5 Easy Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
We’ve all been there – tossing, turning, and a mind that just won’t turn off. Sleep is vital to our minds and bodies for simple functionality but can affect things as small as memory consolidation over time. The average adult requires 8 hours of sleep a night and to feel well-rested, you must reach the deepest level of sleep: REM sleep. However, many of us struggle to even fall asleep, let alone reach REM sleep to revitalize our bodies for the next day. Here you can learn what your body goes through during slumber and how you can best reach REM sleep!
Vital Stages of Sleep
First, there are five transitional stages of sleep that allow your body to relax, calm, regulate, and rest soundly.
- The first of these steps happens while you start to drift off to sleep. Your body begins to relax and if you’ve ever twitched right as you’re falling asleep, this stage, NREM, is to blame. And it’s not just you, it happens to the best of us.
- After this stage, your body falls into a deeper slumber allowing your body temperature to decrease, your heart rate and breathing to slow down, and your muscles to further unwind.
- You enter a deep sleep in this stage and while you’re dreaming away, your breathing, heart rate, temp, and brain waves are at their lowest functionality levels. All motor functions have shut off, your muscles are at max relaxation, and waking you is nearly mission impossible.
- Remaining in a deep sleep, your body reaches the healing portion of your slumber where your body works to repair any damaged accrued during your busy day. Your muscle tissues begin to grow and repair, necessary hormones are released throughout the body to re-regulate your body, and your energy is restored right down to your cells.
- REM sleep is a cyclical stage that occurs concurrently with stage 3 and 4 and can occur as often as every 90 minutes. If you fall victim to some crazy, vivid dreams, you’ve most likely reached your phases of REM sleep. Thankfully, your arms and legs have relaxed so much that you can no longer act out your dreams during this stage.
How Can I Improve My Sleep?
Steps for falling asleep and staying asleep:
Create a Sleep Schedule… and Be Consistent
Just like you would at school or work, having a sleep schedule can regulate your body and have it prepared for sleep when it’s time. While many of us probably don’t have the opportunity to nap throughout the day, the pandemic through us all for a loop, allowing more time to doze off if you wanted to. But don’t! Napping throughout the day can jeopardize your sleep at night because you allowed your body to rest throughout the day instead. An excellent way to stay on track of your sleep schedule is a sleep scheduling app. For iPhone, Sleep/Wake Up is available under your usual alarm clock app. It simplifies the lock screen, alerts you when it’s time for bed, tracks your sleep, and places your phone on “Do Not Disturb” to reduce any interruptions in sleep. Many Android apps, such as “Sleep as Android” allow similar features to ensure better sleep patterns.
Have a Regular Exercise Schedule
Just like your daily bedtime, have set days and times for exercise. For most, morning workouts lead to a more productive and energized day. Because endorphins, the feel-good chemical, are produced more during and after workouts, the body responds with energy rather than relaxation. It is highly recommended that you complete all workouts at least two hours before bedtime to allow your chemicals to return to normal levels before attempting sleep. Because of the boost in energy after a workout, you may want to try a morning workout and see how it affects your body overtime.
No Dr. Peppers Before Bed
Not just Dr. Pepper, all caffeinated beverages! You should consume all your caffeine earlier on in your day as caffeine can live in the body for up to 8 hours every day. Caffeine gives you that boost of energy you’re craving and while coffee may feel warm and comforting, you want to avoid any caffeine when you’re trying to wind down for sleep. Alcohol is another culprit that can greaten the amount of times you stir throughout the night. Because of the affect alcohol has on the kidneys, you may experience more frequent urges to use the restroom, or nocturia. To avoid this, consume alcohol earlier in the night and stop about 2 hours before bedtime. This remains true for all liquids as water may cause nocturia as well.
Some rely on soothing drinks to drift to sleep. Herbal teas and warm milk often have a calming effect and can help ease the body into a more relaxed state. As such, still limit your consumption right before bed so there are no disturbances in sleep throughout the night.
Do Not Disturb – Minimize Your Screen Time
We spend so much our lives glued to our phones that the thought of disconnecting feels a bit uncomfortable. However, reducing the amount of blue light and sound we experience right before bed can settle the mind. For many, scrolling through social media feeds is relaxing, but disconnecting a while before bed allows your body to better regulate and calm down as you drift to sleep. While some prefer a dark, quiet room, others prefer the use of white noise or a sound machine to soothe the racing mind. Once asleep, you want to remain asleep and constant buzzing or a loud ringtone in the middle of the night may startle you awake. Try using the “Do Not Disturb” function on your phone to silence calls and texts. For those concerned with missing emergency calls, you can always set parameters for this feature by allowing specific callers to be exempt from the silencing function.
Sometimes this is easier said than done. While many of us vary in what is calming to us, many found that quiet time with a good book helps to relax the body while still stimulating the mind. Others feel that music is an excellent calming agent and will listen to soothing music right before bed. During this time, it’s good practice to avoid conversations will others that are emotionally charged. The spike in adrenaline while your heart rate increases during tough conversations can make it very difficult to calm back down in time for restful sleep.
After a long day, many of us feel stressed, tense, and just ready to crawl into bed. Another relaxation tactic is simple massage therapy. You don’t even have to leave your home for it. A simple massage of your sore muscles can aid in pain relief and lessen the discomfort you may feel that night or the next morning. If you have stubborn trigger points, you can try a Body Back Buddy for targeted muscle knot relief. Otherwise, you can try a handheld Massage Roller Ball with essential oils to calm the body and mind while actively massaging out the stress of the day. For a goose-bump inducing head massage, try a scalp massager that stimulates the hair follicles for a light, relaxing scalp massage.