillows come in all shapes and sizes to cater for all types of sleepers. Stomach sleepers generally do well with a thinner pillow. People who sleep on their back usually prefer a pillow with medium support. Side sleepers will need pillows that support the head, neck and ear at the same time. For those of us who are hyperallergenic, pillow fill will determine if we wake up feeling refreshed or as if we walked through a giant pollen field. In this situation, a hypoallergenic pillow or hypoallergenic sheets would be the best choice.
The last aspect of bedding are your sheets. Sheets come with different thread counts, weaves and materials. All these characteristics contribute to the warmth and softness of the sheets. The choice of sheets would depend on the type of sleeper you are. If you frequently wake up in the middle of the night feeling cold and shivering away, you should consider fleece and jersey. If you tend to wake up sweaty and hot, then consider cotton or even bamboo bed sheets.
To summarize, comfortable bedding is critical to good sleep. Invest in high quality bedding as they can make great difference to the quality of your sleep.
20. try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the application of essential oils from aromatic plants. This is done through inhalation, massage or bathing. Inhalation is the easiest to achieve and maintain through the night as you can just pop it in an air diffuser. Many studies have validated the effectiveness of aromatherapy in improving sleep quality. One such recent study conducted in Texas found that aromatherapy improved the sleep quality of participants by a substantial margin. However, out of all the fragrances that are available, you would want to bet your dollar on lavendar as the research on lavendar is the strongest currently. Aromatherapy is definitely a winner in my book because it is easy to execute and relatively inexpensive.
21. reserve the bed only for sleep and sex
Well, maybe also the yoga that you do before bed because it is just so convenient and puts me right to sleep. Your bed should be your shelter and harbour from the stresses and worries of everyday life. Do not invite any unwelcome visitors into your bed in the form of work or TV or the internet. Keep your bed relaxing and leave it for the things that it is meant for.
22. paint your wall sensibly
We are all creative at heart but we might want to think twice before expressing that artistic flair on our bedroom walls. Bold colours in your bedroom will deceive the mind into thinking it needs to stay alert and hence prevent you from falling asleep easily. When choosing bedroom wall colour, go with neutral colours, pastels or muted shades. These soothing colour schemes will relax your mind as you turn in for the night.
If you have every wondered what your room color says about you, check out our guide here on color psychology and how it affects your mood.
23. declutter your bedroom
Mum was right. Clean your room. Mum may not have the science behind it but instinctively she knew. She knew that a tidy and neat bedroom somehow contributes to our overall well being. As it turns out, there was a study presented at the 2015 Seattle Sleep conference that shows that sleeping in a cluttered bedroom may increase risk of sleep disorders.
Moral of the story: Don’t doubt your mum.
When all else fails …
24. seek help from a sleep professional
If you still have difficulty sleeping after all the above, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders are frequently treatable and early treatment will allow for a smoother recovery. Locate your friendly sleep professional now.
Wrapping it up
A good night’s sleep is not a distant dream but something easily achieved. With the correct sleep hygiene habits and some simple hacks in your home, you will be able to sleep faster, sleep longer and ultimately sleep better.