02 May Protips on How to Sleep Better at Night, Part 1
A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Research shows that poor sleep (interrupted, restless, or less than 8 hours per night on a consistent basis) has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance and brain function.
Bad sleep can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk in both adults and children.
On the flipside, good sleep can help you eat less, exercise better and live healthier. In part 1 of our Protips on How to Sleep Better at Night, we’ll explore a few ways you can get your Z’s.
1 Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm talks to your brain, body and hormones, telling them all when it’s time to sleep and, when it’s not, helps you stay awake.
Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
In people with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%.
Protip: Try grabbing more sun during the day to help you sleep at night. If that’s not practical, research artificial bright-light devices and bulbs — they work wonders!
2Reduce Blue Light Exposure in the Evening
Blue light — the stuff that blasts out of electronic devices, like your smartphone or iPad — is one of the worst disruptors of circadian rhythm out there.
Take back your Z’s and reduce blue light exposure past sunset. Most modern smartphones have a screen-dimming feature that cuts down on the amount of blue light projected from its screen.
Protip: Stop watching TV and turn off any blue-lit electronic devices two hours before heading to bed.
3Don’t Consume Caffeine Late in the Day
Caffeine has numerous benefits and is consumed by 90% of the US population. Who doesn’t love a blast of coffee in the morning, or an afternoon diet soda to keep your synapses going?
But the later in the day caffeine is consumed, the harder it might be to fall asleep. Caffeine can stay in your blood for 6–8 hours, stimulating your nervous system. That may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
Protip: Assuming you work a 9 to 5, stop drinking significant amounts of caffeine after 3 p.m. to ensure a good night’s sleep.
4Cut Back on Daytime Naps
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep. Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, meaning that you may struggle to sleep at night.
In fact, in one study, participants ended up being sleepier during the day after taking daytime naps.
Another study noted that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can negatively affect health and sleep quality.
If you take regular daytime naps and sleep well, you shouldn’t have to worry. The effects of napping depend on the individual.
Protip: If you can squeeze in a daytime nap, make it only 30 minutes or less. Like with all things sleep, if you practice this shortened nap cycle, soon you won’t need an alarm — your body will wake itself up naturally!
5Try to Sleep and Wake at Consistent Times
Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. During this loop, your body generates melatonin — the chemical that signals your brain when it’s time to sleep — and learns to make melatonin on a schedule.
Building a consistent routine with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality. That means if you stay up late on the weekends, you are tampering with the system your body has built.
If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
Protip: Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.
That’s it for Part 1 of our Protips on How to Sleep Better at Night series. Stay tuned for more in the future — and have a good night’s rest!