How to Sleep Better: Mastering the Art of Feeling Less Tired
Seeing as you’ve made it to this page, I assume you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. You’re probably exhausted and stressed out because you just don’t seem to be able to get a good restful sleep. Every night, you toss and turn, waking up more tired the next day. What’s more, the tiredness has accumulated – so much so that you sometimes feel like a zombie.
Don’t fret, I’ve been there and, so have thousands of others. The good news is, there are lots of things you can do. This article outlines how to sleep better as well as looking at the role of sleep in your overall health. In addition, we examine tried and tested methods, natural sleeping aids, and the issues surrounding sleeping pills.
By the end of the article, you will be confident that you, too, can master the art of getting a great night’s sleep.
Impact of Sleep on Health – What Does Sleep Do for Your Health?
The body needs sleep for a variety of processes. Included here are muscle repair, hormone release, and consolidation of memories. So, what exactly happens when you sleep?
You may have heard of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. Both types combine to form sleeping patterns or cycles, each lasting about 90 minutes. If your sleep is sketchy, these cycles get disrupted. This means that the body cannot undertake all the repair and restoration work you need to remain healthy.
Let’s look at REM and non-REM sleep:
You spend about 25% of your sleeping time in REM sleep, the first one at about 90 minutes into your night’s sleep. During REM sleep, the body and brain re-energize. Your eyes move back and across rapidly, hence the name REM. It is during REM sleep that you dream, as the brain is nearly as active as it is when you’re awake. Other characteristics of REM sleep include increased blood pressure, faster heart rate, body temperature changes, and sexual arousal in adults. Additionally, babies can remain in REM sleep for up to 50 percent of the time in comparison to only about 20 percent of adults.
In addition, the brain consumes more oxygen during REM sleep.
Research suggests that REM sleep is crucial for overall health, especially when it comes to mood and memory.
Furthermore, REM plays a vital part in the development of the central nervous system, especially in babies. In a Washington State University study, researchers discovered that REM sleep promotes neural stimulation which helps to form strong neural connections.
Three quarters of the time we sleep are in non-REM sleep state. But what happens during non-REM sleep?
In fact, non-REM sleep features four different stages, each lasting between 5 and 15 minutes:
- Stage 1: This is the time when you are between fully awake and falling asleep. During this stage, your sleep is light and you don’t dream.
- Stage 2: After enjoying light sleep during stage 1, you move into a sleep that is a little deeper. Now, the heart rate slows and so does your breathing. What’s more, your body temperature drops slightly.
- Stage 3: Also known as delta sleep or slow-wave sleep, stage 3 is when your body and brain begin the restorative work. Now, the muscles relax and receive a bigger supply of blood, while the body grows and restores tissue, as well as releasing hormones. In addition, your overall energy storage gets a boost.
People aged 30 and under get approximately 2 hours of REM sleep each night.
This time reduces with age, with some elderly people only getting approximately 30 minutes of REM sleep. By the time people reach their 70s, the amount of non-REM sleep is far greater than the amount of REM sleep. In contrast, babies’ sleep is equally divided between the two.
If you’re wondering if could you do without either, the fact is you need both to maintain good overall health.
Consequences of Poor Sleep
Experts agree that not getting enough sleep does much more than cause daytime sleepiness.
In fact, years of research suggests that the negative impact of insomnia on overall health is significant.
It’s not just the physical body that experiences the ill effects of sleep deprivation. Mentally and emotionally, people who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night function much less effectively.
Let’s begin by looking at the health risks of chronic insomnia on a physical, mental, and emotional level.
Many studies have indicated that a chronic lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the immune system, the cardiovascular system, as well as the nervous system.
Illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes all come to the fore as possible consequences.
So, when you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t just lack overall energy. Instead, your body is missing out on the restorative action of sleep, as a result of which you may get sick.
Here is several simple tricks for back muscle relief to fall asleep fast:
The link between mental health and insomnia has been well-documented. For those suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, along with other mental illnesses, sleep disturbances are common symptoms. A lack of sleep deepens the mental health issues, which are in turn likely to cause further sleep problems.
The relationship between emotional health and insomnia is complicated because both have the potential to exacerbate one another. When you’re emotionally drained, you’re more likely to experience sleeping difficulties. At the same time, a lack of sleep can heighten emotional problems. In fact, experts believe that insomnia can bring on serious emotional difficulties.
In a study, they point out that a lack of sleep can bring on disorders such as anxiety and depression. This should come as no surprise, as everyone has experienced how small emotional issues can take on the size of a mountain when you’re lacking sleep.
So, now you know how important sleeping well is. Let’s look at how to sleep better.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
To optimize your chances of getting better sleep and establishing healthy sleeping habits, take on board as many of the following do’s and don’ts:
The 7 Do’s of Sleeping Better
- Set the Scene: Apart from choosing the right mattress, pillow, and bedding, several other factors can also contribute to improved sleep. Start by ensuring that the room is dark enough. Some people are extremely light-sensitive. Blackout blinds or curtains can help in this regard. In addition, make sure you wear comfortable night attire, which combined with the bedding gives you a comfortable temperature. It’s best to sleep in temperatures at and around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Set a Routine: Try to settle down for the night at the same time each night and get up at around the same time too. This helps your body to get into a routine. You’ll then have the right balance between rest and activity. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an occasional late night or lie-in on the weekends, though.
- Don’t Nap for more than 30 minutes a day: Having an early-afternoon siesta can make your afternoon more productive but don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes if you want to get a good night’s sleep. For more information on napping see our guide here.
- Exercise for 30 Minutes Earlier in the Day: Regular exercise can help to improve the quality of your sleep. However, avoid exercising late at night.
- Write Down Stress Points before Settling Down for the Night: If certain issues cause you to stress or worry, note them down and put them aside. This helps to clear and relax the mind in preparation for a more restful sleep.
- Try Relaxation Techniques: Many people incorporate mindfulness exercises or meditation into their bedtime routine, as both can help to ease the transition from wakefulness to sleep.
- Use Natural Sleeping Aids: As you read on, you’ll find out about a rake of natural sleeping aids and helpful relaxation techniques.
The 7 Don’ts of Sleeping Better
Try to avoid the following, as they are all potential sleep disruptors:
- Don’t Drink Stimulants in the Evening: Avoid drinks containing caffeine or tons of sugar including tea, coffee, and sodas. Caffeine impedes the function of the sleep-inducing chemical in the brain, so it’s best to stop its consumption early on in the day. Caffeine-sensitivity varies from person to person. While some people can enjoy an afternoon coffee, others experience sleep disruption even if they have a caffeine drink at lunchtime.
- Don’t Have a Big Meal Late at Night: Finish your main meal well before bedtime as a busy digestive system can disrupt your sleep. Ideally, you should stop eating about 3 hours before going to bed. In addition, don’t drink excessive amounts of liquids late at night either. You’ll only wake up because you have to go to the restroom.
- Don’t Exercise Late at Night: While exercising earlier in the day can improve the quality of your sleep, late-night workouts can do the opposite. When you exercise, your body temperature rises while a medley of stimulating brain chemicals gets a workout too, making it less likely for you to get a restful sleep.
- Switch Off the Gadgets: Try to turn off the TV, computer, and smartphone well before you want to go to sleep. This is to avoid over-stimulating the brain at a time when you need rest.
- Don’t Drink Alcohol: Alcohol consumption can also stop you from getting good sleep.
- Don’t Sleep Beside Your Gadgets: Gadgets emit an electromagnetic field that may also act as a sleep disruptor. Play it safe and sleep away from your devices.
- Don’t Go to Bed Too Late: You increase your chances of sleeping well if you go to bed between 10 and 11 pm.
If you manage to incorporate the do’s and avoid the don’ts, your chances of getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis are likely to improve a lot. If you’ve tried them all and are still struggling, you may like to consider using sleeping aids.
Many natural, non-prescription options are available, and they are all well worth checking out. If you’re still not convinced, discuss your sleep disturbances with your physician. She/he may prescribe some sleeping pills or recommend a specific course of action for you.
Let’s look at what’s available in natural sleeping aids.
Sleeping Aids – Drops, Pills, Herbs, Oils, and Yoga
Some of the following natural sleeping aids may not be suitable for you if you are on medication. Before taking any nutritional supplements, speak to your doctor to ensure they are safe for you to take.
Over-the-Counter Natural Sleeping Aids
If you visit your local health store or pharmacy, the salesperson can go through a wide variety of OTC natural sleeping remedies.
For the most part, herbal supplements in tablet or liquid form contain sleep-inducing herbs or nutritional ingredients including hops, passionflower, St. John’s wort, and valerian.
Make sure to discuss their suitability with your physician as herbal remedies can interfere with conventional drugs.
Don’t take natural sleeping aids if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant without first speaking to your doctor about their suitability.
Some nutrients play an important role in your sleep process. As a result, some people with sleep disturbances experience great relief when taking food supplements. Magnesium and calcium are said to be particularly beneficial in this respect.
Serotonin and Tryptophan
Foods containing the serotonin-producing tryptophan are also believed to help improve sleep quality. Hence, including foods like seeds, nuts, turkey, along with certain carbohydrates may help you to sleep better.
Essential oils like lavender and bergamot may also benefit. Either dab a couple of drops on your pillow or add some drops to a hot bath before going to bed.
Naturally produced in the brain, the hormone melatonin helps your brain to distinguish between night and day. Sometimes, this process gets disrupted and, in that case, taking non-prescription synthetic melatonin tablets may help.
However, not everyone benefits. Again, talking to your physician is advisable.
Foods that May Help You to Sleep Better
As mentioned earlier, foods high in the amino acid tryptophan can help to improve the quality of your sleep, as can foods that are high in magnesium and calcium. Hence, try to include the following in your diet:
- Dairy products
- Sweet potatoes
- Pistachio nuts
- Nuts and seeds
- Wholegrain bread
- Dark chocolate
Herbal teas can also work as a great bedtime drink, especially varieties like chamomile, peppermint, and lemon balm.
Yoga, Mindfulness, and Mediation
No doubt, practices like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation help thousands of people across the world to sleep better.
It’s well worth taking a class and learning some basic techniques before including such practices into your bedtime routine.
Each one helps to settle the mind and making the transition between waking and sleeping a little easier. What’s more, all these techniques provide ample benefits for an improved overall quality of life.
Prescription Sleeping Pills
Prescription sleeping pills induce drowsiness, with some specifically designed to promote sleep while some also act as a sedative. Even though many people benefit from taking prescription sleeping pills, over-reliance and abuse, along with serious side effects, have become an issue.
Nonetheless, your doctor may recommend a sleeping pill, just make sure to discuss all the above aspects. There are sleeping pills of different strength and mechanism, so your doctor will recommend the one best suited to your needs.
Now you know how to fall asleep fast and get better sleep, but what if you suffer from chronic insomnia? Let’s look at some common sleep disorders.
Common Sleep Disorders
The following sleep disorders rank among the most common:
- Insomnia: Trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night, fatigue during the day.
- Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing at various times during their sleep. As a result, their sleep quality is poor. Because this is a potentially serious disorder, sleep apnea sufferers need to seek medical attention.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: People who suffer from restless leg syndrome experience a serious urge to move their legs, especially in the evening and at night. This may make it difficult for them to fall asleep.
The Importance of Identifying the Cause of Your Poor Sleep – When to Seek Medical Help
Like with any health issue, identifying the underlying cause is crucial. When it comes to sleep, numerous factors can be the cause, as we have discussed. But when do you need to seek medical attention?
Well, if you go through a lengthy period of poor sleep, you need to go to the doctor. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk of developing other health issues on the back of sleep disturbances.
By all means, try our tips for better sleep, but if you still can’t get it right, visit your physician.
The Benefits of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep – Surprising Perks
You’re well-aware of the importance of getting a good night’s sleep but you may not be familiar with the following surprise perks:
- Better Memory: Both memory and learning skills improve when you get sufficient sleep.
- Regular Sleep Helps You to Live Longer: Studies have indicated a link between sleeping well and living longer.
- Sleep May Improve Your Athletic Performance: One study indicated that athletes who sleep more perform better.
- Sleep Can Improve Academic Performance: Getting good quality sleep improved the academic performance of university students in a study in Ethiopia.
- Sleep Helps to Lose Weight: If you’re trying to shed a few pounds, you may like to consider sleeping more. A study has indicated that people who get more sleep tend to lose more fat, whereas sleep-deprived people saw their muscles dwindle.
- Sleep Brings Down Stress Levels: People who get enough sleep tend to be less stressed than those who don’t.
- Sleep Helps to Improve Mental and Emotional Health: Getting enough sleep is crucial to maintaining good mental and emotional health.
- Sleep Reduces Accident Risks: If you’re fatigued because you never get a good sleep, you’re much more accident-prone.
The importance of sleeping well cannot be overstated. But just how much sleep is enough?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
So, how much sleep do you need? Let’s look at the amounts required in different life stages:
- 0 – 3 months: 14-17 hours
- 4 – 11 months: 12-15 hours
- 1 – 2 years of age: 11-14 hours
- 3 – 5 years old: 10-13 hours
- 6 – 13 years old: 9-11 hours
- 14 – 17 years of age: 8-10 hours
- 18 – 64 years old: 7-9 hours
- 64 and older: 7-8 hours
No matter which way you look at it, this is the amount of sleep you require to stay healthy and in top shape. Any less and you run the risk of suffering from all sorts of health issues.
Is Napping Good for You?
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, you may feel the need to take an afternoon nap. True, napping can help in many ways.
For starters, you’re likely to be more alert for the remainder of the day, even though you may feel a little disorientated after waking from a nap. Nevertheless, countless people love having a little siesta.
But, many sleep experts warn that prolonged naps may make sleeping problems worse.
In fact, they say that long naps can cause them in the first place. So, what’s the best way to nap?
- Nap between 2 and 3 in the afternoon only
- Don’t nap for any more than 30 minutes
- Nap in a relaxing, quiet space
As you can see, sleeping well is extremely important for your overall health. So, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, sleeping through the night, or you wake too early every morning, do something about it straight away.
With the tips we’ve outlined, you can do a lot to sleep better. The most important thing is to tackle sleeping problems head-on, rather than allowing them to become chronic. If you don’t, you run the risk of developing all sorts of health problems.
What’s more, you’ll avoid being irritable and stressed if you make sure you sleep enough.