Last Updated: May 24, 2018.
Tossing and turning during bedtime? It isn’t always the easiest to fall asleep fast.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50-70 million adults in the USA have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorder. Of those adults:
- 35.3% sleep less than 7 hours
- 48.0% reported snoring
- 37.9% reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day
- 4.7% reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving
You probably know the basic ideas like reading a book or sleeping with the lights off, but when these don’t work what can you do?
There are five major factors that affect your sleep that we aim to tackle in this brief guide: body temperature, noise and sound, movement, light, and your mental well being.
Below are a few simple strategies that tackle the five major factors that affect your sleep. You can test these strategies to see what works best for a faster and better sleep. They are scientific-based and are easy to implement. Before you know it, you an expert at your sleeping game.
First off, however, let’s prepare for your sleep:
Five Ways To Sleep Better At Night
Prepare To Sleep, Every Sleep
Like it or not, a lot of our day is driven by routine behavior. A very common behavior for most people is to keep their smartphone beside or on their bed. Although it can be understanding why you need it nearby, it’s not always best to be on your smartphone during the night.
Light emitting from your mobile device, computer screen or television suppresses melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. According to the Brigham And Women’s Hospital, it can also impact your circadian clock, which dictates your sleep and wake up patterns.
Your brain can become wakeful and alert by exposing yourself to the blue light from your smartphone, making that much more difficult to fall asleep.
Caffeine is another item you should keep a close eye on. There is no doubt that caffeine is a great stimulant for mental alertness, however, you should cut off from the coffee runs way before bedtime.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime can have disruptive effects on sleep. Your body needs time to process the caffeine in full before the effects wear off before bedtime. Caffeine can also be found in tea, energy drinks, sodas, certain medication, and chocolate.
Stressing about work can also put your brain into overdrive when you should be going to sleep. Having a cut off time when you can put your work (and smartphone) down to relax will help you fall asleep much easier and faster.
Our recommendation is 1 to 2 hours before bed should be your cut off time. Reading a book or penciling your thoughts (more on this later) will help your mind rest at ease before drifting into sleep.
Cool Your Room Temperature
Ever feel hot during your sleep? According to Dr. Christopher Winter on the Huffington Post, those who have trouble sleeping may have an overall warmer body core temperature and this inability to cool off affects their sleep.
Sleep typically begins when your core body temperature begins to drop. You naturally produce less heat and lose more heat during the night to facilitate. However, when it’s a bit too hot, your body and mind don’t get ready to sleep so you stay awake longer.
The solution? The recommended bedroom temperature is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit to help your body along with its first steps for optimal sleep.
It helps to set your bedroom like a cave before sleeping. It should be cool, dark, cool, and quiet for the best possible chance of good rest.
Enjoy Ambient Noise
Noise is another factor that can affect your sleep. White noise can help you with better chance of undisturbed sleep, according to Sleep Foundation. It can also be relaxing, too.
The science behind noise waking us up has less to do with what kind of sound and how loud it is, but more on the difference between the baseline of sound you fall asleep with compared to the peak noise disruption.
Just as you would hear a pin drop in a silent room, with white noise, the sound coming from the pin drop won’t affect you as much.
Also, turn off that television. Some people enjoy having the sound and light emitting from their television set for falling asleep. However, shows or news on TV will never be a consistent noise level. Sudden changes in the noise can suddenly make you alert, leaving you drowsy even after a 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
Some excellent sources for white noise can be a fan, air purifier, or an app on your smartphone that produces different white noise.
Pencil Your Thoughts
How often do you take a moment to see where your head is at? Being introspective helps you become more conscious and aware of all the major thoughts you may be having throughout your day. By knowing what’s going on inside that big, beautiful noodle of yours, you can take steps to reduce the mental stress you are unconsciously placing on yourself.
We don’t have all the time in the world, but even 15 minutes before bedtime can make all the difference.
One small study of 41 college students who were plagued by bedtime worries was assigned different self-help techniques. The study found that journaling every evening reduced anxiety and worrying thoughts, improved the quality of sleep, and time spent sleeping.
How can you do the same? First off, commit to a few minutes before bed. Most people fall off the bandwagon because they suddenly stopped writing altogether, so make the commitment to do so.
Secondly, write about a recent, positive experience in your day or week. It doesn’t have to be a monumental moment. Add in details of what made you feel good and describe the feelings as well.
Lastly, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. You won’t be graded and your journal should be your eyes only.
Breathe With Purpose.
The goal with breathing is to relax your body and focus your attention on yourself.
From the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, as we switch from being awake to the first stages of sleep, our breathing rate slightly decreases and becomes very regular. By taking these first steps right away, you can fall asleep faster.
Dr. Matthew MacKinnon wrote for Psychology Today about the effects of breathing for your sleep. Besides the effects on your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) that helps slow physiological responses such as rapid heart rate and respiration, but it also improves happiness and your resilience to stress.
One study published on The Physiological Society shows that respiration is linked to emotions. How your respiration changes depends on the emotions you feel.
If you are looking for techniques to breathe, the highly popularized 4-7-8 breathing exercise by Dr. Andrew Weil is one to test for yourself. The steps are simple to follow:
- Press your tongue gently on the roof of your mouth
- Inhale through the nose for four seconds
- Hold your breath for seven seconds
- Exhale slowly through the mouth for eight seconds
- Repeat four more times
For other breathing exercises by Dr. Andrew Weil, click here.
One of the great things about controlling your breathing is that it has only to do with yourself and can be regulated however you want.
Our Final Thoughts
The scientific-based strategies listed above can be within your control as well. Overall, there are five major factors you should keep an eye on when you are off to bedtime: body temperature, noise and sound, movement, light, and your mental wellbeing.
Focusing on these five factors will simplify things so you can make the biggest impact for a great sleep experience. The strategies above are based on scientifically proven results that will give you that impacting chance for the best possible quality sleep.
Keep in mind that even if you have the most optimal sleep environment, if your mattress or pillow doesn’t sleep well, then it’s hard to sleep better and quicker.
Give the strategies above a test and let us know below how they fair for you. What strategy worked well? What strategy didn’t work out well? Do you have a suggestion you would like to share?
Let us know below!