What if you could change your daily habits and get better sleep? On average, you’ll spend approximately 26 years asleep. That’s over 9,000 days or almost 230,000 hours. It’s an essential part of your life and is vital to your overall health, particularly your brain health.
Your body needs an average of seven to ten hours of sleep a night. However, busy lifestyles, stress, and even changes in sleep patterns as you age can chip away at how much sleep you end up getting. Because sleep is such a vital part of your existence, developing healthy sleep habits is one thing you can do to take better care of your body and brain.
1- Set a sleep schedule
Of all the things you can do in order to ensure you get healthy sleep, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is the most important. One common misconception is that you can catch up on sleep. Unfortunately, it takes up to four days to recover from one hour of lost sleep. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule keeps your brain happy and healthy.
2- Exercise daily
It may seem counterintuitive, but staying active throughout the day is a fantastic way to keep your sleep on track. Being active for 30 minutes a day improves sleep quality for myriad reasons. It releases endorphins and lowers cortisol levels in your brain, which work to keep your brain awake. It also stabilizes your sleep-wake cycle so you can not only fall asleep at consistent times but fall into a deeper, higher quality sleep, as well.
3- Be aware of lighting
Your circadian rhythm largely drives your sleep-wake cycle. And this rhythm is directly affected by light—specifically blue light. Sunlight is made up of an array of light, but the one that impacts your circadian rhythm directly are the blue rays. These are strongest in the morning, which is why getting sunlight right when you wake up can help you feel invigorated and energized. These rays lower as the sun sets, allowing your brain to release melatonin and prepare for sleep. Unfortunately, many of the devices in modern-day life, such as televisions, computers, and phones, also have blue light in them. Using blue light glasses at night or avoiding screens for at least one hour before going to bed can help reduce the effect blue light has on your brain and help you fall asleep faster.
4- Eat healthy food
Food plays a crucial role in how well you sleep. A diet consisting of high fiber and low sugar helps you fall asleep faster and can increase the amount of deep, slow-wave sleep you get each night. Sugar and caffeine can not just keep you awake but wake you up throughout the night as well. And because they stay in your system for several hours, you want to avoid them at least eight hours before going to bed. Spicy foods can lead to heartburn or acid reflux, so minimizing those before bed will lead to better quality sleep as well. And foods rich in magnesium and vitamin B boost and balance your melatonin levels, the neurochemical vital to healthy sleep.
5- Create a sleep-friendly environment
Paying attention to where you sleep is an important step in getting quality sleep every night. You get your best sleep in rooms that are cool, dark, quiet, and have minimal clutter in them. If you live near bright street lights, using blackout curtains or a sleep mask can help keep the light out. Earbuds or earplugs designed for sleep can help minimize noise. Ideally, minimize screen time by avoiding watching television or scrolling social media in bed. But a healthy sleep environment also extends to making sure you have a comfortable and supportive mattress, bedding, and pillows. And you want to only use your bed and bedroom for sleep, keeping work or other daytime activities in other areas of your home whenever possible.
Meditation has significant health benefits, one of which is healthier sleep. Studies in biopsychology, the study of behavior on the brain, has shown that meditation can reduce insomnia by reducing and managing extreme emotions like anger, anxiety, stress, and depression. Meditating before bed can help your body and mind relax so you can fall asleep faster and experience deeper sleep. And meditating during the day can help keep your sleep cycles on track. If you’re feeling tired or fatigued, ten minutes of meditation is equivalent to roughly forty minutes of sleep, so meditating instead of napping can give you the energy boost you need without disrupting your sleep-wake cycle.
7- Know when to nap
Naps can be a secret weapon to daytime productivity but there’s a trick to napping without sacrificing your sleep cycle. First, aim for naps that are ten to twenty minutes long, never going over thirty minutes if you can help it. Second, don’t sleep past 3 pm so that you aren’t disrupting your natural sleep rhythms. Drinking a small cup of coffee before starting your nap can also help you wake up within the allotted time, as caffeine takes roughly twenty to thirty minutes to take effect.
8- Read a Book
One habit that can help develop healthy sleep and reduce screen time before bed is reading a book. In 2009, University of Sussex researchers found that reading a book for at least six minutes before bed lowered stress by 68%. Reading fiction has been found to be as relaxing as meditation, in that it takes your mind out of your worries and allows you to fall into different thought patterns. By clearing your minds, you ease into a relaxed state that helps you fall asleep. Keep in mind, while some e-readers are designed to have low levels of blue light, tablets or phones won’t have the same effect. Actual books are ideal.
Making small changes to your daily routines can make a world of difference when it comes to healthy sleep. If you implement healthy sleep habits and still find yourself struggling, we always recommend seeing a medical professional. Getting quality sleep is one of the most important facets to ensuring your body and mind perform at optimal levels, unlocking your limitless potential.
For more on how to develop better sleep habits, watch this video: