10 Tips for Better Sleep

Who doesn’t want to know the top 10 tips for better sleep? We are all familiar with that feeling you get when the alarm goes off and yet again, we did not get enough sleep. Dragging yourself out of bed, relying on coffee and sugar to get you through the day, brain fog, poor concentration, and lack of motivation to do anything. Everything is worse when we don’t sleep. Sleep affects everything from pain perception to weight, mood disorders and even cardiovascular disease. Sleep deprivation is also a major stressor on the body, and we all know how much stress can affect everything in our lives. Not to mention, not sleeping means no energy to meal prep, move our bodies or do the things we need to be doing to keep our bodies healthy. Starting with improving your sleep is so important.

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe practices surrounding your sleep and sleep environment that can help with mild to moderate insomnia and improve overall quality of sleep.

Here are 10 sleep hygiene tips to take your rest to the next level:

1. Regular Sleep Schedule – sleep onset is linked with our internal rhythm. It becomes much easier for our bodies to know when to sleep and wake up when we do that at the same time each day. This means going to bed and waking up at consistent times every day (yes, even on weekends)

2. Limit Caffeine – caffeine can impact our ability to fall asleep and get a deep sleep. How quickly we break down caffeine is impacted by our genes, but as a rule, try to stop drinking any caffeine after 2pm (the average half-life is 7 hours, meaning half will be out of your system by 9pm). If you’re really struggling to sleep, try to stop all caffeine consumption by 12pm.

3. Limit Alcohol and Nicotine – both alcohol and smoking can impact our ability to sleep and get a good quality sleep. Although alcohol can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, it impairs our ability to get into a deep sleep which means it can work oppositely as we want it too. We should always try to avoid smoking and large amounts of alcohol, but within the few hours before bed is extra important.

4. Exercise Smart – exercise during the day helps to improve sleep. However, at too high of an intensity, this can impact sleep negatively. Make sure to get your movement in but try to avoid it within the three hours before bedtime. If that’s the only time you have, try to do something light, like a walk, stretching or yoga.

5. Manage Stress – it’s likely you’ve experienced your mind racing before bed, thinking over all of the day’s events, or tomorrow to-do’s. Stress and anxiety are major reasons why we experience sleep issues. Learning to manage stress better can be key in improving sleep. At a minimum avoid anything stressful before bed, this could be checking emails or social media, or having difficult or important discussions.

6. Set the Mood – your room environment can also impact sleep. When the room is dark, quiet, and slightly cool we tend to sleep better and deeper. Invest in blackout curtains or an eye mask, ensure all noises are kept to a minimum, and set the temperature a little lower or use a fan.

7. Avoid Naps – In general napping during the day can interrupt your circadian rhythm and the ability to get to and stay asleep. If you’re struggling with sleep, try avoiding those daytime naps, but if you absolutely need one to get through the day, try to keep it to 20 minutes max.

8. Keep the Mood – use the bedroom only for sleep and sex. This way your brain always associates the bedroom with those two activities only, not things like watching TV and doing work. Your body remembers that the room is a cue for sleep.

9. Meal Timing – going to bed hungry is not good, but neither is going to bed too full. Try to avoid large meals before bed as this will likely make it harder to fall asleep and reduce sleep quality. Ideally try to stop eating about three hours before bed so your body is not busy digesting when you want it to be sleeping, but also not grumbling. Avoid anything too high in sugar, and ensure your meal/snack has healthy fats, proteins, and fibre so your blood sugar stays balanced and does not keep you up at night.

10. Electronics – this is a big one, and difficult when most of us are glued to our laptops and phones. Any exposure to light after the sun goes down can impact our circadian rhythm and therefore sleep. Although, at certain times of year (aka Canadian winters) it’s impossible to “turn off” at sundown, aim to have 60 minutes before bedtime screen-free. Try other things like stretching, reading, colouring, taking a bath, enjoying a cup of tea etc.

There are so many things that we do that impact our sleep, some of them even starting from when we wake up. If you’re struggling, try implementing one of them, or try them all – even small changes can make a big difference.

 

Resources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12927121/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21139448/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27354979/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25454674/

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