sleep, sleep depravation, health, circadian rhythm, light, sleep tips

9 Tips for Better Sleep

When I was studying psychology in college, one of my favorite parts was every lecture and chapter on sleep. For whatever reason, I’ve always found it so intriguing. Based on some of my classes, personal research, and my own experience, here are 9 tips for sleeping well!


 

1. Go to bed!

Everything about your day starts the night before. If you don’t get to bed at a decent time, you’ll end up finding a reason to sleep in later the next morning. Either that, or you’ll have to wake up earlier with less sleep than you could have had.

Also, try to keep your sleep schedule as regular as possible. This means trying to go to sleep and wake up about the same time.

2. Sleep 7-9 Hours

sleep, sleep depravation, health, circadian rhythmPeople vary in how many hours they need to be good to go in the morning, but adults should be good with between 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re sleeping less than this, you’re probably not getting in the amount of full REM cycles you need to keep from being sleep deprived. If you sleep longer than this, you’re going to start affecting your ability to fall asleep at night, throw off your sleep schedule, and may even cause yourself to feel more tired throughout the day.

 

3. Only Use Natural Sleep Aids

Many, if not all, sleeping pills interfere with your REM cycles. Because our bodies require certain amounts of REM cycles to prevent sleep depravation, it is crucial to make sure we get these cycles in in order to prevent other problems. In affect, sleeping without REM cycles could lead to sleep depravation just as likely as no sleep at all.

As with any medication, our bodies can adapt to a substance creating a dependency. Depending on what type of medication you use, how frequently you use it, and your individual body chemistry, you may be creating a dependency on an artificial sleep aid, making it even harder to fall asleep when you don’t use it.

Try using a natural sleep alternative like melatonin tablets before relying on a medication that might alter your natural sleep. For those of you married readers, sex is also a natural sleep aid, so love each other like the good Lord intended and enjoy the natural benefits!

4. Use Light to Your Advantage

sleep, health, sleep depravation, sleep tips, circadian rhythmAs you probably remember from a science class you once took, our sleep/wake cycle runs on something officially called a circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythms are naturally usually a 25-hours cycle. As part of this cycle, the sleep hormone melatonin is released at night or in the absence of light. Melatonin is what makes us tired.

Because this chemical can be released before bedtime and because the circadian rhythm is probably on a 25-hour cycle even though life runs on a 24-hour cycle, we need to learn how to use light to our advantage.

Light is a natural zeitegebar – something that triggers our bodies to wake up. I recently read in an issue of Women’s Health Magazine that those who get most of their daily light exposure in the first half of the day are associated with more energy throughout the day and better sleep at night.

When you wake up, open the windows, sit on your porch for a quick read, or go for a run.

5. Limit Work & Screens in the Bedroom

The flip side of #4 is that screens (mainly their light) can be a zeitegebar also. Limiting use of screens before bed can help prevent unwanted waking.

In our current society, it is easy to rely on devices for nearly everything, so it’s hard to put them down. Kyle and I have been trying (some nights are more successful than others!) to put the devices away (especially personal, close-up screens) at least an hour before bed.

sleep, health, sleep depravation, sleep tips, circadian rhythmWe’ve also recently limited the devices at our bedside. Right now, all of our devices are charging across the bedroom or in another room, with the exception of my phone (I like to read the Bible before bed, so I have it set to a black screen and we can still keep the lights off so Kyle can sleep). We also have chosen not to have a TV in our room and rarely ever do anything work-related in our rooms.

For us personally, this is for two reasons. First, we try to make our bedroom a sanctuary just for us. We don’t want to let TV in because TV doesn’t promote togetherness; neither does work – if anything, working in the bedroom could cause more frustration with each other! Second (and this one applies to everyone wanting to sleep well), TV is a screen (so, light), and work busies your mind – the opposite of a mind ready for sleep!

6. No Napping!

Don’t try to catch up on sleep. Instead, get into a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. 

If you’re behind on your sleep, in most cases this is the best way to fix it. Otherwise you get into a cycle of catching up (napping or sleeping in) then can’t sleep at night; so you go to sleep later than you want, then you sleep in or nap again the next day, and so on.

If it’s an extreme situation, a 10-30 minute nap during the mid-afternoon is your best option.

7. Watch When You Eat

Try to be done eating 2-3 hours before bed. This will help you sleep better. It’s also healthier for you, because food doesn’t go through the digestive process the same way when you’re sleeping as when you’re awake.

8. Relax Before Bed

Start implementing reading, casual conversation, a relaxing bath, or some other calming activity before bed. This will help your mind and body wind down and get ready for sleep.

9. Exercise

Exercising before bed can actually help you sleep better! Only exception: make sure it’s not right before bed. Instead, be done exercising about 2 hours before bed. This allows the endorphins released during exercise to calm down, relaxing you just in time to go to sleep.


 

If you have trouble with sleep – whether it be falling asleep, feeling tired throughout the day, or something similar, first try these tips. In most cases, one’s sleep problems can probably be fixed simply by adjusting one or all of these tips and implementing them correctly in your life. If you can solve your sleep problems naturally, you’ll be the most healthy, keep some green in your pockets, and will be and feel more healthy and satisfied.

If you still have trouble sleeping even after implementing these tips for a few weeks, your sleep problems may be symptomatic of depression or a sleep disorder. Either of these are serious problems you should see a professional doctor or psychologist for.

For more sleep tips from the professionals, check out these articles from the Sleep Foundation and Mayo Clinic.

I hope you find these tips helpful! What are some sleep tips you implement?

–Anna

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