30 Sleep Hacks To Get You To Fall And Stay Asleep
Bet you’re wishing you were asleep instead of on your phone or computer reading.
It’s not just you, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explicitly calls sleep deprivation a public health epidemic. Specifically, there’s a 48 percent chance the other people reading this article are nodding their heads off too. If you don’t do something about it, prolonged sleep deprivation will wreak havoc on your health – and then some.
Luckily, you have these 30 tips to help you get that much-needed shuteye:
- Put Away That Alarm Clock
Surprised? Not if you read what Till Roenneberg, a professor from the University of Munich, has to say on the matter. There’s a lengthy explanation here on why Roenneberg doesn’t use an alarm clock – except before a flight – but it boils down to this: Mess with your body’s natural rhythms, and you mess up your health too.
- Sleep at the Same Time Every Night
Speaking of rhythms, you might’ve heard the phrase circadian rhythm more times than you care to remember. That’s because it’s responsible for regulating your feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day, so it’s generally a good idea to go along with – rather than fight – this rhythm.
- Get to Sleep Between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m.
Sorry, night owls and graveyard shift workers: Biology isn’t in your favor. According to science, the best time to go to sleep is between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m., so your body gets enough sleep it can to recover. Depending on your genetic makeup, you might sleep earlier or later within that four-hour window.
- Lay Off the Coffee Six Hours Before Bedtime
If your bedtime is 8 p.m., you should drink your coffee no later than 2 p.m. That’s the conclusion of this study from the National Institutes of Health. Coffee junkies need not despair, though: The study’s still unclear about “the relative effects of a given dose of caffeine administered at different times of day on subsequent sleep.”
- The Same Goes for Alcohol
Do you always down a bottle of booze before bedtime? Unfortunately, multiple studies have shown that it’s not a good idea: Alcohol interferes with your ability to doze off by heightening your brain’s alpha wave patterns that put you into the awake, but resting mode. Think of the times when you were just sitting around doing nothing, and you’ll have a good idea how those alpha waves work.
- And for Cigarettes, Too
Since cigarettes contain nicotine, a stimulant, they can disrupt your sleep too. According to a study by scientists from John Hopkins University, 22.5 percent of smokers report poorer quality sleep, compared to only 5 percent of nonsmokers. That’s a pretty significant gap, isn’t it?
- Avoid Eating Before Bed
Otherwise, you’ll experience acid reflux, which affects 40 percent of Americans. For this reason, you should schedule your dinner at least three hours before bedtime, advises Jamie A. Koufman, a physician and New York Timescolumnist.
- But If You’re Really Hungry, Eat These
On the other hand, if you’re the type who always goes home late, the aforementioned three-hour gap between dinnertime and bedtime might not be practical. In that case, you can stave off your hunger by eating foods rich in tryptophan – such as nuts, soy beans, turkey and eggs – since tryptophan has been shown to improve sleep quality in adults.
- Keep the Lights Down
Before you go to sleep, block off all light sources coming into your room. Keep your door closed, put opaque covers over your windows, and/or wear a sleep mask. Otherwise, even the tiniest sliver of light will stimulate your brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), mess up your sleep-related hormones cortisol and melatonin, and jolt you awake.
- Say Goodbye to Your Electronic Devices – at Least for the Night
Speaking of light, you’ll be surprised at how bright your mobile phones and e-readers can be. According to Monash University’s Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, electronic devices emit 30 to 50 lux – almost as bright as a typical light bulb. Rajaratnam recommends that those devices be turned off at least an hour before bedtime for best results.
- Set Your Thermostat Around 66 Degrees
According to a study published in June in Diabetes, a 66-degree room temperature improves your metabolism – which in turn lowers your chances of having diabetes. Also, it’s a temperature comfy enough to keep you from tossing and turning at night, so what have you got to lose?
- Sleep on Your Back if You’re 100 Percent Healthy
In an interview with Medical Daily, orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Hooman Melamed says that sleeping on your back is the best position – since your head, neck and spine are aligned in a natural way. However, if you suffer from sleep apnea and other sleep-related disorders, the next-best position is lying on your side.
- Take a Warm Shower
When room-temperature water splashes down on you, it decreases your body temperature and slows down metabolic functions – breathing, digestion, heart rate – and sets you up for a good night’s rest. Also, you feel clean and refreshed, so that’s a nice bonus.
- De-Stress Before You Sleep
Are you the type who worries about your to-do list all the way into the bedroom? That might be one reason you’re not getting enough shut-eye. In fact, 54 percent of adults surveyed by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America say that stress aggravates their sleep deprivation – and vice versa. Try to think relaxing, non-work related thoughts before you wind down and rest.
- Write It All Down
Then again, trying not to think of your work might backfire. In that case, do what the 41 university students from this study did: Have a journal. Write down anything and everything memorable about your day, set the journal aside and forget about it before bedtime. It’s an effective way to cope with the things that stress you – and, if you decide to re-read your journal entries in the future, it really puts things in perspective.
If you bring out your inner Buddhist monk, you’ll solve your sleep deprivation problems. At least, that’s the conclusion of this study from JAMA Internal Medicine, which had 49 adults undergo six sessions of mindfulness meditation. As you might have guessed, those who successfully completed the sessions experienced fewer symptoms of depression, fatigue and insomnia compared to the others.
- Change Your Mattress
If you’re having trouble hitting the hay, maybe it’s time to get a new mattress. According to a 2009 study on 59 healthy men and women, new mattresses significantly reduced stress and improved sleep quality. Try something like the NSF’s official mattress, and it might just help you sleep like a log.
- Keep Your Bed Nice and Clean
Taking the time to make your bed can go a long way in improving your sleep quality. In a survey commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation, those who kept their beds nice and neat were 19 percent more likely to get a good night’s sleep than those who didn’t. In case you don’t know how to do it, check out these simple steps to a perfectly made bed.
- Rock Those Socks
Don’t throw out those old socks yet. As long as they’re made of a thick material and don’t have holes in them yet, socks can warm up your feet, dilate your blood vessels and make you fall asleep in no time.
- Take a 10- to 20-Minute Nap
To be clear, the exact relationship between afternoon naps and nighttime sleep is still hotly debated. On one hand, there’s proof that dozing off for 25 to 85 minutes will actually do more harm than good. On the other hand, there’s also proof that 10 to 20 minutes is just right for an afternoon nap. Just be sure to let your boss know why you’re dozing off on your desk.
- Love Lavender
According to Tiffany Field, a scientist from the University of Miami School of Medicine, lavender slows down your metabolic functions and puts you in a parasympathetic state. That’s science-speak for relaxed like a zebra that’s a million miles away from the nearest lion pack.
- Read Paperback Books
Remember that bit earlier about electronic devices? If you want to fall asleep pronto, reading your light-emitting iPad in bed might not be a good idea. According to a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,people who read from iPads took longer to fall asleep, were groggier the next morning and experienced a delayed production of the sleep hormone melatonin. So either replace your device with one that doesn’t emit light, or reach for that old, dusty paperback instead.
- But Avoid These Types of Books
Then again, even a paperback can keep you up at night if it’s gripping enough. In one study, for instance, a whopping 93 percent of adults stayed awake just to finish “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”Basically, if a book makes you say things like “What happens next?” “Will Alex and Taylor get together?” and “Wow, this is Lovecraft-level terrifying,” put it down.
- Color Your Noise Pink
There’s white noise, and then there’s pink noise. The latter, according to Jue Zhang from China’s Peking University, is a sound with a perfectly consistent frequency, like raindrops pattering on the ground or the wind whipping at the branches outside your window. When Zhang exposed 50 people to pink noise, 75 percent of them reported restful sleep. You can try it out for yourself by downloading certain apps from iTunes and Google Play.
- Color Your Room Blue
According to a study covering 2,000 British homes, a blue room is the most conducive for sleep, since it causes people to sleep for an average of seven hours and 52 minutes, which is around the eight-hour ideal. If blue’s not your favorite color, though, no worries: You can still try yellow (seven hours and 40 minutes), silver (seven hours and 33 minutes), orange (seven hours and 28 minutes) and green (seven hours and 36 minutes). Stay away from grey (six hours and 12 minutes), brown (six hours and 5 minutes) and purple (five hours and 56 minutes).
- Get Up and Moving
This one seems intuitive enough, but yes: Researchers agree that moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, six hours before bedtime will bring the Sandman to you.
- But Don’t Overdo It
On the other hand, working out right before hitting the hay can make you lesssleepy. As much as possible, schedule your exercise during the day.
- Have Sex
If you’re tired of seeing all the “Avoid this, avoid that” sections in this article, this one might just perk you up – in more ways than one. Laura Berman, director of the Berman Center for Women’s Sexual Health, tells NBC: “Sex … will help you sleep, because it releases endorphins and you feel better about yourself.” Not that we really need reminding, right?
- Think of Quality, Not Quantity
It’s not how much you sleep, but how you sleep. According to one study, participants who slept for four hours uninterrupted were more alive, alert, awake and enthusiastic compared to those who slept for eight hours of interrupted sleep. Get as much shuteye as you can, but be sure your room is interruption-free.
- If All Else Fails, Get Medical Help
It’s possible that you’re one of 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. If your partner constantly complains about your snoring, or you wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe, see your doctor immediately. You might have a condition that’s beyond the help of any item on this list.
Try one tip per day, for 30 days, and see which works best for you. There’s still plenty of research to be had in the field, so keep your eyes peeled – no pun intended – for updates on the do’s and don’ts of sleep. In the meantime, sweet dreams!
About The Author
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and health enthusiast sharing advice on living a happy and healthy life. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a career development site that helps professionals find happiness and success in their careers. Follow Sarah for more advice @SarahLandrum
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