What do you need to start doing and stop doing to improve your sleep quality and productivity?
If you feel or have ever felt like you’re doomed to tossing and turning in your bed every night wondering why you can never fall asleep and feel well rested when you wake up then trust me – I’ve been there.
The good news is that you can instantly improve your sleep by following these simple “hacks” listed below. You don’t have to adopt every single one of these ideas immediately but experiment with them and find out which ones help you out the most.
The Most Important Hack
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is arguably the most important thing you can do for your sleep hygiene. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day will play a huge role in helping your body understand when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to wake up.
This includes the weekends – yes, I know, if you’re anything like me then you want to stay up all night on the weekends… DON’T DO IT. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends, for two weeks straight and see if you don’t notice a difference.
There are a few environmental factors we have to consider when talking about improving your sleep because this is how you’re going to tell your body it’s time for bed.
Keeping your room cold will promote better sleep. Our bodies are programmed to experience a slight dip in core temperature in the evening. Keeping the thermostat between 60 to 67 degrees will signal to your body that it’s time for bed and will help you get the most comfortable sleep.
Make sure it’s dark in your bedroom. In response to darkness, our bodies begin producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleepiness. However, exposure to light will block the production of melatonin which can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle. Use dark curtains on your windows, wear a sleep mask, and try to remove all LED lights from the room to make it as dark as possible.
A weighted blanket can help you calm down and relax when it’s time for bed. Aside from providing some therapeutic value, a weighted blanket may trigger nervous system responses to lower your heart rate and breathing. This can help you fall asleep. It’s recommended to use a blanket that’s 10% of your body weight i.e. if you weigh 150 lbs. then you would use a 15 lb. blanket.
Having a nice, comfortable mattress will help you fall asleep faster. A mattress should support the healthy curvature of your spine, and shouldn’t cause you to get too warm. There is no better way to find a mattress that suits you than to try out some different options in person. You spend a third of your life in bed so invest in a good mattress.
Using white noise may help you fall asleep faster. It helps by masking the background noise and tuning it out. This is especially useful for light sleepers since the consistent sound of white noise will drown out other small sounds that could otherwise wake them up. A recent study found that 38% of people fell asleep faster listening to white noise.
Now that we’ve covered several ways you can create the ideal environment for improving your sleep let’s look at some habits that you can either avoid or adopt to improve your sleep hygiene.
It’s best to stop eating roughly two hours before going to bed. That allows plenty of time for your body to digest the last food you ate so it won’t disrupt your sleep and leaves a small enough window before sleep that you won’t go to bed feeling hungry.
Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening. It’s best to only drink caffeinated beverages – coffee, energy drinks, soda – in the morning since caffeine has a six-hour half-life which means if you drink 100mg of caffeine then after six hours there will still be 50mg in your system.
It is best to stop drinking any form of liquid, including water, two hours before bed. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a glass of water if you’re thirsty or dehydrated but avoiding large amounts of liquid before bed will prevent unwanted trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Getting 30 to 45 minutes of direct sunlight exposure into your eyes daily can improve your sleep. For most people, exposure to sunlight is most beneficial if it occurs in the morning, within a few hours of getting out of bed. This will not only help your body wake up and feel more refreshed and energized during the day but it will also train your body to go to sleep once it gets dark.
Try to avoid working out close to bedtime. Working out each day will help you sleep better, just make sure you’re not doing it within an hour of bedtime because the increased heart rate will prevent your body from relaxing and falling asleep.
Avoid looking at screens 30 minutes before falling asleep. I know, I know, you’ve heard a thousand times that blue light can ruin your sleep, who hasn’t right? Well whether the blue light on your phone or computer is turned off or not, it’s still emitting light. Since light will prevent your melatonin production try to limit your screen use when preparing for bed.
If you’re like 80% of the world then you probably use a wake-up alarm each morning. However, there are multiple research-proven benefits to waking up naturally during the work week. A recent study shows that those who wake up naturally each morning are 10% more likely to feel well-rested than those who use an alarm. They are also more likely to eat a healthy breakfast before work and spend more time on their fitness than those who are dependent on an alarm. Those who wake up naturally are late to work less often, feel more motivated, and are more productive than their counterpart. Does this mean that you should turn off your alarm tonight and see what happens in the morning? Well… probably not.
Training your body to wake up naturally at the same time each morning takes some dedication and time but it’s possible. The first thing you need to do is set an alarm in the evening and go to bed at the same time every night. Once you’re consistently going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same each morning then you may notice that you’ll start waking up a few minutes before your alarm goes off. This is how you’ll know that you’ve trained your “internal clock” to wake you up naturally and you’re no longer dependent on a morning wake-up alarm.
The Most Important Hack
- Keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule throughout the entire week
- Keep your room between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit
- Increase melatonin production by using dark curtains, a sleep mask, and removing LEDs
- Relax your body with a weighted blanket (10% of body weight)
- Invest in a good mattress (try mattresses in person to see what suits you)
- Use white noise to fall asleep faster
- Try not to eat within two hours of going to sleep
- Only drink caffeine – coffee, energy drinks, soda – in the morning
- Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid before bed
- Get 30 minutes of sunlight each day
- Don’t workout around bedtime
- Limit screen use 30 minutes before bed
- Set bedtime alarm instead of wake-up alarm
- Research shows that those who wake up naturally each morning feel more productive, motivated, and well rested than those who wake up to an alarm
- Train your body to wake up naturally by setting a bedtime alarm and keeping a consistent sleep schedule
We all know that sleep is important. Even if you only improve your sleep quality by 10% by following the “hacks” listed above then imagine how much more energized, productive, and successful you will feel throughout the day.