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Scientifically Backed Tips For Better Sleep

By Farah Lindstrom
Posted on 12 May, 2015

Scientifically Backed Tips For Better Sleep

How you feel during your waking hours hinges greatly on how well you sleep. The cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine. By learning to avoid common enemies of sleep and adjusting your bedtime habits, you can make an enormous difference to the quality of your nightly rest. For restorative sleep you can count on, night after night, we've compiled a definitive list of all the best sleep tips.


Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary that is pleasing to the senses.

sleep sanctuary

Take a long hard look at your room and see what it says about you and understand that you have a duty to care for yourself, your sleep area and your general health and wellbeing – you’re worth it!

Your bedroom should be a haven of comfort. Keep clutter out of your room – put the laundry basket in the spare room, bathroom or the landing. Adorn your bedroom with beautiful things such as photographs of loved ones, artwork that you like, plants and flowers. It will help you feel more connected to the room and look forward to going to bed.

Try to avoid bright colours such as reds which are less conducive to a good nights’ sleep. Instead opt for muted and pastel colours, which are a lot more calming.



Power down an hour before bed.

devicesYour body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so dim the lights and turn off all your devices about 60 minutes before bedtime -- smartphones, laptops, TVs. Banishing electronic devices from your bedroom will also make it easier to quieten your mind. There have been many tests that prove that electronic devices in the bedroom or their use just before lights-off trigger stimulating chemicals in the brain that tell your body it’s time to be awake.

Smartphones also often represent a source of stress during the day, and its proximity to the bed can disrupt sleep – even if it doesn’t make noise or is set to vibrate. You need to distance yourself from things that cause stress and anxiety.



Limit the booze before bedtime.

reduce alcohol intakeFalling asleep from drinking too much is not sleeping. It is passing out. And while that nightcap might make you feel sleepy at first, it keeps you out of the deeper stages of sleep.



Cut caffeine by the afternoon.

cup of coffeeCaffeine doesn’t allow you to get into deep sleep and keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep. What we don’t realize is that our afternoon jolt stays in our system longer than we might think. To avoid the “sleep-dampening” effects of caffeine, experts recommended laying off the caffeine by 2pm if you plan to go to bed by 10pm.



Exercise regularly.

Girl ExercisingThe National Sleep Foundation's 2013 Sleep In America survey found that vigorous exercise led to better sleep for twice as many of its respondents. The good news is that it doesn't take much: Adding even just a few minutes of physical activity to your day can make a difference in your rest. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime. You might be too energized to fall asleep.



Watch what you eat leading up to bedtime.

pizzaYour body isn't meant to be digesting while you sleep, so a big meal too close to bedtime may keep you up at night. Protein is especially hard to digest, so if you have to eat late, opt for lighter fare. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.



Keep your bedroom dark.

dark bedroomMelatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more in the evening when it’s dark, to make you sleepy, and less during the day so you stay awake and alert.

To limit the amount of light entering your room, you may want to consider investing in a heavier set of curtains. Temporary measures such as hanging a towel or blanket over your curtain rail may help too. Light can also come from an internal source. Even the most inconspicuous glow -- like that from a digital alarm clock can disrupt your shut-eye. If you can't seal up all the light sources in your room, consider using a comfy eye-mask.



Keep your bedroom cool.

Girl under bed coversMost people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.



Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only.

Couple under bed coversIf you associate your bed with events like work or errands, it will be harder to wind down at night. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. That way, when you go to bed, your body gets a powerful cue: it’s time to either nod off or be romantic.



Keep your bedroom quiet.

pin dropNoises like whirring electronics or ticking watches can easily be left outside the bedroom. For snoring bed partners or blaring sirens outside your window that are slightly more difficult to avoid, try a handy pair of earplugs.



Keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends.

girl sleepingGetting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle—your circadian rhythm—is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times.

Consistency is vitally important. When the weekend rolls around, many of us party late and sleep in. This leads to social jet lag, and makes it difficult for our body to adjust to our normal schedule when the weekend is over.



Make sure your mattress fits.

mattressMake sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy. Expect to make a swap every five to 10 years.

If you share your bed, make sure there's enough room for two. You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably.

As for a particular fabric for the bed, or pillow style, it’s an individual choice rather than up to scientific research. You have to figure out what works for you personally.



Nap wisely.

girl nappingSneaking an afternoon nap can confuse your biological clock and reduce your chances of sleeping at night. But if you must, make sure you limit your nap to 30 minutes, max, and don't snooze too close to bedtime.



Quietening your mind.

woman clearing her mindDo all your troubles and worries flood into your mind just as you flick off the light-switch?

Stress is one of the most common reasons for lack of sleep, but the more you stress about stress, the less likely you will be able to fall asleep.

Relaxing activities can help calm the mind and promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.

Yoga, meditation and even prayer can help you wind down after an intense day. Adjusting the way you breathe can also help. Breathing deeply mimics how your body feels. If you breathe deeply and calmly, the body will follow.



Try aromatherapy.

aroma candlesSmells can also affect your mood and make you more relaxed and calm. The scent of lavender has noted benefits for sleep. A small 2005 study found that a sniff before bed led to more deep sleep. And a 2008 study found that lavender helped women with insomnia fall asleep more easily, the Wall Street Journal reported. So sprinkle some potpourri with essential oils of lavender (or geranium) and place it in your bedroom.



Take a hot bath.

warm bathA cozy soak raises your body temperature slightly. Then, when you hop out, you'll cool down quickly. That drop in core body temperature is a signal to produce melatonin and mimics the natural drop in body temperature caused by the brain as it readies the body for sleep.



Get some sunlight first thing in the morning.

sunlight coming through bedroom windowThere's nothing quite like bright light to trigger your brain to stay awake and alert. Getting some natural light first thing in the morning can help night owls reset their biological clocks and ease into sleep a little earlier.



Keep a worry journal.

journal with writingYou need to make a pact with yourself that worries are for day time and sleep is for night time. Write down everything you need to do and everything that is concerning you before you go to sleep and leave these thoughts in your notebook for the next day. Clearing your mind of this mental clutter can help you drift off more smoothly.



Get out of bed if you really can't sleep.

waking up in the middle of nightIf all else fails, get out of bed. Continuing to lie there only stresses you out more, making it even more difficult to nod off. Experts recommend getting out of bed to do something else -- as long it's relaxing and doesn't involve bright light. Then, climb back into bed when you're really tired.



Don't stress about sleep.

stressed out personThe more anxious you get about getting enough sleep, the more difficult it will be to actually get any. But telling yourself not to stress out about it is easier said than done.

You can try this. Give yourself permission to rest. View it as necessary piece of the bigger picture, as part of your life strategy.



Try a new pillow.

pillows on bedDust mite build-up in your pillows may trigger allergic reactions that make it harder to sleep. Generally, pillows should be replaced every 12 to 18 months.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re sleeping with the right pillow. Stomach sleepers, for example, need very thin, flat pillows, and side sleepers need something a little firmer to fill the distance between their ear and shoulder. Someone with a long neck might need two full pillows, but this could give another person a neck pain the next day. Everyone’s is different. Experiment with your bedding and see what works for you.



Quit smoking.

man breaking cigarette in halfThe stimulating effects of nicotine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. According to a 2008 study, smokers are four times more likely to say they feel tired when they wake up than non-smokers. Besides being a stimulant, smokers experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.



Keep a bedtime ritual.

ambient scented bathA daily bedtime ritual sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses, and it cues your body to settle down for the night. For the reasons mentioned earlier, avoid using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime routine.



Final thoughts.

feet up in bedThe secret is to great sleep is experiment. What works for some might not work as well for others. It’s important to try different methods and find the sleep strategies that work best for you.

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