Save money on sleeping pills by trying these methods instead.
Getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely essential to leading a healthy life in many other ways, as it’s this time for resetting every night that determines the course of our day. So why is it that so many people don’t take sleep seriously and develop bad habits that prevent them from getting a full night of rest?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly half of the people in the U.S. have indicated that they suffer from one or more of the symptoms associated with insomnia. These symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, frequent nighttime awakenings, waking up too early, and waking up feeling unrested.
While sleep plays a huge role in how our days are conducted, our daytime activities also affect how well we sleep. If we consistently sleep poorly and then are in a bad mood and aren’t productive the next day because of it, then the next night we will also sleep poorly and this creates a vicious cycle.
Consider changing or incorporating these activities in your daily life to more effectively control your sleeping patterns and finally feel well-rested all of the time.
Exercise is extremely important as the benefits are nearly innumerable and can affect many aspects of our lives. Besides the usual benefits of weight loss and maintenance, exercise can also regulate our body’s natural clock, decrease stress and anxiety, and act as a beneficial stressor.
Since sometimes having an unproductive day can often leave us feeling restless and unable to sleep, exercise is crucial to regulating your body’s circadian rhythm and ensuring that you fall asleep and wake up at the appropriate time. Exercise also puts stress on your body that is actually beneficial because it tires you out and causes you to sleep more deeply. Stress and anxiety are often at the root of insomnia, and by relieving some of these symptoms through exercise, you can more easily fall asleep.
The best kind of exercise to do for better sleep is any type of aerobic exercise. This includes walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and other activities that get your heart racing and a heavy flow of oxygen coursing through your body. Anaerobic exercises, such as weight lifting, have shown to be less effective at improving sleep.
While exercising in the morning can be very beneficial and a great start to your day, the best time to exercise to improve sleep is approximately 3-5 hours before bedtime. Exercising 15-45 minutes per day is ideal, but experts have seen an improvement of sleep of up to 60% from a total duration of 150 minutes per week.
Though the outdoor environment is very important, what is meant here by the word “environment” is actually the atmosphere indoors. The things you surround yourself with before and during sleep can deeply affect the way your mind functions in those minutes before falling asleep, and the wrong environment can turn those minutes into hours.
The color of your room can affect your sleep, as experts have found that those who sleep in a blue-toned room tend to sleep longer than those in any other colored room. The color blue is neutral and tells your brain that it’s a calm and ideal environment for sleep at all times.
Light has a powerful effect on your body’s internal clock because the presence of light tells your body that it’s still daytime and not time to sleep. While this means that it’s important to get enough light during the day to keep you awake and regulate your circadian rhythm, it also means surrounding yourself with sufficient darkness prior to and during sleep. This means dimming your lights if possible one hour before sleep to cue your brain and to refrain from using electronics (because of the light they emit) before bed.
If noises outside of your control are a factor, such as loud neighbors or animal sounds outside, consider using white noise machines or an app on your phone to drown them out during the initial phases of sleep. Many of the machines and apps have sleep timers so that they don’t continue throughout the night, which is great because once you reach deeper phases of sleep you’re not likely to wake up from the disturbing noises anyway.
Not only is the kind of food you eat important to your health and sleep but the time you eat certain items can dramatically affect your ability to sleep. The following foods and drinks are terrible for a good night of sleep for various reasons: coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, chocolate, and high-fat foods.
Coffee and chocolate both have caffeine in them and can keep you up for hours if consumed close to bedtime. Even once it has worn off, the anxiety of losing so much sleep can continue to keep you awake. Alcohol has shown to improve sleep for the first half of the night because it makes you drowsy, but has shown to cause a ton of sleep disruptions during the second half of the night. Spicy foods can change your body temperature and, therefore, your body’s internal clock throughout the night if consumed too late. Fatty foods have proven to disrupt the chemicals that are integral to our body’s circadian rhythm, and rats that were fed high-fat foods were shown to doze more often during the day and sleep intermittently at night.
Some vitamins that promote healthy sleeping patterns: magnesium, potassium, tryptophan, B vitamins, theanine, and melatonin. Foods that contain some of these vitamins are bananas, milk, peanut butter, tart fruits like cherries, green tea, fish, walnuts, and leafy greens. While you can instead take supplements for any of these vitamins, it’s better for your body to naturally consume the vitamins through eating these foods consistently.
There is a growing trend that promotes meditation and mindfulness but it’s not just a fad that will die out. Meditation can heavily impact not only your sleeping patterns but your day-to-day stress and anxiety by relieving a lot of those symptoms so you can lead a more productive and mindful life.
A study conducted with patients experiencing insomnia were given instructions to practice meditation for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, 60% of the participants no longer fit the qualifications for the diagnosis, and many fell asleep twice as fast as they did at the beginning. In the 12 month follow-up, the results appeared to be long-lasting and many patients continued to practice meditation on their own.
People who regularly meditate have also been shown to have an enhancement in both REM and non-REM sleep and experience fewer awakenings between sleep cycles. Meditating any time of the day will help your overall stress, but meditating shortly before bed can do wonders for your sleep.
5. Bedtime Routines
Developing a routine before bedtime can get your brain in the right mindset for sleep and cause it to begin shutting down before you even close your eyes, making sleep even easier to achieve.
General rules for building a sleeping routine include not using any electronics for 30-60 minutes before bed, only using your bed for sleep and intimacy, and not using an alarm clock to really activate your body’s circadian rhythm.
While weekends may seem to be reserved for sleeping in, resisting this urge and maintaining your sleep schedule throughout the weekend will help you with sleep for the whole week.
Choosing a favorite activity to do before bed can also help immensely. Some suggestions include reading, yoga/stretching, meditating, and listening to calming music.
Making your bed everyday can also help with the environment of the room and your ability to fall asleep. Those who make their bed daily reported a 20% increase in the likelihood of falling asleep without insomnia symptoms.
6. Tools and Resources
There are a number of apps that can help with your schedule and sleeping patterns in a number of ways, ranging from actually tracking your sleep to helping you with relaxing activities for your pre-sleep routine.
Sleep Cycle: Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock tracks your sleep by monitoring your sounds or movements (your choice) throughout the night. It determines what your sleep cycle is each night and can give you statistics to see how your nights vary. It even lets you add personal Sleep Notes so you can choose every night which applies to you and see over the long-term which ones are affecting your sleep.
White Noise: The app allows you to choose from a large library of white noises to drown out disruptions and help lull you to sleep. With the free app you get 40 sounds to choose from, and you can purchase more from there.
Headspace: This app is the ultimate meditation app with the same super relaxing voice guiding you through a large variety of meditation sessions. Since meditation is highly recommended for people serious about improving their sleep, this is the perfect app.
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