With the thousands of studies detailing the benefits of a good night’s rest, its time we took our sleep seriously. However, while prioritizing the amount of sleep is important, it's equally as important to make sure to get enough restorative sleep. Here are 10 simple ways you can improve the quality of your sleep.
Drink Apple Cider Vinegar Before Bed
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)is popular for its weight-loss and detox benefits. But did you know that a tablespoon ACV in lukewarm water can induce sleepiness? Author of The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris, swears by this simple technique for improving the quality of one’s recovery through sleep.
In fact, the effects of ACV are so potent that it has been used as a natural remedy for insomnia. Upon entering the body, it breaks down fatty acids which release the amino acid Tryptophan. Multiple studies have shown that even 1 gram of Tryptophan is directly responsible for inducing feelings of drowsiness, thereby helping one fall asleep.
Charge Your Phone In A Different Room
In 2016, researchers from the University of Pittsburg studied social-media habits and sleep health of almost 2000 people. Their research showed that those who used their phones at night to tweet, check Facebook or scroll through Instagram were, on average, more sleep-deprived than those who didn’t. Furthermore, sleep deprivation was the intermediate factor responsible for depressive episodes among those who used social-media before bedtime.
It was also found that subjects who kept their phones near their bed checked it more often at night, thereby affecting the quality of their sleep. A simple solution would be to simply charge your phone in your washroom or a common room instead of your bedroom where you are more likely to check it. This also means you have to get out of bed to switch off your alarm making it more unlikely to hit snooze.
Sleep And Wake Up At The Same Time Daily
Sleeping at the same time helps your body regulate the release of important hormones. As your body adapts to sleeping at one time every night, it will release the sleep hormone melatonin to maintain the routine you are following. Hence, the aim of this technique is to regulate your circadian rhythm. In the mornings, to undo the effects of melatonin, open up your windows for some natural morning light. This will automatically signal your body to wake up by slowing down the release of melatonin.
Another hormone involved in regulating sleep is cortisol. Cortisol levels do the inverse of melatonin: they rise just before waking up and drop right before bed. Hence, having a routine sleeping and waking-up time also regulates the release of cortisol thereby improving the quality of sleep you get.
Shower With Hot Water At Night
Showering with hot water is a surefire way to release muscle tension that helps relax the body. However, an overlooked benefit of hot showers is the post-shower chill- the natural drop in your body temperature to achieve homeostasis. When you step out of the shower, the water on your body evaporates quickly since it is warm leaving you feeling cool.
Your mind relies on its body’s temperature, among other factors, to determine whether it is time to sleep or wake up. Hence, this temperature drop is integral as we feel sleepy in cooler temperatures and awake in warmer ones. Hot showers leave you wanting to cuddle up in your sheets. Another benefit is that the steam from them clears up your nasal passage so you can breathe easier at night.
Cut Down On Alcohol
Alcohol has been described as a substance that induces drowsiness and puts you to sleep. A common yet incorrect assumption is to claim that alcohol, therefore, improves one’s sleep quality. On the contrary, it disrupts sleep. While it may not disrupt the time at which you fall asleep (sleep-onset period), the consumption of alcohol at nighttime has been linked to low-quality sleep.
This is because even a small dose of alcohol an hour before bed suppresses the release of melatonin by 20%. Hence, it interferes with your circadian rhythm. In addition to this, alcohol is dehydrating. If consumed too late in the evening, it might wake you up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. Hence, there aren’t many benefits to drinking alcohol at night time if you want to preserve the quality of your sleep.
Eat A Moderate-Sized Dinner
The amount of food you eat before bed determines the amount of energy your body will allot to digesting it making it difficult for you to relax and fall asleep. When your dinner is too heavy and too close to your bedtime, your body is still processing all the food and laying down might cause heartburn, acid reflux or stomach pain making it difficult to fall asleep. Ideally, a moderate-sized dinner at least two hours before bed is the way to go as it is unlikely to result in these symptoms.
However, if need be, having a small snack right before bed for the purpose of inducing drowsiness is extremely helpful. For instance, cherries or a glass of milk help with inducing sleep. This is only with respect to a full meal which requires significantly more processing time in the body.
Regulate Your Room’s Temperature
In tandem with the point about showering with hot water, keeping your room’s temperature anywhere between 23–26 degrees Celcius is optimal for a good night’s rest. If the room is too hot, it will be difficult to fall asleep and if too cold, you might find yourself waking up sooner. Your body also relies on its own temperature to signal whether or not its time to sleep. So, make sure the room temperature counterbalances that of your body such that the overall temperature is within the optimal range.
Get A Blue-Light Filter For All Devices
In the time of cavemen, the only light source was the sun and hence our circadian rhythms adapted to responding to it. However, today we have multiple artificial sources of light that most of us are required to utilize well into the evening hours. The blue light from cell-phones, laptops, iPads or Kindle screens is often responsible for suppressing the release of melatonin, thereby disrupting our sleep cycle.
The solution to this is simple: switch on your cell phone’s night mode or download a blue-light filter app for all your devices. This filter dims and warms the tone of the light emanating from your screen which barely impacts melatonin production. Some blue light filter apps will auto-switch on in the evening when your light exposure should be dimmed. However, since it doesn’t have this option yet, avoid reading on your Kindle at night. Instead, pick up a real book and use a night light for nighttime reading.
Find The Right Pillow and Mattress
There are mornings we’ve all woken up with soreness in our neck or back leading to fatigue and impaired productivity for the rest of the day. The culprit is usually a bad pillow. With your bed, there isn't a one size fit’s all approach. Before choosing what feels the most comfortable, consider the positions in which you sleep.
If you sleep on your back or stomach, a flatter pillow is better since your neck is aligned properly. If you sleep on your side, a fluffier pillow is more helpful since it fills the gap between your head and neck. When it comes to mattresses, stomach sleepers are better suited to firmer ones while side-sleepers do well with softer varieties. If you sleep in all of these positions, including on your back, a mattress that is somewhere in the middle will work for you.
Implement A Nightly Routine
A daily self-care routine is one of the best ways to avoid burnout and relax after a tiresome day. Following a night routine tailored to one’s needs is a way of scheduling in this much-needed time for self-care. Activities that work for a nightly routine are journalling, reading, drinking herbal tea, putting on a facemask, doing yoga, etc. Following such a routine on a daily basis signals your body that it is time to relax and go to bed. It may also help you regulate the time at which you go to bed.
Getting better sleep is not a complicated task. With the right resources, anybody can improve the quality of their sleep while keeping it simple at the same time. Hopefully, these tips will help you sleep better.