Yeah, yeah. You know you need to brush and floss before bed, and you never forget to set your alarm. But you might not know some of today’s easiest, science-backed ways to sleep better, feel better when you wake, and be happier throughout the day.
Use natural light
The pineal gland in your brain regulates your body’s understanding of day and night cycles by responding to patterns of light and darkness. Many daily rhythms require daily exposure to the day-night cycle, including the production of melatonin in your brain that naturally helps you sleep. Let natural light into your bedroom and experience a gentler awakening with the sunrise. Likewise, limit light levels at night, particularly blue-light emitting screens and electronic devices.
Keep it cool
A hot sleeping environment is associated with lighter sleep, more sleep disturbances through the night, and increased dehydration upon waking. Researchers have also found a link between cooler sleeping environments and a favorable increase in healthy “brown” fat in the body.
Talk it out
Having a casual conversation with someone you trust before hitting the mattress decreases your chances of rehearsing your worries while you lay there, waiting to drift off. Bonus points for strengthening your relationships.
Listen to your body
The last thirty minutes before bed should be a conversation between your body and the comforts you look forward to enjoying while you rest. That means just saying no to anything that will distract you from hearing the signals your body sends. Netflix? No way.
Increase magnesium consumption
Whether you take it by supplement or through dietary sources, magnesium aids relaxation and sleep. It contains a compound called GABA which plays a key role in regulating the body’s stress-response system.
Decrease caffeine intake
While it assists with quick boosts to your body’s feeling of energy, caffeine actually interrupts your brain’s natural mechanism for knowing when it is time to rest. Try a ten-minute power nap after lunch instead.
Try a haptic alarm
Auditory alarms activate the fight-or-flight response in the amygdala, and the hypothalamus then sends a signal to the adrenal glands to pump out some adrenaline into the bloodstream. Long story short--you dread waking up, as it feels like facing a threat. Haptic alarms like wrist watches or bed shakers are more gentle to the system, and they are widely available, as Deaf and hard of hearing consumers have driven demand for this technology for decades.
Ten minutes of meditation a day confers substantial physical, emotional, and mental wellness benefits--in fact, some researchers estimate that people who begin a new meditation practice will sleep better, perform better, and feel 10% happier within a month. Apps make it easy to pick up a new practice, or there are many free guided meditations on YouTube.
This may seem obvious, but if you have been putting up with a scratchy set of sheets, a smelly old pillow, or a suboptimal mattress, it’s time to make an upgrade. You spend about a third of your life asleep, so your bed should be a retreat you look forward to visiting each night.
Getting great sleep is not a luxury, it’s the foundation to a healthful, happy life. Sweet dreams!