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8 Research Backed Ways to Improve Your Sleep in a Week
Whether you tend to feel zombie-ish in the mornings, suffer from “that 2:30 feeling” all too often, or wish you didn’t wake up throughout the night, these research-backed tips can help improve your quality of sleep–and life.
Person struggling to sleep with the light on
Tip #1 – The Snooze Button is Not Your Friend
You might have heard this one before, but it’s for good reason. As tempting as it may be to nod back off for a few minutes, any Zzz’s you catch between the screeches of your alarms is simply not high quality sleep. In fact, snoozing can make you feel even groggier than if you just bite the bullet and get out of bed. This is because it often disturbs REM sleep, which can result in higher levels of daytime fatigue than waking up during non REM sleep.
If you’ve already been telling yourself you’re going to quit the snooze habit but can’t seem to manage it, try setting your alarm clock a little later. Adding a bit of “get up now or be late for work” pressure might be the motivation you need!
Tip #2 – Get Some Bright Light Exposure
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural time-keeping clock that both helps you stay awake during the day and signals to your body when it needs to sleep at night. Your circadian rhythm affects your:
Needless to say, it’s important to keep that circadian rhythm functioning right! And adding some bright light to your life can do just that.
It’s been proven that natural sunlight or bright light during the day both improves your energy levels while waking and your quality of rest while sleeping. For example, a study on insomnia patients showed that daytime bright light exposure reduced the time it took them to fall asleep by 83%. It also improved sleep duration and quality.
While most insomnia research regarding bright light has been on patients with severe sleep issues, it will likely still help improve sleep in those who aren’t afflicted. To reap the benefits of bright light exposure, you can get some daily sunlight exposure or even purchase an artificial bright light device. If you choose the former, make sure you don’t get too much sun, and if you choose the latter, make sure not to use it at night!
Tip #3 – Skip That Afternoon Cup
While it may seem like a 4 pm cup of joe will help your exhaustion, it may be producing the opposite effect.
Caffeine is enjoyed by 90% of our nation’s population and even has some health benefits. However, it can also stay elevated in the blood for 6-8 hours. That’s a long time!
Even if you never say yes when a restaurant server offers you that post-dinner cappuccino or you think your caffeine consumption isn’t the culprit behind your sleep issues, it never hurts to experiment. You might just be surprised by how much cutting down on soda– which is a great idea for many reasons, or replacing that post lunch cup of coffee with decaf actually helps you.
Tip #4 – Give Your Alarm Clock a Second Job
Even though snoozing in the morning may make you more tired, setting an extra alarm at night could do the opposite.
Woman sets a second alarm for the nighttime
There are plenty of articles emphasizing the need for bedtime rituals such as yoga or light reading as a way of winding down. While it’s true that these strategies help, we all have days where it’s just hard to stay on track.
Consider setting a nighttime alarm that goes off 15 minutes before your intended bedtime. If you have something beeping at you to turn off the TV or stop pursuing Facebook, it’ll be easier to avoid those “How did it get to be midnight?!” moments.
Tip #5 – Reduce Evening Blue Light Exposure
This is closely related to tip #2!
In the same way that bright light exposure during the day can help keep your circadian rhythm healthy, reducing blue light exposure at night can too.
Blue light is emitted in large amounts from the electronic devices you probably use throughout the day. Unfortunately, it can also fool your brain into thinking it’s daytime rather than nighttime, which can reduce the levels of hormones that help you relax and get deeper sleep (like melatonin, for example!).
Here are some tips for reducing evening and nighttime blue light exposure:
Put your phone on the opposite side of the room instead of taking it to bed with you. (Bonus: this will make it easier not to hit snooze too!)
Stop watching TV 2 hours before bed.
Check if your eReader has a nighttime setting that uses an orange-tinged light instead of blue.
Take advantage of blue light blocking apps. They’re available for a both computers and phones.
Even if you need check emails into the evening or electronics provide your favorite ways to relax, there are ways to consume work and consume media without totally compromising your night’s sleep!
Tip #6 – Put on Some Fuzzy Socks
This is one of the easiest tips on the list.
Studies have shown that warm hands and feet are linked to rapid sleep onset. It’s a cinch to speed up the process!
Perhaps socks are a life-changing present after all…?
Tip #7 – Keep Your Cool
Did you know that when you’re falling asleep, your body temperature actually drops a little bit?
The Harvard Medical School has reported that some experts believe this slight drop actually helps the falling asleep process along. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation considers a bedroom temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit ideal for the best nights sleep.
Similarly, immersing your face in very cold water for 30 seconds may help you fall asleep faster on nights you’re feeling anxious or upset. This is because it triggers something called the Mammalian Drive Reflex, lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. These physical effects may help soothe and relax your body enough to visit the Land of Nod.
Tip #8 – Don’t be Afraid to Bring the Heat
We don’t mean to contradict ourselves, but heat can help too!
Taking a hot shower and then stepping back into your cooler-than-the-water home will cause your body temperature to drop more precipitously. This quick temperature drop can help prepare your body for sleep even faster. And of course, the shower itself can be relaxing too. Just make sure to meditate, sing or visualize happy things rather than stressing about the next day’s to-do list!
As frustrating as it is to experience fatigue during the day or have problems sleeping at night, there are a lot of things you can do to help solve these issues.
In fact, there are plenty we didn’t even get to cover, such as:
Regular exercise (but not too late at night!)
Not eating too late
And even using separate sheets if you have a cover-stealing spouse!
Remember to ask your doctor if he or she has any suggestions to add to the list. If your sleep problems are more severe, you may also want to consider getting tested for a possible sleep disorder. But those eight tips above are a great place to begin!
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