- We get it: Getting enough sleep probably seems way easier said than done.
- But the truth is that there are a lot of small tweaks you can make to your routine that may help improve your sleep quality. Let’s take a closer look at the science, shall we?
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Between chaotic schedules, endless to-do lists, constant connectivity, and…well, just negotiating life as a human adult in 2019, the idea of feeling “well-rested” might seem like nothing more than an elusive dream. But the truth is that while making the time for a full 7-8 hours is a start, there are also a handful of other factors that can make a major impact when it comes to improving sleep quality.
After all, we probably don’t have to remind you that skimping on shut-eye really starts to add up over time—the fact that we can feel the effects of tiredness reverberate in different parts of our lives illustrates just how crucial it is that our body gets the rest it needs.
The good news? Better sleep hygiene is just a few life-hacks away—and once you know how to implement these habits into your bedtime routine, it’ll be that much easier to bounce back from one rough night of sleep.
Sleep Habit #1: Keep things dark.
Your sleep cycle is closely tied with your circadian rhythm, aka your internal “clock.” Really, it’s a series of stimuli that tell your body when it’s time to fall asleep and wake up, among other things. Bright light is a major trigger for your circadian rhythm, signaling to your brain that it’s time to become alert—which is why it’s really key to keep your bedroom as dark as possible. (That includes screen time, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Sleep Habit #2: Cool down.
Another stimulus for your internal clock—temperature. In fact, a dip in your core body temperature signals that it’s time to get sleepy. So while it might be tempting to burrito yourself in your fluffiest duvet, research has found that sweet dreams thrive in cooler temps: Scientists have found an optimal range of 60 to 68 degrees (1). Adjust the thermostat, find some lightweight pajamas, and opt for sheets in breathable fabrics like linen or cotton.
Sleep Habit #3: Unplug.
You’re sick of hearing it, but we’ll say it again: Your phone is doing you no favors when it comes to getting good sleep. Recent research links nighttime electronic use to disturbances in—you guessed it—your circadian rhythm (2). To get really specific, the light emitted from your devices may tell your brain to suppress production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you feel sleepy. That’s not to mention that a bedtime scroll through your inbox might just throw your mental to-do list into overdrive.
Sleep Habit #4: Be strategic about caffeine.
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but an ill-timed afternoon coffee may be enough to trigger a vicious cycle of restless nights followed by more caffeine hankerings. A good rule of thumb, according to researchers: Put at least six hours between your last cup of the day and bedtime.
Sleep Habit #5: Don’t underestimate the power of scent.
Aromatherapy too woo-woo for you? Some experts would tend to disagree—some research suggests that aromatherapy might have a positive impact on sleep. Either way, it’s a strategy that might be worth trialing into your own routine. Consider investing in a diffuser and a few choice essential oils: lavender, clary sage, and sandalwood are favorites for relaxation (3).
Sleep Habit #6: Consistency is key.
In the end, understanding your circadian rhythm as a true “clock” is a pretty solid analogy—it performs its job best when it’s sticking to a relatively fixed sleep schedule. Falling asleep and waking up at roughly the same time every day ensures that your sleep patterns are as consistent as possible. In other words, you’re training your body when to feel sleepy and when to feel alert.
That said, weekends happen—as do late nights at the office, crying babies, and life in general. The trick is to hop right back on schedule rather than try to overcompensate by sleeping in, which can throw your rhythm off even more. And when you’ve already laid the foundation for quality sleep with the habits above? All the better.
- Seibert, P. S. (2014). Sleeping through the Ages: An Examination of Sleep in Older Adults. Journal of Sleep Disorders & Therapy, 03(05). doi: 10.4172/2167-0277.1000175
- Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. (2018). International Journal of Ophthalmology. doi: 10.18240/ijo.2018.12.20
- Kumar, A., & Kalonia, H. (2008). Effect ofWithania somniferaon sleep-wake cycle in sleep-disturbed rats: Possible GABAergic mechanism. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 70(6), 806. doi: 10.4103/0250-474x.49130