If you are one of the countless people who wake up tired and irritable, you will not feel excused if you call yourself a “night owl” or “not a morning person”. Maybe you sleep a whole night in the sense that you sleep eight hours or more. But are all these unconscious hours “productive”?
In other words, the quality of your zzz makes the difference between waking up grumpy and waking up recharged. The former usually leads to the beginning of an unproductive day when all you really want to do is be back under the covers.
As a matter of fact, the amount and quality of sleep directly affect your physical and mental health. Simply put, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being.
In fact, the amount and quality of sleep directly affect your physical and mental health. Simply put, sleeping well is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being.
It may help to put more hours into your sleep schedule, but it is not always feasible or even advisable. Moreover, the jury is still divided over the conventional “eight-hour rule” and the ideal length of sleep.
So instead, try the following tips to get the most out of your existing hours of sleep, and in turn to achieve more in your conscious time.
10 Tips to Sleep Better and Wake Up Fully Recharged
1. Take a nice warm bath or shower before bed
Taking a hot shower a few hours before going to bed is a popular and proven method of falling asleep faster.
A hot shower will raise your body temperature, and the rapid cooling phase immediately afterward will relax you. The drop in temperature signals to your body that it is time to rest and slows down essential metabolic functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion.
“If you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep.”Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D., associate professor at New York University School of Medicine.
Keep your showers short and moderately warm – between five and fifteen minutes and below 104°F (normal whirlpool temperature) – to prevent your body temperature from rising too much and making you feel energetic rather than lethargic
2. Limit daytime naps
While naps are not suitable for everyone, short power naps can certainly be beneficial in terms of increased alertness, creativity, and productivity.
However, long or irregular naps during the day can have a negative effect on your nightly sleep. It is therefore advisable to limit the duration of power naps to a maximum of 30 minutes.
Again, naps are not for everyone – some people feel even more sleepy after a nap and their internal body clock gets confused, making it difficult to fall asleep at night. So nap wisely.
3. Include physical activity in your routine
As if there were not enough reasons to include exercise in your routine, you should know that regular physical activity also improves all aspects of your sleep.
Physical exercise (running, swimming, etc.) can lead to deeper and more restful sleep. It helps with severe insomnia, anxiety, and shortens the time to sleep by 55%. Even light physical exertion such as walking for half an hour improves the quality of sleep.
However, exercising too late in the day – especially 2 hours before bedtime – can actually be harmful to your sleep routine.
“You’ll experience a ‘peak’ of energy afterward – your temperature rises and you’ll feel a rush of adrenaline which makes getting to sleep harder. The timing of that varies between individuals, but it can last several hours.”Ana Noia, Senior Clinical Physiologist in Neurophysiology and Sleep at the Bupa Cromwell Hospital.
4. Stick to a sleep schedule
It’s easier said than done, but if you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, you don’t need an alarm clock to wake you up. That’s because your body has a natural sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm) that helps you stay awake and tells your body when it’s time to go to bed.
Changing your sleep times by more than an hour can seriously affect your sleep quality by disrupting your circadian rhythm. So try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule to no more than one hour on weeknights and weekends. Consistency is essential to strengthen your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you do not fall asleep within about 20 minutes, get up and do something to relax. Read a book or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy. Repeat the procedure if you are not lucky.
“I see many people with busy, busy lives who tend to sleep very little during the week and then make up for it on the weekends, sleeping for hours,” explains Ana.
“It doesn’t help to regulate a sleep pattern and makes it much harder for our body to know when to sleep. It’s the most difficult rule to follow – especially when you’re tired and want to sleep all day – but it’s important to follow a routine,” explains Ana.
5. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
Exposure to bright light (e.g. sunlight) during the day helps to keep your sleep-wake cycle healthy. It regulates the secretion of melatonin – the “sleep hormone”.
The pineal gland in your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark – making you sleepy – and less when it’s light – making you more alert. So exposure to light after sunset makes your brain think it’s still daytime and reduces the secretion of melatonin.
Blue light is the worst in this respect. And modern electronics like smartphones, computers, and televisions emit it in large quantities.
In short, bright light before bedtime can disturb the body’s internal clock. Therefore, avoid bright screens within two hours before going to bed. Turn down the brightness of all devices and consider using light-modifying software such as f.lux.
6. Set the right bedroom temperature
Everyone has their preferred sleeping temperature. Some like it warm, others cold.
But regardless of whether you argue with your partner about controlling the thermostat, the scientifically-based answer to the perfect room temperature for a good night’s sleep is to set it between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nevertheless, find the right temperature for you and adjust your thermostat accordingly.
7. Eat a light dinner
Avoid heavy meals before going to bed. Eating a large meal before bedtime can lead to poor sleep and hormonal imbalances.
“Eating too close to bedtime increases your blood sugar and insulin, which causes you to have a hard time falling asleep. Therefore, your last meal should be the lightest of the day and should be eaten at least three hours before you go to sleep.”Tracy Lockwood, a registered dietitian at F-Factor Nutrition.
8. Limit liquid intake before bedtime
Drinks containing caffeine and alcohol are two major taboos when it comes to achieving a good quality of sleep.
“It can take up to six hours for the caffeine level to drop to half of the original dose, which makes us anxious and delays sleep,” explains Ana.
You may have the impression that alcohol, on the other hand, helps you sleep. It is true that alcohol has a calming effect and makes it easier for you to fall asleep, but you will not enjoy a good night’s sleep. It leads to dehydration, and you will experience fragmented sleep and feel unnerved when you wake up. This is one of the best tips for sleeping better and waking up fully awake.
Nocturia is also a common problem in adults where you feel the need to wake up several times during the night to urinate. Although it is absolutely vital for your health to drink water and stay hydrated, it is advisable to reduce your water consumption in the late evening.
9. Embrace the dark
Before going to bed, not only do not use bright electronic devices but also try to sleep in a pitch-black room. Use blackout blinds or blinds to block the outside light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also cover electronics that emit light.
This will stimulate your body to prepare for its sleep cycle. If for some reason you need to wake up in the middle of the night, use a dimmed night light or a small flashlight and do not look directly at the light source. This will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
10. De-stress and wind down
If you are an anxious overthinker, bedtime is also the time to dither. Write down all your worries and put them aside for tomorrow.
Residual stress, worries, or annoyance from the day can make sleep difficult. Take steps to learn how to stop worrying too much. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at night.
Meditation, deep breathing, and stretching can help.
Proper time management is also important to reduce work-related stress. Set priorities and delegate tasks when you feel overwhelmed. The more your brain is over-stimulated during the day, the harder it can be to relax at night.
Schedule specific times for interrupting activities such as checking email or social media and focus on one task at a time. Later, when it comes to going to the hay, your brain will not be used to seeking new stimulation and you will be better able to relieve stress.
About Author: Mostafa is a seasoned growth strategist with over nine years of experience in growing SaaS and eCommerce startups. He has worked as a growth team leader at VC-backed startups and consulted with Fortune 500 clients including American Express, P&G, and Ford. Mostafa has also written for Wired and SmartBrief and is a regular tech contributor for the BBC. He currently heads growth at Somn, a sleep community, and eCommerce startup.