Poor quality sleep is more than an inconvenience that leaves you dragging the next day. It can affect your emotional, mental, and physical health. Persistent sleep issues may have negative effects on your memory and mood and may increase your risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Don’t worry, however, there are multiple steps you can take to get better sleep and be more energetic and productive during the day.
Create a Dark and Quiet Environment
To improve sleep quality, consistently sleep in the same room and bed. If you are accustomed to having music or television on as you try to sleep, try to break this habit. Your goal should be to sleep in a quiet, dark, and peaceful atmosphere every night.
As you turn off the lights and turn in for the night, also consider turning off your cell phone. The light of your cell phone screen can stimulate the brain and keep it awake.
Enhance the Association Between Bed and Sleep
Your bed should not be used for activities other than sleep. Watching a movie, talking on the phone, or eating in bed trains you to associate the bed with awake time activities. It is important to eliminate such activities from the bed and associate it only with sleeping or falling asleep.
Don’t Struggle to Sleep
If you find yourself awake for longer than 15 to 20 minutes, you should leave the bed and do something relaxing. Return to the bedroom to sleep once you begin to feel sleepy again. This does not mean you should check your cell phone or start watching television. Such activities will keep your mind active. Instead, walk for 15 to 20 minutes, preferably in an open area or read a few pages of a book. You can also try a few yoga poses.
If you have food cravings, have a light snack or drink some water.
Consider Sleep Consolidation for Better Sleep
Did you know sleep can be improved by observing sleep restrictions or consolidation? If you reduce the time you spend in bed to better reflect sleep needs, you will automatically spend more of the time actually sleeping. You can do this by observing a fixed awake time and delaying bedtime. Usually, it may take several days before the benefits of this exercise become apparent.
If you feel sleepy at daytime, the total time in bed can be gradually extended until the sleep need is fully met. We recommend you to make these changes under the guidance of a sleep medicine specialist or therapist.
Pay Attention to When You Eat and Drink
Never go to bed hungry or overstuffed. Particularly, try to avoid heavy or large portions of meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. This may cause discomfort which can keep you up. You can take light snacks before going to bed to avoid getting hungry. The same rule applies to drinks. Drink a sufficient amount of water during the day and at dinner-time so that your body has enough water and you don’t go to bed thirsty and wake up because of it.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption at Night
Caffeine stays in your system and keeps you active for 4 to 6 hours. If you suspect that an evening cola or coffee is keeping you up at night, eliminate it from your diet for at least 4 to 6 hours before going to sleep.
Alcohol also metabolizes in your system over the course of several hours resulting in sleep inefficiency. It dehydrates you and causes grogginess or hangovers which directly affects your ability to awake fresh.
Be More Active During Day Time
Being physically active during the day time can help you fall asleep more easily at night. Exercising helps you reduce the chances of a restless night and improves sleep quality. When you exercise during the day your body will get tired, thus you will be ready and waiting for sleep at the end of the day.
For many people, working out early in the day may be more beneficial than working out in the evening or night. Try experimenting with the time and type of exercise you do.
Relax Your Body and Mind Before Going to Sleep
Most sleep physicians or therapists recommend a relaxing activity right before getting into bed. These relaxing activities could include taking a hot bath, doing some deep breathing exercises, listening to pleasant tunes, reading an interesting book, yoga, or relaxing meditation. A relaxing activity helps you prepare your body for sleep and improves sleep efficiency.
Be patient and gentle with yourself as you try these tips to improve the quality of your sleep. Try one or two tips at a time to figure out what works best for you. If you keep having trouble getting restful sleep, consult with your physician.