Sleep. It seems like we could all be doing it better.
Sleep is a hot topic these days and many people are looking for simple ways to help improve sleep quality and get into a regular rhythm of sleeping well.
Getting enough quality sleep is one of the most underrated ways to support good overall health. Your time spent asleep is your body’s chance to rest, recuperate and re-energize.
The modern world is more hectic than ever, and more and more people seem to be struggling with sleep these days.
In this handy guide, we’ve put together some of the best simple tips for helping to improve your sleep quality from interviews with experts we’ve spoken to recently on the subject.
We’re going to cover some of the basic tips you can try for helping to improve your sleep and ensure that your wake up feeling good the next morning and ready to attack the day.
Before we get started, it’s important to note that these are just general tips for helping to improve sleep. If you suffer from insomnia of have an underlying medical condition, you should speak to a certified medical professional to get some tailored and personalized advice.
So, with the introductions out of the way, let’s take a look at some simple ways you can work to improve your sleep quality.
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Block Out Blue Light At Night
You may already know that being exposed to blue light at night is probably not good for your sleep. The reason why, is because blue light mimics daylight, and it essentially tells your brain that it’s time to be awake and alert. This is not so good if you’re trying to wind down before bed.
It is thought that blue light inhibits the secretion of Melatonin, a hormone which helps to control your daily sleep/wake cycles. This is why you’ve seen manufacturers of digital devices begin to incorporate ‘night modes’, which shift the colors of the spectrum towards blue from a redder color.
“Blue light is everywhere in the day,” explains UK biohacker Tim Gray. “But evolutionary speaking, we’re not supposed to have blue light after sunset. Sure, there’d be fire, which is a redder color, but there wouldn’t be so much blue light.
“Blue light wakes us up, so if we’re playing with our phone with blue light going into our eyes, of course, we’re not going to produce melatonin, which is what helps us sleep.”
Essentially, if it’s dark outside, then it’s probably a good idea to limit your exposure to blue light from sources such as artificial indoor lighting, mobile phones, laptops and television.
This can be pretty difficult to do, so using a pair of blue light blocking glasses to help reduce your exposure to blue light after dark is great hack for this.
It all comes down to your circadian rhythm, or ‘body clock’ – a 24-hour cycle of important functions that take place in the body.
“Your circadian rhythm is ultimately guided by the light-dark cycle of the sun,” explains online health coach Max Lowery.
“It’s all about the wavelengths of light. In the morning, the wavelength is going to be more orange, and then as the day goes on it’s more white, and then in the evening it starts to become more orange again.
“At different times of day, different things are happening in your body. If you’re constantly around these artificial lights which emit a blue light, that blue light mimics midday sun, and so you’re just confusing your circadian rhythm.”
Reducing your use of technology after dark in general is also probably a good idea, and using fewer screens at night could also help you to prepare for bed mentally.
“If you’re looking at your smartphone in the evening, then you’re telling your brain that you don’t need to fall asleep and you’re not producing a lot of the sleep hormones that help you to fall asleep either,” explains online health coach Siim Land.
“Filtering out blue light is a really good hack and using blue blocking glasses is really good.”
The bottom line: Limiting your exposure to blue light during the hours of darkness can help to keep your body clock working properly.
Have A Consistent Bedtime and Wake Time
Again, this ties in to your Circadian Rhythm and helping to get your body clock ‘in sync’.
“Really, what you want every day is around 12 hours of daylight, about four hours of diminished light and eight hours in darkness,” explains sleep expert Nick Littlehales.
Going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day can help your body get into its natural rhythm and can help to support better sleep.
“The number one most powerful thing you can do for your sleep is wake up at the same time every single morning,” explains Max Lowery.
“It synchronises your body clock so that at that time in the morning, you’re likely to be in a light sleep phase, which means that you’re going to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
“If you’re constantly changing your waking time, it’s pot luck whether you’re going to be in deep sleep, REM sleep or light sleep. Having a consistent waking time improved everything for me.”
Max also says that having a relatively consistent bedtime is equally as important as getting up at the same time each day.
“Obviously people have to have a social life and it’s not a disaster if there are a couple of nights a week where you’re not going to bed at the usual time,” he explains.
“But if you’re at home doing nothing, go to bed at the same time, because you’re more likely to fall asleep quicker.”
The bottom line: Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day to help your body clock get into a consistent rhythm.
Make Sure Your Bedroom Is Dark and Cool
We’ve already touched upon why you’ll want to reduce your exposure to light during the night.
From an evolutionary perspective, ancestral humans would have lived outdoors much more than we do now, so their body clocks would have likely been almost perfectly tied to the light-dark cycle of the sun.
Blocking out all sources of light in your bedroom is important for helping to keep you asleep, so you won’t be woken by artificial light during the night or an early sunrise if you went to bed late.
“You can’t live in pitch black, but Blue Blocking Glasses will block out the blue colors of the spectrum, which means that you’ll produce your own melatonin better, which means you’ll sleep better,” explains Tim Gary.
“If you do go to bed after sunset, have a blackout blind, because the blue light that comes up with the sun in the morning will wake you up, so therefore you’re not going to get enough sleep.”
Of course, using an eye mask is also a way to make sure that you’re not being affected by light in your bedroom during the night.
It also may be good idea to try and keep your bedroom temperature at around 18-22 degrees celsius.
“Cooler temperatures tend to make you fall asleep faster and also promote melatonin, which is the sleep hormone,” explains Siim Land.
“There are studies that show that elevated room temperatures inhibit sleep quality and reduce sleep satisfaction. So just opening a window is a pretty good idea.”
The bottom line: Keep your bedroom temperature around 18-22 degrees celsius and block out all light while you’re asleep.
Eat Your Dinner Earlier
There is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that eating late at night may reduce sleep quality.
Generally speaking, it may be a good idea to eat your meals when it’s light outside, as this is likely to be more in tune with our natural body clock.
“Food is a circadian signaller,” explains Siim Land. “Not eating a bunch of food in the evening or immediately before bed is also a really potent way of promoting deep sleep quality.”
There is an increasing amount of research out there that suggests that the timing of when you are eating your food is important for your health.
Interestingly, one study showed that by getting healthy adults to delay their bedtimes and wake up later than normal for 10 days – and throwing their circadian rhythms and their eating patterns out of sync — raised their blood pressure and impaired their insulin and blood sugar control.
The bottom line: Eating your dinner earlier and consuming your meals only when the sun is up may help you to get a better night’s sleep.
Expose Yourself To Natural Daylight In The Morning
This tip again is tied to ensuring that your circadian rhythm is in sync.
When you first wake up in the morning, it’s important to expose yourself to some natural daylight where possible to signal to your body that it’s daytime and trigger the automatic processes that need to happen at that time.
If you are indoors all day, then your body will not be receiving the important cues from sunlight to reset and align the circadian rhythm.
Sleep expert Nick Littlehales recommends trying to catch the sunrise where possible.
“Make sunrise part of your thing,” explains Nick. “Ask yourself, what time is the sun rising next week? If it’s rising at 5am and you normally get up at 6am, then open those curtains up and let it in.”
Siim Land agrees. “Making sure that you’re aligned with the circadian rhythm is a really good starting point, because it takes the stress away from the body, from having to work overtime or catch up with the cues.
“Some daily sunlight exposure and going outside can keep your circadian rhythm more consistent and more aligned with the surroundings.”
Matt Maruca, the founder of Ra Optics, also believes that it’s important to be getting natural daylight exposure in the morning to help keep your body click aligned.
“It’s critical to be getting up in the morning to watch the sunrise so that you have the proper function of the circadian rhythm so that all of the hormones in the body are running properly,” explains Matt.
“This is so that the creation of Melatonin, which happens in their late morning hours with near-ultraviolet light, it’s a signalled for properly.”
The bottom line: Try and be outside at some point in the morning to help keep your body clock in sync.
Have a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Preparing yourself for a good night’s sleep with a consistent bedtime routine is a great way to ensure that your mind and body are ready for bed.
Max Lowery has long spoken about the benefits of having a bedtime routine to help prepare for restful sleep.
“My bedtime routine is really powerful for helping me switch off gradually,” Max explains.
“I dim the lights once it starts to get dark, I turn my phone and the TV off, I get rid of any electronic stimulation.
“I then usually clean my flat and get myself ready for the next day. It means that I’m not lying there in bed thinking about all the stuff I have to do for the next day.
“I then do some stretching or meditation, and I’ll go to sleep, with ear plugs and an eye mask.”
The bottom line: Design yourself a bedtime routine that can help you to relax and wind down before bed and prepare for sleep.
Anything Else To Consider?
As mentioned above, these are just some general tips to help improve sleep quality and they should not be considered as medical advice.
It’s always best to speak to a certified medical professional if you are struggling with insomnia or have an underlying medical condition.
Wrapping Things Up – Our Final Thoughts
So that brings us to the end of our look at improving sleep quality with tips from experts that we’ve spoken to recently.
From ensuring that you’re blocking out blue light at night to keeping your bedroom cool and not eating too late, we hope you found these tips useful.