You Should Be Sleeping Better, Especially Right Now. Here’s How

man sleeping quality
yacobchuk/Getty Images

Sleep is a vital function that enables our bodies to recharge, helping us to feel refreshed and alert upon waking up. When you don’t get enough sleep (especially quality sleep), you might experience a host of side effects such as poor memory, focus, and a compromised immune system, which can often lead to chronic disease, weight gain, and emotional distress if not managed.

Although sleep is as essential as eating or any other basic human function, reports show that 70% of adults get insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night. It is also estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.

The odds of being sleep-deprived have greatly increased in the past three decades, but we are here to help you make this year a productive one. And you can’t be productive or successful if your body is consistently running on low fuel. Here are a couple of tips you can try to optimize your bedtime routine to get better sleep.

Related Guides:

Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

If your alarm clock is how you wake up daily, then it might be a sign that you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, and you might need a reset. Our bodies are naturally designed to follow an internal clock system, known as our circadian clock, that essentially allows our bodies to reset every day by the sun’s cycle. This internal timekeeping system regulates our body’s circadian rhythm, which then regulates our sleep/wake cycle, body temperature rhythm, and hormonal activities, amongst other things.

The first step in improving your sleep quality is to get your sleep schedule in sync with your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. You may be asking, “What’s the best way to do that?” Fortunately, it’s very simple.

Resetting your circadian rhythm is as simple as being consistent with your sleep schedule. Waking up at the same time every day will help your body learn to adjust to this new rhythm, aiding your body in producing more natural melatonin (more on that later), which signals your brain to sleep. Be aware of any factors that can throw off your circadian rhythm, such as consuming caffeine too late in the day, exposure to bright lights too close to bedtime, and long naps throughout the day, just to name a few.

Add Regular Exercise to Your Routine

It goes without saying that exercise is an incredibly important factor in keeping the body, mind, and spirit in balance. What may be a surprise to you is the correlation that exercise has with improved sleep quality. Consequently, when you have a healthy sleep/wake cycle, you can reap the benefits while training in terms of endurance, strength, and faster recovery time.

Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine is a great way to not only help to reset your circadian rhythm but to decrease and control insomnia as well. However, when incorporating exercise into your day, timing is key, and it’s suggested to avoid physical activity for one to two hours before bed, as exercise is very stimulating and can deteriorate sleep quality.

Get Help From Supplements

Supplements and natural remedies may help if you’re a part of the nearly 50% of Americans who occasionally have trouble with sleep. According to a 2012 nationwide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 3 million Americans use melatonin supplements to help aid in better sleep.

The most popular natural sleep aid on the market is, of course, melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the human body that essentially induces and promotes sleep. It’s worth it to mention that melatonin supplements were not created to treat insomnia but rather to help promote your body’s natural sleep/wake schedule.

If anxiety is the main factor keeping you up at night, CBD oil is great for taking off the edge. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most active ingredient in marijuana that is non-psychoactive. In other words, it won’t give you the high that is generally associated with marijuana.

Sip Some Herbal Tea

Teas are great at not only promoting faster sleep, but they can also provide relaxation and alleviate stress and anxiety.

Chamomile is popularly known as a “mild tranquilizer” for a good reason. This natural remedy’s calming effects are due to an antioxidant called apigenin that binds to certain brain receptors known to induce sleep and decrease stress.

Another popular tea to give a try is valerian root. This perennial plant has been used to aid sleep for centuries by boosting feelings of relaxation. Valerian root naturally increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, which is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps to alleviate anxiety and induce sleep. Steep valerian root in hot water if you’re looking to sip on a delicious herbal brew before bed.

Incorporate Essential Oils

Our bodies have a somewhat symbiotic relationship with essential oils in that certain fragrances trigger a response in our olfactory nerve receptors that relay this information to our brains. The results? A calming effect that helps our bodies prepare for a restful night. Simple, huh?

The versatility of essential oils also makes them super easy to incorporate into your nightly routine to help you unwind. You can use them topically, inhale them with a diffuser, add them to body oils, pour a couple of  drops in your shower for an at-home spa … you get the idea. You can really use essential oils however you’d like. Some popular essential oils you may want to try are lavender, cedarwood, bergamot, and ylang-ylang.

Be Mindful of Light Consumption

Melatonin is a hormone produced in our bodies and controlled by light exposure. Our bodies produce significantly more melatonin when it’s dark, which results in us feeling sleepy — and that’s very much in-tune with our natural circadian rhythms, as intended. However, living in a modern society proposes unique circumstances that simply didn’t exist for our ancestors.

During the day, it’s beneficial to expose yourself to sunlight in the morning, like by taking a quick walk outside or even sitting by your window. The light will help to wake you up. It is also very important to let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible to get sun exposure. If this is not a viable option due to location, you may want to consider a light therapy box that simulates sunshine.

Adversely, just as your body needs natural sunlight to wake up, decreasing light intake prior to bed is just as important. Bright screens that emit blue light, such as mobile devices, tablets, computers, TVs, can disrupt your body’s ability to properly produce melatonin and should be avoided one to two hours before bed.

Take a Warm Bath or Shower

Although many people prefer to take a morning shower to start the day feeling fresh, there are many who prefer to do this at night. And it turns out that nighttime showers may have additional sleep benefits as well. Research has shown that taking a warm shower or bath can help you fall asleep faster. Not only does this well-known remedy help the body to relax, but it usually drops the body’s internal temperature, which helps to induce better sleep. You can even optimize your shower for even better sleep by adding a couple of drops of lavender essential oil.

Optimize Your Sleep Environment

Have you ever considered your sleep environment and how it shapes your sleep?

Turns out that your bedroom and/or environment in which you sleep is crucial to achieving restful sleep. If you’re not sure where to start, you can begin by regulating the temperature. Research has suggested that temperature has more of an impact on your sleep than external noise! Of course, the temperature you set will depend on your preference. The sweet spot, however, is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).

Also, something else to consider if you work from home or spend copious amounts of time at home is to reserve your bed for sleeping and sex only. This might be a challenge for many, but if you’re in the position to do so, it is recommended that you avoid all non-bedroom activities in the bedroom. That means no lounging around, watching TV, or working on your bed. This helps to recondition your mind to think of your bed (and maybe even bedroom) as a place where you relax.

Editors' Recommendations