9 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Sleep is extremely important, as anyone who has gone a few nights without it will soon tell you!
Many of us are a little unsure as to what role sleep serves precisely, or how essential it is. You might even think that you can cheat sleep and get away with a few less hours here and there.
You cannot. As the excellent book “Why We Sleep” explains, sleep is an absolutely fundamental function that is crucial for our health, happiness, and performance. Without it, we simply don’t perform our best.
Sleep makes us more focused, more alert, smarter, more creative, happier, more energetic, more muscular, leaner, more toned, healthier, more resilient against disease, and even physically younger!
Miss just a couple of hours of sleep across a few days and everything from your driving to your decision making will be dangerously impaired.
So how do you get better sleep? Here are nine tips that can help.
1. Make Your Room Completely Dark
Step one is simple: make your room as dark as possible. By using blackout blinds, and by taping over LEDs and other lights where possible, you can allow yourself to fall into a MUCH deeper and more restorative sleep than would otherwise be possible.
Even a small amount of light confuses the brain into thinking it might be morning, and results in a release of cortisol and serotonin that helps to gently trigger it into wakefulness.
Those LEDs are a particularly serious problem, so get the masking tape out, or try propping things in front of them! You can even put a sock over something like a baby monitor.
2. Make Your Room Completely Silent
Likewise, your room should be as quiet as possible. Your brain leaves certain regions active during sleep in order to listen out for potential dangers. One of these is the auditory cortex, which keeps one ear alert for the sounds of predators.
A busy road can be enough to simulate the brain then, and that activity can rouse you out of even deep sleep (or just make it much shallower and therefore less beneficial).
3. Avoid Blue Light
Blue light means light from laptop, phone, and television screens as well as the sun. This is the specific type of light that the brain interprets as an indication that it is day time.
The problem is that keeping your room free from blue light isn’t enough: you need to avoid it before bed as well. That’s because your body will look to external cues before bed in order to ascertain the time of day and which hormones it should be producing.
Blue light tells your body that it’s daytime and thus it never starts to ramp up production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Avoiding technology, using blue-blocking shades, or putting your device screens into “night mode” can all help. Keep a red bedside lamp is also a good idea.
4. Open a Window
Opening a window at night might just be the most powerful sleep hack there is. That’s because our body uses the ambient temperature as one of the most important cues when trying to figure out the time.
This was recently confirmed by researchers who looked at the sleep behaviors of indigenous tribes around the world. These people still lived without technology, and therefore should have natural sleep-wake cycles.
They found that although the tribes had no artificial light, they still stayed up past their “bed times.” Likewise, there was no real agreement with regards to the times they went to sleep and got up.
The only thing that WAS consistent across all cultures, was that they began waking once the temperature had dropped to its lowest point and then begun warming back up again. So open a window a crack, and you might find that you are more likely to wake naturally.
5. Get Lots of Vitamin D
Getting vitamin D from sunlight in the morning will help to reset your body clock at the start of the day, affirming that it is indeed morning. Moreover, the influx of vitamin D will help to regulate the production of other hormones, seeing as vitamin D is what we consider to be a “master regulator” of other hormones.
6. Take a Warm Shower Before Bed
The other reason that opening a window can be so beneficial while sleeping, is that it keeps the room cool. A cooler environment has been shown many times to be conducive to good sleep, as it helps the body to stay cool.
Having a warm shower can also do this, as your body begins processes to cool you back down. It also helps to relax muscles.
7. Go to Bed at a Consistent Time
Your biological rhythm is just that: a rhythm. If you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day even during weekends then your body will stand a far better chance of getting into a groove and waking you up/slowing you down at the appropriate times.
8. Learn Your Chronotype
And what time should that “same time” be every day? That’s entirely up to you! There is no optimal bedtime, and in fact this is something that is biologically hardwired to be different for all of us. Some people are morning larks, and some are night owls. So if you want to perform and feel your best, you need to find which you are and stick with it!
9. Get a New Mattress
Not every method for sleeping better has to be some kind of advanced biohack. Sometimes the simple strategies work best. If you aren’t sleeping well, consider a better mattress! Make sure you also know how to choose the right mattress that supports your sleeping style.