7 tips and their science backed explanations that you should religiously follow to ensure you get an uninterrupted, insomnia-free sleep.
There is plenty of advice out there on how to improve the quality of your sleep, and while some of it probably works quite well, how much of it is actually backed up by science?
Focusing on tips that are more scientifically sound probably increases the chance that they will work for us, as they are more thoroughly tested.
But with so many factors that influence sleep quality it’s difficult to know exactly where to start, and often it’s only when our sleep quality deteriorates significantly that we try and address the problem, and often that can be too late in order to address the problem logically.
Thankfully though, sleep scientists have been researching sleep disorders for many years and their findings can help people with less serious sleep complaints to improve their sleep quality.
Before we dive in and consider how we might improve our sleep, it’s important to understand what a good night’s sleep is, and while that might sound extremely simple, putting it in distinct terms can help define the problem.
According to The National Sleep Foundation sleeping well means taking less than half an hour to fall asleep, not waking up more than once per night, being able to get back to sleep quickly and sleeping for over 80% of the time that we are in bed.
If this sounds all too familiar then here are our great tips, informed by science that should put you on the right track:
1. Start with a routine
As children, a routine around our bedtime is normal, whether that’s brushing teeth by a certain time or having a ‘lights off’ time. But as we get older we generally abandon such a strict bedtime routine, and that’s understandable.
But several studies have suggested that a healthy bedtime routine is extremely important.
Our bodies are used to a predictable schedule – if you’ve ever had to dramatically change your wake and sleep times for a period of more than a few days, you’ll appreciate that fact.
Circadian rhythms dictate many of our biological functions, including sleep, so having a chaotic sleep routine is very likely to mess with our quality of sleep.
2. The right room
It might seem pretty obvious but making sure you have the right environment to sleep in is extremely important.
Making sure your room is as dark as possible is a start but after that room temperature should be addressed next. Studies have shown for many years that sleeping in an environment that is too hot or too cold results in a ‘general disruption of sleep processes’.
While everyone has different sensitivities to temperature, research has suggested that the perfect room temperature for sleep is 18°C, while the most disruptive temperature for sleep is only a moderately warmer 21°C.
3. Exercise in the morning
Research has shown again and again that exercise improves quality of sleep. But while many people choose to exercise on an evening, that might not be the best choice if part of your reason for exercising is to improve your sleep.
According to sleep.org exercising in the morning is the best option, stating that people who worked out at 7 am generally sleep longer and better than those who exercise later in the day. But so long as you aren’t exercising right before bed, even an afternoon or early evening workout is likely to help you sleep.
4. Skip the nightcap
Many people swear by having a little tipple to help them nod off, and it can certainly works, you probably know from your own experience that having a drink or two when you’re already tired can have a sleepy effect.
But once you’re asleep you’re much more likely to wake up and generally have a disrupted sleep pattern if you’ve consumed alcohol before bed. This can result in daytime fatigue and tiredness that only worsens the problem.
And in more serious sleep conditions, using alcohol as a sleep aid should definitely be avoided as it can add to the complications of the illness.
5. Avoid screens before bed
The last few years this advice has spread like wildfire, ‘avoid screens before bed’, and actually the science backs it up, but there’s actually a little bit more to it than that.
Sometimes avoiding screens before bed just isn’t possible, a work assignment might need finishing late into the night.
There are now a few options for those wanting to continue working or just playing around on their screens.
Special glasses are available that block out the blue light or software such as f.lux is available that will block blue lights from being emitted from your screens during the night time.
6. Dim the lights
In our world of artificial lighting, our bodies can struggle to recognise the difference between daytime and night-time.
Just think about the last time you came out of the theatre and were surprised by the darkness or light. This isn’t something that our ancestors bodies had to deal with.
Darkness helps our ‘sleep clocks’ and helps our bodies to regulate melatonin production. It’s often as easy as making sure to dim lights in the hours leading up to bed time and making sure bedrooms are as dark as possible for sleep.
7. Be realistic
This tip isn’t actually based on science, but more on common sense. It is perfectly normal to go through periods of not sleeping well, either for a valid reason such as difficult times in your life, or equally, for no particular reason.
You should only really worry about your sleep quality when you’re not sleeping well for a sustained period of time, and the poor quality of sleep is affecting your day time activities.
But catastrophizing about just a few bad night’s sleep isn’t helpful and could actually make things worse. Humans are designed to deal with being tired, so if it isn’t a serious problem, don’t make it in to one.
Keep this infographic handy so that you can easily remember everything you need to do to beat insomnia and get the rest you need.