Do you want to know how you can get enough quality sleep so you can wake up refreshed? Today, we’re going to look at the top 10 tips to sleep better! We will explore 5 factors that “impair sleep”, and another 5 that “improve sleep” – as shown by studies. Can you guess what these are?
First, let’s talk about why sleep is important. Sleep helps your body recuperate while cleaning out toxins in the brain. During R-E-M sleep, your “sleeping” brain is hard at work consolidating short-term memories into long-term ones.
Unsurprisingly, not getting enough sleep is linked to a host of health issues. Studies show that sleep deprivation increases inflammation, impairs mental focus, decreases skill acquisition, increases fat gain, interferes with insulin signaling, decreases testosterone production, and negatively affects heart health.
And while getting enough quality sleep is essential for your health, it can also improve your physical, mental, and sexual performance, and make you a happier person!
As always, this video is educational and does not constitute medical advice, we are not doctors.
Let’s start with the five factors that can impair sleep: light, noise, heat, alcohol, and caffeine.
Light helps regulate the circadian biological clock, by sending signals to cells in the hypothalamus part of your brain to produce melatonin – a hormone that signals your body to sleep. As you wake up in the morning, melatonin levels go down, while at night, or if you dim the lights, melatonin production increases. The blue light emitted by your TV, computer or smartphone at night, tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime. This disrupts the production of melatonin, and reduces sleepiness.
To fall asleep faster, avoid exposure to bright lights in the two hours before bedtime. If necessary, wear blue-light-blocking glasses, or use a program that dims the blue light from your electronics. To improve your sleep, blackout your bedroom, as light can impair your sleep quality – even if you’re already in the land of dreams. If this is not possible, consider using a sleep mask.
Sounds that don’t wake you up can increase stress, and impact your quality of sleep. Sudden noise, and noise with meaning (like two people talking), are most likely to disturb your sleep, compared to constant noises (such as air-conditioner hum).
If you’re unable to make your bedroom entirely silent, invest in earplugs – unless you need to hear your baby. Some people use white noise or soothing music, especially to mask irritating sounds, such as traffic noise, but should keep the volume low.
Noise is bad enough, but heat can be worse. A bedroom warm enough to raise your core temperature can impair sleep quality and can even cause insomnia. Conversely, a cool and comfortable bedroom can lower your core temperature and decrease sleep latency – which means you fall asleep faster and enter the deep stages sooner.
Alcohol relaxes the central nervous system by binding to GABA receptors in the brain. While it may help you unwind, it degrades your sleep quality. Alcohol may initially help you sleep, but if you keep drinking close to bedtime, the effects wear off after a few days. It is best to abstain from alcohol after dinner.
Caffeine can block certain adenosine receptors in the brain. When it blocks the A1 receptor, it can make you less sleepy. When caffeine blocks the A2A receptor, dopamine levels can increase and make you more alert and happy.
The A1 receptor does not seem to get desensitized, which is why caffeine does not lose its wake-up effect. However, the A2A receptor does get desensitized, which is why coffee veterans do not feel fully stimulated even after several cups.
Coffee veterans often believe caffeine won’t affect their sleep. Indeed, many people can fall asleep with caffeine. However, as they slumber, caffeine makes them more alert and their sleep more shallow. So, it’s best to avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.
Next, let’s discuss 5 factors that can improve your sleep: exercise, a sleep routine, melatonin, magnesium, and lavender.
Exercise more, sleep better. The majority of studies back this up. Daytime exercise seems to improve sleep quality – especially in times of stress – as well as mood, and overall health. It can be as gentle as yoga and tai-chi, or as intense as aerobic exercise and resistance training.
Nighttime exercise can disrupt your circadian rhythm because your body thinks it’s day. However, exercising at any time, even at night, improves sleep quality. Everyone is different, so find a workout time that works for you and doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
7. A consistent sleeping schedule.
Your body has a biological clock known as a circadian rhythm. An inconsistent sleeping schedule disrupts your internal clock, and is likely to impair the quality of your sleep. To improve sleep quality and reduce sleep onset latency (the time it takes you to fall asleep), go to bed at approximately the same time every night, even on weekends.
A bedtime routine can help reinforce your circadian rhythm by signaling your body that it’s time to sleep. Make sure the routine is soothing (like reading and meditation, or simply showering and brushing your teeth), and not stimulating (like playing video games and answering emails).
If you have done all the steps in this video so far, and still can’t sleep, try taking melatonin. Studies have found that oral melatonin supplementation may help alleviate insomnia, decrease sleep latency, and improve sleep quality, including in children and the elderly. It can also help fight jet lag, which is why it is popular among frequent travelers. However, melatonin won’t allow you to change your sleeping schedule at will. Light is still a stronger regulator of your body’s melatonin rhythm.
To supplement with melatonin, take 0.5 milligrams half an hour before bed. And increase by 0.5 milligrams each week until you find the lowest effective dose that works, but no more than 5 milligrams. Time-release melatonin may be more effective at sustaining sleep throughout the night.
Low levels of magnesium in the brain can result in neuronal excitations, and thereby cause or increase stress and anxiety, leading to impaired sleep. To improve sleep quality by correcting a magnesium deficiency is as simple as eating magnesium-rich foods. If you still feel the need to supplement, do know that supplemental magnesium is more likely than dietary magnesium to cause adverse effects, and keep under 350 milligrams per day for adults. If your body already has enough magnesium, supplementing with more won’t improve your sleep. To learn more about magnesium deficiency, see our previous video “Top 15 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms”.
If stress and anxiety are hurting your sleep, lavender can help. In aromatherapy studies, the scent of lavender has been shown to promote relaxation, reduce intrusive thoughts, alleviate insomnia, and improve sleep quality. For oral supplementation, one recent study with a lavender oil extract has been shown to alleviate anxiety, improve sleep quality and duration. However, men should be aware that lavender could have estrogenic properties.
The other most common reason for lack of sleep is the simple fact that many people do not schedule enough time to sleep each day, and instead hope to catch up on the weekend. (This strategy has limited efficacy.) If you’ve done everything possible to improve your sleep quality but still wake up tired, consult your doctor to make sure you do not have sleep apnea, or another sleep disorder.
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And now over to you! What are you doing to improve the quality of your sleep?
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