Five steps to a good night sleep
Good sleep is extremely underrated. But sleeping well has a profound effect on the way we live, from day-to-day mood and energy levels to long term health. In fact, poor sleep has been linked with a range of health issues. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to improve your sleep quality.
1. Create a good environment for sleep
Your bedroom has a big influence on your sleep quality, but it is easy to create a good sleep environment.
According to the Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for the most comfortable sleep is 18.3 degrees celsius. Of course, this will vary from person to person, but highlights the importance of a cool bedroom. It’s also important to make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible.
On top of this, you can improve your sleep environment by removing anything in your room that could distract you. For example, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care found that bedtime smartphone use led to a greater risk of poor sleep quality.
2. Exercise every day
Daily exercise can make a big difference when it comes to getting quality sleep. A recent study presented to the American Heart Association found that resistance training using weights is the best type of exercise for improving sleep quality. Researchers noted that resistance training improved both sleep duration and efficiency.
It’s important to note that the timing of exercise makes a big difference. The Sleep Foundation recommends not exercising too close to bedtime.
3. Develop a sleep routine
Experts note that even if your daily routine varies, going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day will create a healthy sleep pattern. It comes down to our circadian rhythms - a 24 hour cycle that determines hormone fluctuations and variations in alertness and body temperature that prime our bodies for sleep or wakefulness.
Not only does sticking to a sleep schedule promote quality sleep - a 2021 study published in the Journal Digital Medicine found that falling asleep and waking up at a similar time also has a positive effect on mental health.
4. Make time to unwind before bed
As well as going to bed at roughly the same time every night, it’s also a good idea to make some time to relax before going to bed. This will help transition your body from day to night and prepare you for sleep.
Reading, listening to music, and having a relaxing bath are all easy ways to relax. And of course, it’s important to switch off from the day, so try to avoid checking work email at bed time. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that we stop using smart phones at least 30 minutes before bed.
5. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
You won’t be surprised to hear that caffeine at bedtime can have a detrimental effect on sleep. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by one hour. So if you plan to go to bed at 10pm, you shouldn’t consume caffeine after 4pm.
Alcohol also has a detrimental effect on sleep. While a little alcohol can help you fall asleep, the overall effect results in broken sleep and less REM sleep (the deep, restorative sleep that we need to stay well).
A non-alcoholic drink such as a glass of alcohol-free red wine at bedtime, on the other hand, can help you feel relaxed and ready for sleep, without messing with your circadian rhythms. And the really great news is that there are now more options than ever!
Sources: Journal of Family Medicine and Primary care/ The effect of smartphone usage at bedtime on sleep quality among Saudi non- medical staff at King Saud University Medical City/ June 2019
Journal of Digital Medicine/ Day-to-day variability in sleep parameters and depression risk: a prospective cohort study of training physicians/ February 2021
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine/ Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed/ November 2013