In a world of 7.7 billion people, we’ve learned that each of us is unique; we can prefer different foods, types of music, TV shows, types of exercise (or none at all!), and more. However, there’s one thing on which every single human being agrees is important - quality sleep. Fortunately, we have some advice for you in this guide!
1. Improving Sleep Duration and Quality
Sometimes, improving sleep duration can be useless if we aren’t also considering the quality of our sleep. If we’re going to improve sleep as a whole, there are three main considerations.
- Duration - Starting with the easiest, duration refers to the amount of time we spend sleeping each night.
- Intensity - We’ve just mentioned sleep ‘quality’, but what does this actually mean? Well, it’s the percentage of sleeping time we spend in REM and slow wave sleep.
- Timing - The third factor is the time we actually go to bed. Not only should we be aiming to get into bed at the same time each night, we also need to pay attention to our circadian rhythm.
How do we improve these three factors? Starting with intensity, our body is largely in control of how much time we spend in REM sleep and slow wave sleep (which means that it’s generally out of our hands). Depending on what our body needs, sleep intensity adjusts automatically. If you were to research this topic, you’ll find that improving nutrition and exercise, and exposure to bright light might help, but these factors only affect the quality of sleep indirectly.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. With intensity out of your control, we can focus on duration and timing instead. In fact, we can make it even easier by assuming that your (pesky) alarm goes off at the same time each morning. If this is true, duration will only ever change by assessing the time you go to bed the night before.
In the majority of circumstances, sleep duration improves when we get into bed earlier. Therefore, when it comes to importance, timing takes the crown for these three factors.
- Intensity is controlled by our body
- Duration is dependent on timing
- Timing is where we can have a real impact
By getting under the covers at an earlier time, we can improve sleep duration and, hopefully, sleep intensity too. Of course, this is only applicable when we wake up at a consistent time in the mornings.
2. Falling Asleep Quickly
Now we’ve dealt with the three important factors that affect sleep, we come to a question that millions ask every single year;
‘How do I fall asleep quickly?’
If you’re somebody who can spend two hours staring at the ceiling while constantly tossing and turning to get comfortable, we know that this is frustrating. Here are two tips for getting to sleep faster;
We aren’t suggesting there’s a magical switch that you didn’t know existed on your back, but you can prepare for sleep more efficiently. For example, we recommend avoiding phones, computers, tablets, TVs, and other devices directly before sleep. With the blue wavelength of light from such devices, melatonin production reduces, and we can’t shut off when we eventually decide to close Facebook.
Around one or two hours before you want to sleep, close all devices and do something else (remember that life existed for generations before technology; you can do it!). Why not read a book? You can learn about your favorite topic or immerse yourself in a story before sleeping.
For those who work late, this can keep us active and feeling stressed right up until our head touches the pillow. In this case, utilize the relaxation techniques listed below and try apps that reduce brightness as you near your bedtime.
Take Advantage of Relaxation Techniques
According to researchers, emotions and stress cause around half of all insomnia cases. By relieving this stress in some way, it could have a positive impact on your sleep, and this is where relaxation techniques come in. Common examples include;
- Daily journaling
- Expressing gratitude (through journaling)
- Breathing exercises
3. Achieving Better Sleep: Top Habits and Tips
Next, we want to go over a few tips and habits that you can introduce to your life in order to improve sleep.
Steer Clear of Caffeine - Did you know that your afternoon coffee could be preventing good sleep? If you’re someone who struggles to fall asleep each evening, we advise staying away from caffeine after noon. Sure, have your morning cup to get going but try to stop as early as possible so it’s out of your system for bedtime.
Get Some Sunlight - Many people don’t get the sun exposure they need (aim for 30 minutes, at least!).
Get Out of the Bedroom - From this moment forward, ensure that your bedroom promotes a sleeping environment. Lose all technology, remove the other functions it may serve, and use it for sleep alone (well, and one other thing). The ideal sleeping environment is quiet, cool, and dark. When you work, relax, play video games, read, and do all sorts of other things in the bedroom, your mind has no differentiation when it’s time for bed.
Check the Temperature - For sleeping, it’s thought that the best temperature is somewhere between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius (65-70 Fahrenheit).
Turn Down the Lighting - Once the sun goes down, decrease full-spectrum and blue lighting as much as possible. Use lamps with soft, dimmed light rather than full lighting.
Exercise - Exercise solves everything, right? When you wear out the mind and body, it’s easier to fall asleep because we need the recuperation period. Also, maintaining a healthy weight as we age will allow us to keep to a strong sleeping pattern.
As long as you aren’t stimulating the body and brain within the final couple of hours before sleep, research suggests fit middle-aged adults sleep much better than people who are considered overweight. However, if you exercise too close to bed time, the nervous system is still active, and you’ll struggle to relax.
Avoid Alcohol - Insomnia has led to many alcohol problems, so don’t become the next to fall down this slope. While alcohol can help you drift off, it also reduces sleep quality, and delays the REM cycle. What does this mean? Well, you wake up still feeling tired. Then, you do the same the next night and it’s an endless cycle that leads to fatigue and ill health.
Lose the Chewing Tobacco and Cigarettes - While exercise solves everything, tobacco seems to cause everything. Sadly, poor sleep is yet another side effect to the nasty habit.
Try Sound Aids - Finally, some people need absolute silence to sleep…something that’s often out of our control. If the neighbors are having a party, try ear plugs. Failing that, add white noise to the room with a fan or an app.
Improve Your Sleep Today
Try our advice and start your journey to improved sleep today. Often, a good night’s sleep is the difference between strong and weak performance whether it’s for businesspeople, athletes, cleaners, or anybody else. Get the sleep you need!