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6 Easy Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

December 15, 2015 Nutrition Woman with tea in the morning

Get some sleep.  We’ve all had that said to us at some point in our lives (probably by some of our mothers).  According to the Better Sleep Council, 79% of Americans say that they would feel better prepared for the day if they an additional hour of sleep.

However, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done.  Just laying down in a bed for 8 hours does not guarantee that you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.  Here are a few ways to make the most of the activity you’ll be doing most in your lifetime: sleeping.

1. Figure out how many hours your body needs

If you are wondering just how much sleep your body needs, the National Sleep Foundation has you covered.  They have created a chart that shows you the recommended ranges of sleep by age/stage of life.  These can fluctuate based on amounts of physical activity and health level, but it is a great starting point

2. Darken things up a little bit

As this article from IO9 describes, humans need to sleep in total darkness. In our modern society, we often have many light sources that disrupt our sleep.  These lights can be the more obvious sources like fluorescent lights and other bulbs in the house, but they can also come from more subtle places like charging computers.

Without getting too technical, light sources at night suppress our melatonin production.  Melatonin maintains our sleep and wake cycles.  How can we possibly expect to wake feeling rested if our body is being tricked into thinking it is still daytime when we are trying to sleep?

3. Move your body

 A study from the National Sleep Foundation has found that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise during the week not only allows you to feel more awake during the day, but it can improve the quality of your sleep by 65%. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!  Just aim to exercise earlier in the day rather than late at night, as exercise can disrupt your circadian rhythm before bed.

4. Midnight snacks (or lack thereof)

It is definitely wise to skip some of the more obvious food and beverage choicesbefore bed that can keep you wide awake.  Those would include anything with caffeine, alcohol, or high sugar content.  We also suggest that you avoid spicy foods and large meals before bed, as they can be more difficult for you to digest while you are sleeping—they’ll keep you awake!

5. Good habits

Napping

There isn’t a consensus on whether humans should nap, but if you are to nap during the day, here is a list of some helpful tips and benefits from our favorite source, the National Sleep Foundation:

Tips:

  • A short nap is usually recommended (20-30 minutes) for short-term alertness.
  • Make sure that you have a restful place to lie down and that the temperature in the room is comfortable. Try to limit the amount of noise heard and the extent of the light filtering in. 

Benefits:

  • Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
  • Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day.
  • A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.

If you are on the fence about napping, here are some napping habits of 8 famous men that should at least keep you entertained!

Lounging in bed

When you lounge in bed watching TV or browsing on your phone, you are sending your body mixed signals.  On one hand, your body is used to being asleep in your bed, but you’re keeping it wide awake!

Speaking of phones and TV, remember that pesky little thing called melatonin we were talking about earlier?  Turns out that looking at artificial light an hour before bed suppresses melatonin as well!  This week, try avoiding artificial sources of light at night and see if you feel a little more rested (spoiler alert: you will!).

6. Get into a routine

Incorporating the above suggestions works best for sleep when you consistently follow them every day and get yourself into a routine.  This simple, handy chart from the Huffington Post is a good starting spot to make sure your body starts to wind down when it is time to go to sleep.

Conclusion

Getting a good night’s sleep is not easy; it takes some work.  However, just a few simple changes can make a world of difference in your health and overall sense of well-being. You will be well on your way to better sleep by getting into a routine of exercising, minimizing artificial light, snacking smarter, and practicing good habits.

Now, go get some sleep!

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