Life is too short to be tired all the time. And you’re too busy to spend one more minute in bed than you have to. The obvious solution to these realities is to maximize the quality of your sleep, squeezing as much rest and energy out of every hour in your bed as you can. Of course, there’s no substitute for adequate sleep time, but healthy, successful people know that a few simple actions can ensure they wake up rested and ready to go. That’s why they always do these things before they turn in for the night.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults routinely sleep fewer than six hours a night. That’s bad news because the benefits of adequate sleep range from better heart health and less stress to improved memory and weight loss. Stop loading up on caffeine or sneaking in naps and use our top tips to help get the shut-eye you need to manage your health.
Importance of sleeping
11 reasons why it’s so important for kids to get a good night sleep (and yes, many of these are relevant to adults as well):
1. Sleep is restorative for the brain.
2. Too little sleep can lead to weight gain by altering levels of the hormones that regulate satiety and hunger, leading to overeating, overweight, and obesity.
3. Growth hormone is secreted during slow wave sleep.
4. Insufficient sleep is associated with a higher incidence of behavioral problems, especially attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
5. Sleep disruption caused by snoring in infants delays their development.
6. Night terrors and confusional arousals are often made worse by sleep deprivation.
7. Memory consolidation occurs during slow wave sleep, meaning that the different pieces of what we’ve learned during the day come together coherently so that the knowledge can be accessed when needed.
8. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep when the most vivid dreams are dreamt, is important for the “unlearning” of superfluous memories. For example, when a child learns how to ride a bike and falls off the first ten times, finally successful on the eleventh try, the memory of how to perform the task so as to stay on the bike is the one which is important to retain, not the ones of how to fall off. Unlearning removes the unhelpful “how to” memories of how to fall of the bike, so that the next day when the child hops on it, she will automatically re-enact what she did that eleventh time, and not the first ten.
9. School performance improves in kids with poor sleep because of obstructive sleep apnea after it has been treated.
10. Studies using MR spectroscopy to compare healthy children to those with long-standing obstructive sleep apnea have shown that those with the sleep apnea have certain, specific patterns of brain injury not seen in the healthy kids.
11. When kids sleep well, their parents’ sleep improves, too, doing wonders for their ability to function during the day (and maintain their sanity in the evening and night). This may be last on this list, but certainly not least!
How can I get a better night’s sleep?
Getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal when you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., but you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realize. Just as how you feel during your waking hours often hinges on how well you sleep at night, so the cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine.
Unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can leave you tossing and turning at night and adversely affect your mood, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and weight. But by experimenting with the following tips to find the ones that work best for you, you can enjoy better sleep at night, improve your mental and physical health, and improve how you think and feel during the day.
Things you need for a good night sleep
1. Develop a sleep routine
It might seem tempting, but sleeping until noon on Saturday will only disrupt your biological clock and cause more sleep problems. Going to bed at the same time every night even on weekends, holidays, and other days off helps to establish your internal sleep/wake clock and reduces the amount of tossing and turning required to fall asleep.
Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime.
2. Read books for proper sleep
Many successful people in the world are voracious readers. They read and they learn from what others talk about. Do you know that reading and learning can shortcut your journey to success? In fact, many great people including Bill Gates, read books or articles until they feel tired and then go to bed after.
Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, recently told the Guardian that he gets home around 8 pm and then reads to his daughters. “They usually win and get two or three books,” he says.
3. Shower helps in getting good sleep
Taking a warm shower or bath before bedtime helps prime the body for sleep. A study published in 2010 found that small changes in the body’s internal temperature sends powerful signals to brain’s master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This light-sensitive region of the brain is responsible for controlling circadian rhythms and many physiological functions within the 24-hour cycle. The SCN sends a signal to lower your core temperature as day becomes night.
A short (5 to 10 minute) shower will temporarily warm up the body. Stepping out of the steamy bathroom into a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop slightly, setting off a chain reaction of sleepy-time brain signals. And showering at night is one less thing you’ll have to do in the morning.
4. Control your exposure to light
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.
During the day:
Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window. The light on your face will help you wake up.
Spend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.
Let as much natural light into your home or work space as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.
If necessary, use a light therapy box. This simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days.
Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software such as f.lux.
Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.
Don’t read with backlit devices. Tablets that are backlit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also consider covering up electronics that emit light.
Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you need some light to move around safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hall or bathroom or using a small flashlight. This will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
5. Working out improves sleep
No matter what time of day you do it, regular exercise promotes restful sleep. Just 20 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity had the effect of improving quality of sleep and boosting energy throughout the day, according to a sleep study published in 2011. The notion that exercising close to bedtime disrupts sleep is actually a myth, so here are some late-night workout routines worth trying.
6. Change your diet improves sleep
Cut out the food and drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate, by mid-afternoon. Make dinner your lightest meal, and finish it a few hours before bedtime. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion.
7. Keep it temperate, not tropical is good for sleep
Eighty degrees may be great for the beach, but it’s lousy for the bedroom at night. A temperate room is more conducive to sleeping than a tropical one. The NSF recommends a temperature somewhere around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Striking a balance between the thermostat, the bed covers, and your sleeping attire will reduce your core body temperature and help you drift off to sleep faster and more deeply.
Caffeine has numerous benefits and is consumed by 90% of the US population. A single dose of it can enhance focus, energy and sports performance. However, when consumed late in the day, the stimulation of your nervous system may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. In one study, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality.
Caffeine can stay elevated in the blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you are caffeine sensitive or have trouble sleeping. If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, then stick with decaffeinated coffee.
9. Changes in diet improves your sleep
Avoid big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
Avoid alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re out.
Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots of sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
10. Just breathe
If, even after doing everything right and practicing good sleep hygiene, you still find yourself unable to turn off your mind and fall asleep, there are other things you can do besides count sheep. An ancient practice steeped in Eastern medicine, the idea behind mindful breathing techniques is that deep, focused breathing allows more oxygen to circulate your body, which has a calming effect. Adherents of the “4-7-8” technique say that it can lull you to sleep in less than a minute. Here’s how to do it:
- Breathe deeply through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds