Jul 19, 2017
Science-backed Ways to Get More (and better) Sleep
Between our job demands, family life, and personal obligations, a full night’s sleep is often hard to come by these days. And if you have the opportunity to hit the hay for a full eight hours, you probably go to bed with ever-growing to do lists swirling around in your head. This doesn’t make for a restful evening. Let’s counter that. You’ve heard the basics, such as reading before bed, using blackout drapes, and counting sheep. But what else can you do to get a restful night’s sleep?
Below are some other tips for optimizing your nightly shuteye:
Resist the urge to fall asleep on the couch: After a long workday, many of us make dinner then plop down on the couch in front of the television or laptop. That’s when the nightly drowsiness kicks in. While you may be tempted to drift off during your favorite 8 PM show, experts suggest that you do your best to keep yourself up until your actual bedtime. If you feel yourself getting tired, don’t give in. Get up and do something stimulating such as call a friend or lay out your clothes for the next day.
Avoid bright screens two hours before bedtime. Lights from tablets and smartphones can overload us with short wavelength blue light and interfere with our natural sleeping rhythms. In a world where most of us are glued to our devices, however, not glancing at them before bed seems darn near impossible. To combat this, download an app, like Koala Web Browser or f.lux, to dim your phone and computer screens and cut the amount of blue light you are exposed to on your device at night. Stephen Lockley, a Harvard University sleep researcher, notes that even exposure to dim light can interfere with a person’s sleep situation. “Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep.”
Up your magnesium intake: Magnesium is said to play a big role in helping us to sleep soundly throughout the night. Pop a supplement an hour before your bedtime or snack on some magnesium-rich foods like almonds, apples, or carrots as an evening snack.
Keep the bedroom cool - even in the winter. When it’s cold outside especially, you may be compelled to crank the heat and crawl into bed. But sleeping in a cooler room fosters a greater chance of you falling and staying asleep throughout the night. So what do you set your thermostat dial to? According to Dr. Christopher Winter, MD, the magic number is 65 degrees.
Kick your pet out of the bed. While you may think that you are able to sleep with your dog or cat, it’s very likely that his presence next to you on your mattress is disturbing you in the night. If you want a full uninterrupted eight hours, snuggle with your pet on the couch and then tuck them into their own pet-approved beds before heading into your own bedroom. Dr. Lois Krahn, a professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorder Center says, “Putting up with poor sleep just because you love your pet can negatively affect things like your mood, memory and, in extreme cases, even your heart."
Don’t eat a massive meal before bed: There is an expression that says, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” The rationale behind this is that eating too much and then lying down for the evening can really disrupt your sleep. When you eat before bed, especially a large dinner, your digestive system has to work extra hard to process your food. This can heavily impair your sleep.
Don’t overdo the liquids before bed: You’ve heard not to drink caffeine or alcohol too close to bed, but the same thing goes with water. While it’s great to take a few sips of water before you snooze to stay hydrated, avoid overdoing it. Frequent bathroom trips in the middle of the night do not make for a restful night’s sleep.
Need a quick refresher? Check this video below.