Oftentimes undervalued, sleep is an essential feature of many facets of our health and well-being, especially for us, fitness freak, sleep is the best recovery after workout you can get! From improving our motivation and levels of concentration to helping support our immune and cardiovascular health; getting quality sleep every night is very important.
Unfortunately for many of us, it’s not always as simple as falling asleep and staying asleep. There are countless reasons for you to experience sleep deficiencies — from daily activity, diet, bedroom environment and so much more, what you do throughout your day can significantly affect your sleep.
On average, your sleep consists of 4-5 cycles. To attain maximum restorative benefits, each of these cycles should include periods of deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM).
In terms of the number of hours people need every night, this is dependent on your age. The general guidelines for adequate sleep are as follows:
- Adults (18 and older) need 7-8 hours
- Teenagers (13 to 17) need 8-9 hours of sleep
- Young children (under 12) need at least 10 hours
- Babies need about 16 hours of sleep every day
Benefits Of A Quality Sleep
Aside from the more common health practices such as eating well, drinking more water, and exercising daily, sleep offers incredible benefits too!
The best part is, it’s one of the easiest lifestyle choices you can make.
While asleep, we release various neurotransmitters, hormones, and cytokines that play a crucial role in your immune functioning. Without sleep, certain biochemicals and mediators of our immune system will not be released.
Another great benefit of sleeping is its role in improving your heart and overall cardiovascular functioning. Regular sleeping patterns assist in slowing down your heart rate as well as lowering your blood pressure, which is crucial if you want to perform well during your cardio workouts.
Long periods of sleep deficiency can lead to serious health implications including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and diabetes.
Consider the days that you didn’t get enough sleep or you were restless most of the night. There’s a good chance you were likely less alert, easily distracted, and even experienced poor judgement that next day.
Research infers that sleep is linked to your attention, cognition, and mood. Quality sleep can foster your brain’s health through improving your memory, problem-solving skill, creativity, and emotional processing.
Top 10 Tips To Help You Get More Sleep
Let’s take a look at the top 10 tips to help you get more sleep, and more importantly, get a night of better sleep.
- Less screen time before bed
At night your eyes need some time to adjust to the darkness for your body to settle in. Oftentimes, people interfere with this natural change in lighting by watching T.V or using their smartphone devices in bed.
This bright light exposure can prevent relaxation and keep you awake long after you put your phone down. Consider moving your phone into another room or in the other corner of your bedroom facing down.
- Do some light reading
If you feel like you need a distraction before falling asleep, a great substitute for your T.V or smartphone is a book. Engaging in some light reading can help relax your brain without any added stimulation from a bright light.
Consider a book that’s not too exciting and keeps you up all night reading, but one that’s simple enough to read a chapter or two before bed.
- Exercise more throughout the day
A daily exercise routine is not only beneficial for your heart and muscles but your sleep as well. Exercising regularly during the daily, especially in the early hours will keep you energized throughout the day and help you relax better in the evenings.
There is plenty of recourses available online which will can accommodate every life style. If you are short of time, try time saving exercise like 7 minute workout, no equipment? Give basic home workout a go. Even something as simple as home stretch routine will help.
Your body and mind will be more tired, helping you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
Be careful not to overexert yourself right before bed. This can reverse the effects of your sleep quality, keeping you feeling restless for longer.
- Limit your caffeine consumption
Caffeine is the most used psychoactive substance worldwide. Although popular, it’s also intimately linked to sleep disruptions for many people.
To avoid the stimulating effects caffeine produces, it’s best to either limit your intake throughout the day or at the very least, avoid drinking coffee in the late afternoon or evening.
- Have a sleep schedule
Scheduling your brain to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day is an influential habit to create. Your body becomes familiar with a routine, making you more tired by your scheduled ‘bedtime’ and more alert when it’s time to wake up.
It’s also important not to rest or work in your bedroom — especially not in your bed. Keep this place as your sleeping sanctuary only. When you do finally crawl into bed at the end of your day, your body will begin to recognize this is the place to fall asleep.
- Avoid alcohol consumption
Although it functions as a depressant, helping you fall asleep initially, alcohol will interfere significantly with your sleep cycle. As your liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol, you will experience disruptions throughout your sleep.
One study suggests that alcohol affects a significant portion of various sleep stages. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, there’s a dose-dependent interference of REM sleep during the first half of your sleep.
Alcohol works to interfere with hormone and neurochemical secretion as well as body temperature regulation. All of these strung together can lead to inadequate quality of sleep.
- Optimize your bedroom environment
Another key feature in getting more sleep at night lies within your bedroom. Optimizing your bedroom environment can do wonders for your sleep.
Here are a few tricks to improve your sleep:
- Lighting: if the sunlight is too bright in your bedroom, you’re likely to wake up earlier than needed. Consider blackout curtains to ensure no light enters the bedroom during sleeping hours.
- Temperature: to optimize sleep comfort, a cooler temperature of between 60-67° F is best.
- White noise: investing in a white noise machine can prevent your brain from staying alert and distracted at night. This is especially helpful if you live in a noisy apartment building or near a highway.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable
An accessory step towards optimizing your bedroom environment is to make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible. Depending on your sleeping preferences, make sure your mattress and pillows are as firm or plush as you like them to be — really whatever is most comfortable for you.
You might even want to try out a weighted blanket for added comfort. Although there is limited research, some studies suggest that a weighted blanket can minimize insomnia and anxiety — helping you get a better night’s sleep.
- Take a hot bath or shower
If you’re having trouble falling asleep initially, having a hot bath or shower just before bed will help you relax.
Having a cooler core body temperature is vital to falling asleep quickly. Your body will heat up from the hot bath or shower; however, after getting out and drying off your skin, you will cool down. This natural cooling in body temperature will signal to your brain it’s time for sleep.
- Consider supplementing
If all else fails, this is a last and final effort to improve your sleep quality. Many of these supplements help in two major ways: to help you go to sleep faster, and stay asleep longer.
Melatonin is the most popular sleeping aid on the market. As a hormone made naturally in the body, its secretion tells your brain it’s time to relax and go to sleep. However, some people require supplementation if they’re experiencing long term sleep deficiency or insomnia.
Other well-tolerated supplements include:
- Ginkgo Biloba
The Bottom Line
Sleep plays a crucial role in your health and well-being in many ways. To better optimize your sleep quality, consider implementing 2-3 of these tips at a time to see how it affects your night. Once you find out what works best, continue with that.
What is your secret weapon to getting better sleep?