If you’re not getting enough sleep every night and are having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 1 in 3 American Adults do not get healthy amounts of sleep. And stress can make the problem even worse.
The NIH says adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to stay in good mental and physical health, promote quality of life, and avoid an increased risk of injury. A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance, and brain function. Aside from that, it can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk in both adults and children. And in contrast, good sleep can help you eat less, exercise better, and be healthier.
So, how can you improve your quality of sleep?
TIP 1: Start off by increasing your bright light exposure during the day.
According to the NIH, your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
Studies have found that daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration in people struggling with insomnia. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%. A similar study in older adults found that 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80%.
While most research involves people with severe sleep issues, daily light exposure will most likely help you even if you experience average sleep. Try getting daily sunlight exposure or if that’s not possible during a lockdown, try sitting by the window for some morning sun or think about investing in an artificial bright light device or bulbs to increase the quality of your sleep every night.
TIP 2: Avoid consuming caffeine late in the day.
As difficult as this may be for you (we feel your pain), but consuming caffeine late in the day can absolutely wreck your quality of sleep!
When consumed late in the day, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 PM is not recommended, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping. However, if you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, stick with decaffeinated coffee.
TIP 3: Say “no” to irregular or long naps during the day!
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep. Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, which can result in a struggle to sleep at night.
According to Healthline, naps that exceed 20 minutes can increase sleep inertia, which leaves you feeling groggy and disoriented. This happens when you awake from a deep sleep. If you’re already sleep-deprived, the symptoms of sleep inertia tend to be more severe and last longer.
Napping too long or too late in the day can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. This is even worse for people with insomnia who already have trouble sleeping at night. Longer daytime naps have also been associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, according to a 2015 meta-analysis. The results showed that daytime naps longer than 60 minutes were associated with a higher risk of heart disease and dying from all causes compared to not napping. Age, overall health, and sleeping habits may also play a role.
However, if you take regular daytime naps and sleep well, you shouldn’t worry. The effects of napping depend on the individual, of course.
TIP 4: Get a good nighttime routine going.
According to the Sleep Foundation, if you have a hard time falling asleep, it’s natural to think that the problem starts when you lie down in bed. In reality, though, the lead-up to bedtime plays a crucial role in preparing you to fall asleep quickly and effortlessly.
Poor pre-bed habits are a major contributor to insomnia and other sleep problems. Changing these habits can take time, but the effort can pay off by making you more relaxed and ready to fall asleep when bedtime rolls around. So, try to create a consistent routine that you follow each night because this helps reinforce healthy habits and signals to mind and body that bedtime is approaching.
As part of that routine, incorporate these three tips:
- Wind down for 30 minutes. It’s much easier to doze off smoothly if you are at-ease. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music and a relaxing bath are examples of ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep. If that doesn’t help, try some deep breathing exercises;
Breathing from your belly rather than your chest can activate the relaxation response and lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels to help you drift off to sleep.
- Lay down in bed and close your eyes.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
2. Dim the lights. Avoiding bright light can help you transition to bedtime and contribute to your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
3. Put away all electronic devices. Tablets, cell phones, and laptops can keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down. The light from these devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin. As much as possible, try to disconnect for 30 minutes or more before going to bed.
TIP 5: Take a Melatonin supplement.
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed. Melatonin supplements are an extremely popular sleep aid.
Often used to treat insomnia, melatonin may be one of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster. Melatonin is also useful when traveling and adjusting to a new time zone, as it helps your body’s circadian rhythm return to normal.
In some countries, you need a prescription for melatonin. In others, melatonin is widely available in stores or online. Take around 1–5 mg 30–60 minutes before bed. Start with a low dose to assess your tolerance and then increase it slowly as needed. Since melatonin may alter brain chemistry, it’s advised that you check with a healthcare provider before use.
According to Healthine, you can also consider taking the following supplements to induce relaxation;
- Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it may aid sleep, relaxation, and stress reduction, but the evidence is limited. Take 250 mg 30–60 minutes before bed.
- Glycine: A few studies show that taking 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality.
- Valerian root: Several studies suggest that valerian can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Take 500 mg before bed.
- Magnesium: Responsible for over 600 reactions within your body, magnesium can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality.
- L-theanine: An amino acid, L-theanine can improve relaxation and sleep. Take 100–200 mg before bed.
- Lavender: A powerful herb with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary effect to improve sleep. Take 80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool.
TIP 6: Don’t eat late in the evening.
Eating late at night may negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin. Try having your last meal, especially if it’s high in carbs, at least 4 hours before bed.
However, for some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep. For others, eating before bed leads to indigestion and makes sleeping more difficult. If you need a bedtime snack, try:
- Half a turkey sandwich.
- A small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal.
- Milk or yogurt.
- A banana.
TIP 7: Get some exercise during the day.
People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
- The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality.
- It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.
TIP 8: Lastly, it’s a good idea to rule out a sleep disorder.
If you’ve tried everything else and are still struggling to get some quality sleep every night, then an underlying health condition may be the cause of your sleep problems.
One common issue is sleep apnea, which causes inconsistent and interrupted breathing. People with this disorder stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping. Other common medically diagnosed issues include sleep movement disorders and circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders, which are common in shift workers
If you’ve always struggled with sleep, it may be wise to consult your healthcare provider to rule out a sleep disorder.
Other than the tips mentioned above, you can also try a cup of chamomile tea before bed to induce relaxation and restful sleep. According to Healthline, chamomile tea has been used as a natural remedy to reduce inflammation and anxiety and treat insomnia, for years.
Chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer. Its calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea. Apigenin binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep.
That’s it, folks. We hope you try out some of these tips and get the restful sleep you deserve!
Stay tuned to our Instagram page to find out how you can join the NATUREAL 5-Day Sleep Challenge, launching soon!