Everyone knows that sleep is important. When you don’t get enough sleep, you feel worn-down and crabby, and you’re more prone to getting sick. But sometimes, even after a long night of rest, you may still find yourself feeling fatigued. This is because it isn’t a question of getting enough sleep, but of how to get the absolute best night’s sleep possible. Fortunately, you can make some simple changes to improve the quality of your sleep.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Your body has an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm, which controls several functions in your body—including your sleep-wake cycles. It makes you more alert at certain times and less alert at others. When you have a consistent sleep schedule, your internal clock can settle into a rhythm that will help you wake up and go to sleep more naturally. However, an inconsistent rhythm throws off this cycle. Stick to a regular bedtime, and set your alarm at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends).
Wind Down Before You Go to Bed
Taking at least an hour before you go to bed to decompress at the end of a long day will reduce the stress that can keep you awake. A good way to wind down is to create a nightly routine to signal to your brain that it’s time for bed. Journaling, deep breathing, and light reading (but nothing too exciting!) are good ways to calm down. Avoid using your phone or other electronics before bed, as these stimulate your brain—the blue light from the screens affects the release of melatonin and disrupts your circadian rhythm.
Create a Good Sleep Space
It’s good to sleep in a cool, quiet, dark environment. Keeping the lights on mimics daylight, and it may signal to your brain that it’s time to get up. Ultimately, your brain should associate your bedroom with sleep. Try not to turn your bed into a workspace. If you find that you’re uncomfortable in your room, it might be time to consider redesigning it for optimal sleep.
People who partake in moderate to vigorous exercise five times a week for at least thirty minutes per session tend to fall asleep more easily. However, because exercise releases endorphins and raises the body’s internal temperature, it’s best not to exercise too close to bedtime. Exercising in the morning or afternoon is the sweet spot, but as long as you finish your workout at least an hour or two before bed, you should be able to sleep well.
Watch What You Eat
Light, healthy foods such as whole-grain carbs and milk make a fine bedtime snack, but you should avoid fatty, fried, and spicy foods that may upset your stomach and anything that contains caffeine. Alcohol may also affect the quality of your sleep. It tends to make people feel relaxed or drowsy, but it also affects sleep cycles and prevents a deeper, higher-quality sleep.