How to Sleep Better
For some people, getting a good night’s sleep is as easy as falling into bed. Others struggle to get to sleep, to stay asleep or to keep from waking up much too early.
In some cases, it’s not you but your partner, who disturbs your sleep by talking, sleepwalking or excessive snoring.
For those in either of the two latter groups, some sleep induction strategies may be of help. These techniques are deliberately designed to promote and maintain healthy sleep patterns.
What Are Sleep Stages?
In order to get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rested, you need to go through four stages of sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Each stage takes you successively deeper into sleep until you reach the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. REM is the deepest stage and is vitally important – most dreaming occurs during REM sleep.
Sleep cycles generally take about 90 minutes, so in an eight-hour period, you could expect to reach REM sleep four or five times.
There are several free apps available that can track and calculate the sleep stages you go through each night, just go to your phone’s marketplace and find your best match.
What You Can Do to Get a Better Night Sleep
One of the most important sleep induction strategies is to prepare your bedroom. It should be comfortable, cool and dark.
Use light-blocking shades on the windows and make sure the thermostat is set to the mid-60s at the highest.
Your mattress and pillows should be comfortable and support you in your desired sleep position. For example, pillows for side sleepers and for those who sleep on their backs can ensure the neck and spine are properly positioned and supported.
If noise is an issue, use wax or silicon earbuds and you won’t hear a sound. You might also go for a small fan or a radio tuned to a station that produces a very low level of soothing music to provide you with “white noise” to cover traffic noise or other disturbing sounds.
Anything is better than tossing and turning over the annoying sound of street traffic.
Dealing with Anxiety and Stress for a Better Night Sleep
Managing anxiety and stress can help promote better and more restful sleep.
By the way, exercising in the morning or early in the evening is generally better, as late exercise can rev you up and actually prevent sleep.
Limit your alcohol and caffeine; both disrupt sleep and caffeine can make anxiety worse.
Bedtime routines, such as a glass of warm milk or a soothing bath, may help you relax and unwind.
Try these techniques that are well-known for reducing anxiety and stress (meditation, yoga or deep breathing).
Keeping a journal is another technique that can help you identify anxiety triggers and provides an outlet for your feelings.
Talk to someone – don’t hesitate to find a professional if talking to friends and relatives doesn’t help.
Lights and Electronics Arrangement to Sleep Better at Night
Back in the days when people still lived in caves, there was no light at night (or only the minimal light of a campfire).
Today, our houses and offices are brightly lit no matter what time of the day or night it is.
The human brain, however, isn’t designed to handle that much light, and it can negatively affect your sleep cycles. Try lowering the lights after dinner (although using a bright light first thing in the morning can help you wake up properly).
Electronic devices stimulate the brain, as do some of the activities in which people engage, such as playing video games or watching a stimulating movie.
Now that books are available online, many people use an electronic device for one reason or another nearly every waking hour.
You should turn off all the electronics at least one and preferably two hours before bedtime – read a real (paper) book or work at a relaxing hobby like needlework instead.
A Piece of Advice From A Former Insomniac
Chronic insomniac Mark Rice-Oxley suggests turning off the brain, meditation, and acceptance.
The first two help promote sleep and the last helps you realize that fretting serves no purpose and can make things worse.
“An Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Sleep and Sleep Problems,” edited by Andrew Green, contains hundreds of possible ways to help promote healthy sleep. Although the book is geared to professionals, it could also be useful for a layperson.
How to Get a Better Night Sleep – A Quick Review
Here are the basic six steps to promoting healthier sleep:
- Control your sleeping environment – cool, dark and quiet.
- Follow the same bedtime routines every night.
- Manage stress and anxiety.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evenings, or avoid them entirely.
- Turn off all electronic devices one or two hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly.
A good night’s sleep really does make a difference.
Your brain works better and you’ll be healthier – sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
These sleep induction strategies can make the difference between sleep that leaves you yawning, dragging out of bed and hating the alarm or rising with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.