Most people feel like they don’t get enough sleep. However, it’s not just the amount of sleep we get, but the quality that affects us, too. Certain habits can have the unintentional effect of impacting how long or deeply we sleep. Ultimately, a poor night’s rest affects your cognitive function, energy, and even your cholesterol levels. Luckily, a little awareness is all it takes to correct those bad habits and restore bedtime for its original purpose. If you spend your evenings tossing and turning, here are six unique ideas for improving your natural sleep routine.
1. Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
That afternoon cup of coffee might give you the focus and energy you need to finish your day. It could also be keeping you up at night. Caffeine can remain present in the blood for 6-8 hours, which means drinking a cup anytime after 3 p.m. is bound to still be in your system by bedtime. In general, people who sip on coffee all day long will take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night. For this reason, coffee lovers are encouraged to avoid coffee after 3 p.m. or switch to decaf.
2. Try a Natural Supplement
These days, there are a number of supplements available over the counter that can be used as a sleep aid. Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone that is already secreted naturally by the brain. Supplemental melatonin is a popular treatment for insomnia, though small doses of 1-5 milligrams are suggested to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. Other beneficial supplements include valerian root, L-theanine, and lavender. As always, you should consult a healthcare professional before incorporating additional supplements in your diet.
3. Get Some Sun
Exposure to sunlight is important for maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm, the engine that tells our brain to wake up in the morning and feel tired in the evening. Studies show that receiving at least two hours of sunlight a day is sufficient for improving sleep quality. People who work long hours indoors are encouraged to switch their artificial lights for natural, daylight bulbs, which should produce a similar benefit.
4. Wake Up and Fall Asleep at the Same Time
Along with sunlight, having a consistent sleep schedule is also beneficial to circadian health. Not only does this train your body when to feel awake or tired, it also keeps melatonin production stable. If you struggle with waking up at the same time each day, it’s very easy to set a daily alarm until your body learns to wake itself up without one.
5. Reduce Your Blue Light Exposure
Blue wavelength light suppresses melatonin production, which can obviously mess with your sleep quality. Blue light is also the type of light emitted by most laptop and phone screens. Therefore, it’s easy to see why scientists agree that excess screen time before bed can negatively impact how you sleep. To mitigate the damage, simply avoid screens a couple hours before bed, or try a blue light filtering app.
6. Hit the Gym
Scientific research confirms that there is a relationship between exercise and sleep. In short, people who exercise regularly are expected to fall asleep faster and have less sleep problems than people who live sedentary lifestyles. To gain the full benefit of exercise on your sleep routine, it’s best to perform your exercises in the morning. Too much physical activity before bedtime can elevate your endorphin levels, which is more likely to keep you awake longer.