• Stephanie Dominguez

Simple Ways to Improve The Way You Sleep right now

Sleep is something we spend 30% of our lives doing and probably less than 1% of a day thinking about.

While pleasant, sleep seems outwardly like a bit of a waste of time. Except it isn’t.

Sleep isn’t something that happens to you when your brain’s tired, meaning that avoiding it isn’t a sign of being able to override your fatigue. Rather, sleep is a necessary process that your brain actively causes every day. While you are asleep your brain’s still working.

Sleep deprivation of only one hour can dysregulate your appetite and make you statistically more likely to be overweight and accelerate common issues such as diabetes (due to weight gain), cancer, heart disease, poor fertility, weakened immune system & DNA damage. Beyond that amount, it will impair exercise performance, muscle growth and recovery, concentration, while also making you more irritable. It can even sap creativity and make it exceedingly difficult to focus on a given task. Not great, and you can’t undo all of that with coffee, either.

Almost all adults in the UK are undersleeping, with the official recommendation being 7-9 hours per night (the variance is genetic, though women tend to need more sleep than men), and it’s not just about the duration, it’s about the quality. Sleep happens in stages and you need all of them for a proper night’s sleep.

So how can you improve your sleep right now?

Keep a routine

Your circadian rhythm ( Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a daily cycle) governs a lot of the processes involved with sleep and it likes to be regular. Try to keep it about even throughout the week and weekends. Another useful routine is, starting from an hour before bed, you might switch off the TV, prepare your breakfast/lunch, take a shower, brush your teeth, write your journal, then meditate until sleep. This is just one approach but keeping whatever you do as a regular set of habits can certainly improve your ability to nod off initially.

Keep your room dark

Light hits the photoreceptors in your eyes (even though your eyelids) and this disturbs your sleep processes, so invest in blackout windows, or an eye mask and make sure electronic lights are fully shut off.

Open the curtains in the morning

Light wakes you up, so getting a bunch of natural light in the morning helps to align your circadian rhythm so you’ll feel more tired in the evening.

Exercise regularly

Exercise in the morning or evening improves sleep. The only issue is exercising too close to bedtime can leave you in a state of preparedness that could make it harder to fall asleep.

Switch off electronics an hour before bed

Electronics with screens operate on the same light spectrum wavelength as the sun, and so they can impair your sleep processes. Watching TV and playing games are great ways to both stimulate your brain and lose track of time – both of which can lead to a shorter, poorer night’s sleep. By delaying the release of melatonin, artificial evening light makes it considerably less likely that you’ll be able to fall asleep at a reasonable time. When you do finally turn out the bedside light, hoping that sleep will come quickly is made all the more difficult. Reading a book by soft light, or doing something to wind down, might be a better option.

Almost all adults in the UK are undersleeping, with the official recommendation being 7-9 hours per night

Consider a carbohydrate-containing meal shortly before bed

This will promote the release of hormones and neurotransmitters conducive to sleep, so a slice of toast or bowl of porridge might be a good idea.

Hot bath or shower

Not only does being clean feel good, but a bath or shower is also relaxing, they cause blood to rush to the surface of your skin, that then subsequently cools you down when you get out. That cooling allows you to fall asleep faster (your core temperature drops when you sleep).

Keep your room cool and comfortable

Comfort is vital, so make sure the temperature is right. Cool rooms usually allow you to get comfy under your duvet without overheating, so that’s a great option to try. A bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3°C) is ideal for the sleep of most people, assuming standard bedding and clothing.

Crack a window open

Having a window open allows cool fresh air in and stale air out. This is a good thing for sleep.

Avoid having caffeine late in the day

Caffeine blocks receptors in your brain that are responsible for detecting chemicals that make you tired, this self-evidently isn’t great for getting a good night’s sleep as it tricks you into thinking you are not tired when you are. The long half-life of caffeine also means that it hangs around for a long time. Minimising caffeine from lunchtime and eliminating it within 6 hours from your bedtime is a really good idea. If that wasn’t enough of a good reason to minimise caffeine intake in relation to sleep, once your liver undoes the effect of caffeine in your system your brain gets flooded by the sleep triggering chemicals and then more causing a “caffeine Crash” – this can lead to the start of a dependency cycle and find it even more difficult to stay awake.

Take naps

It is possible to improve performance during periods of sleep restriction by engaging

in short (sub 30 minute) naps. Workers who took naps have shown an increase in performance when compared with workers who have not napped, as well as reduced subjective tiredness. Napping should not be considered a replacement for sleep as a full sleep cycle can take up to 120 minutes. There is evidence if you have a nap during the day it may not impact on night-time sleep but may improve waking function. The human circadian rhythm naturally dips at both 2-3am and 2-3pm, and therefore it could be argued that we evolved to take an afternoon nap.

Keep track

We can often go by how we are feeling however it could be really useful to track your sleep too. These days most fitness tracker will have a sleep tracking feature, or you could keep a notepad. Every morning note down your average sleep and wake times, how you feel, was your sleep broken or not? After a while, you might be able to see some recurring patterns which can help you narrow down any barriers you have to getting a really good quality sleep.

Be intimate with a partner

If it helps you sleep. I really don’t need to explain this one.