It's safe to say that we, as a country, have a sleeping problem. Half of Americans report insomnia, and over 8 million are taking prescription sleep medicine.
One of the most popular options is sleeping pills, but they bring with them a long list of negative effects. They also only target the symptoms of the issue and not the root of what’s causing them.
Even people who have complete control over all other aspects of their lives haven't mastered the art and science behind getting good sleep. Even if you get a full eight hours, are you 100 percent refreshed?
Keep reading to figure out why good sleep is vital in your life, how much sleep you need, and tricks to improve your sleeping habits.
WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT
Sleep is a key part of maintaining strength, staying happy, and maintaining optimal productivity. Good, restorative sleep helps you with:
- Boosting cognitive function
- Promoting muscle recovery
- Contributing to longer lifespan
- Keeping your hormones balanced
- Improving heart health
- Preventing fat storage
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU NEED?
You've likely been told eight hours of sleep is ideal, but the truth is, it's not the number of hours that makes the difference; it's the quality of sleep. Studies have shown that people who regularly get 6 ½ hrs of sleep live longer than those who get more. And this may be due to the fact healthier people don't need as much.
How do you get the right kind of sleep? Continue reading for science-backed sleep hacks to help you get to sleep a lot faster and improve the quality of your sleep.
7 SCIENCE-BACKED SLEEP HACKS TO IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
- PROTECT YOURSELF FROM JUNK LIGHT
This is the main hack you should follow among any other items on this list. The blue light that radiates from electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers inhibit your sleep. Blue light suppresses your body from producing the sleep hormone melatonin. It fools your brain into thinking it's daytime – all night long. These monitors and screens aren't the only source of junk light as they can be emitted from street lights and LED bulbs too.
The ideal techniques to lessen exposure to blue light are:
- Use blackout drapes
- Keep unused electronics unplugged in your bedroom
- Use blue light blocking glasses
- Turn off all electronics two hours before sleeping
- Turn on the warm light setting on your smartphone
- MEDITATE EVERY DAY
You switch the lighting off at a sensible time, nestle into bed, and ... your mind races a mile-a-minute. Did you forget to reply to an email? Is your life the way you wanted it to be? What do you eat for lunch tomorrow? Why is it taking so long to finish your novel or buy your dream home? If these are your thoughts when lying in bed at night, it’s a sign that stress and anxiety are getting in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep.
Meditation is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels. It puts you in control of your issues by, ironically, making you aware of them. Practicing meditation helps you spot the difference between thoughts that are good and thoughts that aren't. Along the way, your neural pathways are improved, leading to increased calmness.
Start with a 5-minute meditation and slowly increase it to 20 minutes over time.
- USE SLEEP TECHNOLOGY
Deepen your rest with today's advanced sleep devices. For economical options, you can download apps like Sonic Sleep Coach to log your sleeping patterns and play music or sounds like white noise to drown out other noises. If you have more money to spend, invest on wearable devices which can come as headbands which help slow down your brain waves by playing soft audio when detecting deep sleep stages, or rings that can help measure your resting heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV) and sleep stages.
If you don't like electronics, weighted blankets work great. They can weigh from 2 up to 24 pounds, and the added weight helps reduce anxiety and improve your sleep.
- DISCOVER YOUR CHRONOTYPE
I hope you're lying down because you're about to learn something about sleep that will surprise you. It turns out that getting up early isn't for everyone, and it shouldn't be. You and everyone you know have unique circadian rhythms. When you follow your body's natural sleep rhythm, you sleep better while increasing your alertness and productivity levels to work or study.
In general, there are four types of sleepers. Which one are you?
Bear: Most people fall under this category. Bears' body clocks follow the sun, and they fall to sleep quickly. If you're a bear, recharge throughout the mid-afternoon when bears experience a dip.
Wolf: If you're a night person, work late and sleep later. Peak work hours are between noon and 2 pm, and later in the day at 5 pm.
Lion: Lions get up early and work quickly. Go to bed early rather than stay up browsing Netflix.
Dolphin: If you struggle to drift to sleep and often wake up throughout the night, you're a dolphin. Schedule most of your work between mid-morning and early mid-day.
- HOW YOU SLEEP MATTERS
Does your sleeping position matter? Yes, it makes a huge difference. Research the benefits and drawbacks of lying on your back, side, and stomach, and learn how to make the most of your favorite sleeping position.
You can even try this hack—place your mattress a few inches higher on the top part where you lie your head. Sleeping on an incline helps your brain clear out waste that accumulated throughout the day, a process called glymphatic water drainage.
- EAT THE RIGHT FATS
What you consume affects your sleep. Your mind is actually the fattiest organ in the body. High-grade fats like grass-fed butter or wild-caught fish provide nutrients for your brain so it can do its own repair work while you sleep.
Certain fats also level your blood sugar and keep away hunger. If you have dinner consisting of healthy fats, you won't wander around at night looking for something to snack on. For added fat boost, add one tablespoon of high-quality MCT Oil to your bedtime herbal tea.
- TAKE SUPPLEMENTS
Just like sleeping pills, supplements provide sleep benefits. The right options will help you relax better and sleep faster while improving the quality of your sleep. Here are some of the best:
Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D inhibit sleep, and it's a common problem. Nearly half the population is low on this key vitamin.
Krill Oil: Oily fish like sardines, krill, and salmon are full of brain-boosting Omega-3s, to aid you in getting better sleep while helping you sleep quicker. Eat three portions of fatty fish per week, or take two supplements of krill oil (1,560 mg of omega-3's) twice daily with food.
Magnesium: Supplementing with magnesium lowers tension and maintains healthy levels of melatonin. Take 600 to 800 milligrams every 24 hours. Even an Epsom salt bath at night helps.
Turns out, getting 8 hours of sleep doesn’t always guarantee the highest quality of sleep. To summarize, avoiding blue light 2 hrs before sleep, meditation, using sleep apps and gadgets, learning your chronotype, your sleeping positions, eating the right fats and taking in supplements all play an important role in you having a restorative sleep. Get better sleep by following these tips!