Are you having trouble keeping your eyes open to read this article? Are you browsing endless Internet tips and tricks when you should be resting soundly? Do you feel groggy when you wake up and tired during the day?
It sounds like you may have a problem getting quality sleep.
You’re not alone. Research has shown that as many as 18% of people struggle with getting a good night’s sleep at least once a week. For many, insomnia is a daily battle.
If you’re one of them, let’s stop worrying about not sleeping and start doing something about it with 17 proven methods to help you get more quality sleep.
Get A Schedule
One of the primary reasons that people struggle with sleep is because they expect it to work with their schedule and not the other way around.
We may have endless apps at out fingertips and get all the entertainment we want on demand. But sleep doesn’t work like that.
Your body knows when you woke up the day before, not what time you have to wake up tomorrow. You can’t turn it on and off like your wi-fi connection.
To get the most quality sleep, keep your bedtime and wake time as consistent as possible — even on weekends.
Monitor Your Diet
You realize that caffeine can wake you up. But do you know how late you can enjoy and ice cold Coca-Cola without disturbing your sleep?
Neither do we.
The way your body responds to caffeine is unique to you. Some people find they can’t drink a 12 oz can of Mountain Dew after 2 P.M. Others can tolerate one with dinner.
A chocolate lava cake (filled with caffeine) at dinner could destroy your sleep cycle.
Pay attention to when you had caffeine last and how much. Then evaluate your sleep. Those stimulants may still be in your system.
Sugary foods, nicotine, and other stimulants can take hours to get out of your system.
Skip The Vodka
Many people use alcohol to go to sleep. It makes them tired so they assume that it also helps them get quality sleep. But the opposite is true.
Repeated studies have shown that alcohol can help a healthy person sleep deeply right when they fall asleep. But this quickly transitions into a prolonged light sleep with reduced REM sleep. This is not restorative and certainly not quality sleep.
Create The Right Ambience
If you have a non-traditional sleep schedule — or live in Alaska — there may be too much daylight coming into the room while you try to get your quality sleep.
Day light is your body’s natural alarm clock. Your body may be confused by its presence, keeping you in a light nap time level of sleep.
Cover the windows with heavy shades to reduce natural light.
Put a white noise generator like a fan in your room to block out street or household noise.Ask others to respect your sleep time. Get ear plugs if you must.
Light-emitting screen usage right before bed has been shown to severely disrupt sleep cycles.
As bedtime approaches, your body begins producing melatonin, the chemical that helps you go to sleep.
It’s believed that artificial light tricks your body into thinking that it’s daytime. Your body, therefore, stops producing melatonin. Instead, it starts trying to keep you awake. That’s not good.
Blue light — in particular — has the most extreme effect. It has been shown to:
- Make it harder for people to fall asleep
- Make them take longer to fall asleep
- And reduce REM sleep, which is believed to affect our ability to process memories, concentrate and learn
And you guessed it. The devices we can’t do without emitting mostly blue light.
If you have to check your phone or want to watch TV, make a rule that you’ll do it at least 30 minutes before bed.
Get Some Exercise
Exercise produces dopamine and endorphins. These feel good chemicals help reduce stress and reset disrupted sleep patterns so you sleep more deeply.
Don’t workout right before bed though, as this would raise your heart rate. When you sleep the heart rate drops. If it has farther to fall, it will take longer to get to quality sleep.
Get Some Sun Too
The sun has a similar affect on the circadian rhythms that wake you up and put you to sleep. To get quality sleep get a good 10 minutes of direct sun a day.
Practice Deep Breathing
Slow deep breathing can help you get quality sleep in many ways. Deep breathing “tricks” your body into “thinking” that you’re in a very calm state.
Just like the saying, “fake it ’til you make it”, you begin to relax and de-stress.
If you begin slow, deep breaths when you lie down, you’ll fall asleep faster.
If you wake in the middle of the night, slow, deep breathing can almost instantly put you back to sleep.
In line with deep breathing, meditating before bed can help your mind prepare for sleep.
During mediation, focus on the present moment rather than stressors of the past and future. Breath slowly and deeply, expanding your belly.
Your heart rate will drop and you’ll become very relaxed. After a few minutes, it will be difficult to keep your eyes open.
Meditation has been shown to have profound effects on the brain like:
- Reducing depression and anxiety
- Improving concentration
- Minimizing cravings, particularly for addicts
- Expanding the mind that may be very “me-focused” which leads to stress
- Creating a more present-centered focus, which helps the past and future worries melt away.
Focus on Positivity
In a fast paced and often negative world, you often can’t shut off the worries and negativity of the day so that your mind can relax.
Set aside some time before bed to reflect on what you’re grateful for.
The reason likely has to do with infant needs. When you were a baby, someone holding you close made you feel safe and relaxed. Most of the time, you stopped crying and went to sleep.
Weighted blankets are very commonly used in mental health facilities for this reason. And they are now becoming available on the market for the rest of us.
Those who use them have been shown to go to sleep faster and experience a more quality sleep.
Learn to power nap. It’s a great way to get a burst of energy to get through the day without jeopardizing that night’s sleep.
20-30 minutes max, early in the day, is ideal.
We’re not bashing the siesta sleep pattern — 6 hours at night and 2 hours during the day. But you may be setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect to nap and then sleep 8 hours.
High protein meals or lots of heavy carbs right before bed can force your digestive tract to work all night so that you can’t go into deep sleep.
Listen to your body. Try not to eat within 4 hours of sleep time. This can also help you lose weight because you’re not eating as many calories that you don’t need for that day.
Invest in a sleep tracker. We don’t want to see you obsess about your sleep. But this can be helpful for you to better understand your sleep patterns.
Some trackers will measure not only how long you sleep, but how much deep sleep you get. Deep sleep is when your body repairs itself. You won’t feel rested if you’re not getting at 1.25-2 hours a night.
On nights that you got some amazing sleep, consider what you did the day before that may have contributed to it.
Stop Worrying About Not Sleeping
Worrying about sleeping only makes it worse. This is easier said that done. But it’s an important step toward more quality sleep.
Tell your body that it’s okay. It’s responding naturally based upon how you’ve been treating it.
Reassure yourself that you will be able to sleep when you put your mind at ease.
Listen to Your Body
If it’s bedtime but you’re not tired, listen to your body.
Get up and slowly walk around while calming your mind. Or read a chapter of an inspirational and relaxing book. Sit up and meditate. Or sit on the sofa and pet the dog for a few minutes.
Avoid devices like eBook readers, TVs or smart phones because of the effects of the light.
You could spend hours lying in bed, trying to force it. Or you could get up for 5-10 minutes, calm your mind and then go right to sleep. It works.
Don’t Watch The Clock
Train yourself not to look at the clock if you wake in the middle of the night or while going to sleep. Watching the clock increases anxiety about not going to sleep.
This anxiety is what’s keeping you from getting quality sleep. Ignore the clock. And accept yourself and your sleep patterns.
It may seem that accepting them is the last thing you want to do. But accepting what is is the first step to improving it.
Wake With the Sun For More Quality Sleep
This isn’t an option for those who work the nightshift. But, for others, if you can rearrange your schedule, you could get more quality sleep.
We may think we’re so far removed from our “pre-historic” ancestors. But some things have changed very little over thousands of years like how our sleep cycles work.
Although there are definitely cultural exceptions, as a general rule, historically people got up with the sun. And they went to sleep not long after it went dark. This is what you’re body naturally wants to do. If you can align with it, you’ll get more quality sleep.
What do you do to get more quality sleep? What would you recommend for our readers? Please leave us a comment below.