How To Improve Your Sleep
A good night’s sleep is one of the corner stones to good health. However, knowing how to improve your sleep can be difficult as there are many factors that could be the culprit.
Falling asleep may seem impossible sometimes. When you’re lying in bed with what feels like a million things going on in your head, it can be hard to quiet the brain. The following healthy sleep habits can be the difference between a restless and restful sleep.
Here are ten top tips that can improve your sleep.
Keep a sleep schedule (1.1)
Waking up and going to sleep at the same time everyday will help allow you body get into a circadian rhythm.
A Circadian rhythm is the physical, behavioural and mental changes that obey a daily cycle. Their primary response is to the light levels of your surrounding environment. For example day and night.
Exercise regularly but not too late (2.1 2.2)
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical appearance and health. Studies have also shown that physical exercise could be an alternative or complimentary approach to existing therapies for sleep problems.
Vigorous exercise stimulates cortisol, which can disrupt your ability to get to sleep. Exercising in the morning or mid to late afternoon can result in a sounder sleep.
Avoid caffeine too late in the day (3.1)
Caffeine is a stimulant and depending on how much caffeine you drink this can end up affecting your sleep. If coffee is going to be consumed, try to drink your coffee earlier in the day. The average half-life of caffeine is said to be 6 hours!
Check you Vitamin D levels (4.1, 4.2)
It is said that insomnia may be caused by a vitamin deficiency such as vitamin D. Difficulty falling or staying asleep can be linked to a deficiency in vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency can be quite common and you may not be aware that you suffer from it! A healthy amount of sunlight during the day can increase vitamin D production. Alternatively, there are supplements that can be taken.
Avoid electronics before bed (5.1)
Browsing through your phone or watching television before bed can stimulate brain activity. Unfortunately, most of us do it! If your goal is to sleep soundly then these two activities are not ideal before your slumber.
The light emitted from electronics can also trick your brain into telling you to wake up. This can reduce the production of melatonin, which is a hormone released by your pineal gland that causes sleepiness.
Take Magnesium (6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4)
Magnesium has a calming effect on your body’s nervous system and relaxes the muscles. This in turn will help you to fall asleep easier. A deficiency of magnesium is also sometimes responsible for the nervousness that prevents sleep as well as restless legs syndrome. Magnesium may also improve the length and quality of slow wave sleep. It has been labelled “The most powerful relaxation mineral available” by experts such as Dr Mark Hyman.
Avoid alcohol (7.1)
Consuming alcohol has a negative affect on sleep. It disrupts the sleep cycle as well as reduces the amount of REM sleep we get. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. When you fall asleep, your sleep cycle generally begins with a period of non-REM sleep followed by a very short period of REM sleep. REM sleep is when you are most likely to dream and brain activity increases. REM Sleep is important is it because it ignites the parts of your brain that are essential in retaining memories and learning.
Keep a journal (8.1, 8.2)
Keeping a journal and writing down your thoughts before you go to bed will help to calm the brain and ease a racing mind. It can include what you plan on doing the next day along with what you are grateful for today. Gratefulness improves serotonin and leads to a better nights sleep
Manage stress (9.1, 9.2)
Stress releases a hormone called cortisol. Normal cortisol levels are higher is the morning and lower in the evening. A stressful day will leave you with elevated cortisol levels in the evening. Reducing cortisol levels can be a very effective approach to addressing sleep disturbances. Harvard Medical School recommend both breathing techniques and meditation as excellent ways to manage stress.
Create the right sleep environment (10)
Finally, a good mattress and the right pillow along with a dark, quiet room will benefit your sleep. Ensure the room is at a good temperature, between 16 and 20 degrees is considered right.
4.1 Gominak SC, Stumpf WE. The world epidemic of sleep disorders is linked to vitamin D deficiency, Med Hypotheses , 2012, vol. 79 (pg. 132-5)
4.2 Sleep, Volume 38, Issue 2, 1 February 2015, Pages 171–172
6.1 Nielsen, Forrest H., LuAnn K. Johnson, and Huawei Zeng. “Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep*.” Magnesium Research 23.4 (2010): 158-168.
6.2 Held K, Antonijevic IA, Künzel H, et al. Oral Mg(2+) supplementation reverses age-related neuroendocrine and sleep EEG changes in humans. Pharmacopsychiatry
6.3 Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, et al. The effect of magnesiumsupplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlle clinical trial.
6.4 Durlach J, Pagès N, Bac P, Bara M, Guiet-Bara A. Biorhythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion. Magnes Res. 2002 Mar;15(1-2):49-66.
7.1 Singleton, R. et al. Alcohol Consumption, Sleep, and Academic Performance among College Students. College of the Holy Cross. 2008. 355-363