If you are one of the countless people who wake up tired and irritable, don’t feel excused by tagging yourself as a “night owl” or “not a morning person”. You might be getting a full night’s sleep in the sense that you sleep for eight or more hours. But are all those unconscious hours “productive”?
That is, the quality of your zzz makes all the difference between waking up grumpy and waking up recharged. The former usually leads to the start of an unproductive day where all you really want is to be back inside your blanket.
As a matter of fact, the amount and quality of sleep directly affect your physical and mental health. Simply put, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being.
While adding more hours to your sleeping schedule might help, it may not always be feasible or even advisable. Moreover, the jury is still out on the conventional “eight-hour rule” and what’s the ideal sleep duration.
So, instead, try the following tips to in order to obtain the best out of your existing sleep hours and in turn, achieve more in your conscious time.
10 Tips Sleep Better and Wake Up Fully Recharged
1. Take a nice warm bath or shower before bed
Taking a hot shower a couple of hours before bedtime is a popular and proven method to fall asleep quicker.
A warm shower increases your body temperature and the speedy cool-down period immediately afterward relaxes you. The drop in temperature signals your body it’s time to rest, slowing down essential metabolic functions like heart rate, breathing, and digestion.
“If you raise your temperature a degree or two with a bath, the steeper drop at bedtime is more likely to put you in a deep sleep.”, says Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D., associate professor at New York University School of Medicine.
Keep your showers short and moderately warm – between five and fifteen minutes and under 104°F (normal hot tub temperature) – to avoid raising your body temperature too much and in turn making you feel energetic.
2. Limit daytime naps
While naps are not for everyone, short power naps can certainly be beneficial in terms of increased alertness, creativity, and productivity.
However, long or irregular naps during the day can negatively impact your sleep at night. It is thus advisable to limit your power nap duration to a maximum of 30 minutes.
Again, naps are not for everyone – some people feel even more drowsier after a nap and mess their internal body clock resulting in difficulty falling asleep at night. So, nap wisely.
3. Include physical activity in your routine
As if there aren’t already enough reasons to include exercise in your routine, know that regular physical activity improves all aspects of your sleep as well.
Physical exertion (running, swimming, and so on) can lead to deeper and more restful sleep. It helps with severe insomnia, anxiety, and reduces the time to fall asleep by 55%. Even light exercise such as walking for half an hour improves sleep quality.
However, exercising too late in the day – specifically 2 hours before bedtime – can actually be detrimental for your sleep routine.
“You’ll experience a ‘peak’ of energy afterward – your temperature rises and you’ll feel a rush of adrenaline which makes getting to sleep harder. The timing of that varies between individuals, but it can last several hours.” says Ana Noia, Senior Clinical Physiologist in Neurophysiology and Sleep at the Bupa Cromwell Hospital.
4. Stick to a sleep schedule
Easier said than done, but if you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends, you won’t need an alarm clock to wake up. That’s because your body has a natural sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm) which helps you to stay awake and signals your body when it’s time to hit the sack.
Altering your sleeping times by more than an hour can severely hurt your sleep quality by disrupting your circadian rhythm. So, try to restrict the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Consistency is crucial to reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something to loosen up. Read a book or listen to some soothing music. Go back to bed when you feel drowsy. Repeat if no luck.
“I see a lot of people with busy lives and jobs, who tend to sleep very little in the week, and then compensate on the weekend – sleeping for hours,” explains Ana.
“It doesn’t help to regulate a sleep pattern and makes it much harder for our body to know when we’re meant to be sleeping. It’s the most difficult rule to follow – especially when you’re tired and want to sleep all day – but following a routine is key.”
5. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
Exposure to bright lights (such as sunlight) during the day helps keep your sleep-wake cycle healthy. It regulates the secretion of melatonin – the “sleep hormone”.
The pineal gland in your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark – making you sleepy – and less when it’s bright – making you more alert. So, light exposure after sunset tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime and reduces the secretion of melatonin.
Blue light is the worst in this regard. And modern electronics such as smartphones, computers, and televisions emit it in large amounts.
In a nutshell, bright light before bedtime can disturb your body’s internal clock. Thus, avoid bright screens within two hours of your bedtime. Turn down the brightness of all devices and consider using light altering software such as f.lux.
6. Set the right bedroom temperature
Everyone has their preferred sleeping temperature. Some like it warm, others like it cold.
But regardless of whether you fight with your partner over the control of the thermostat, the science-backed answer to the perfect room temperature for a good night’s sleep is to set it between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Still, find the right temperature for you and set your thermostat accordingly.
7. Eat a light dinner
Avoid heavy meals before bed. Devouring a large meal before bed can result in poor sleep and hormone disruption.
“Eating too close to bedtime increases your blood sugar and insulin, which causes you to have a hard time falling asleep. Therefore, your last meal should be the lightest of the day and should be eaten at least three hours before you go to sleep.” says Tracy Lockwood, a registered dietitian at F-Factor Nutrition.
8. Limit liquid intake before bedtime
Caffeinated drinks and alcohol are two big no-nos when it comes to achieving quality sleep.
“It can take up to six hours for caffeine’s levels to drop to half the dose you originally took, making us anxious and delaying sleep,” explains Ana.
You may be under the impression that alcohol, on the other hand, helps you sleep. True, alcohol does have a sedative effect and you’ll find it easier to drop off, but you won’t enjoy quality sleep. It causes dehydration and you’ll experience a fragmented sleep, feeling enervated when you wake. This is one of the best Tips to Sleep Better and Wake Up Fully Recharged.
Also, Nocturia is a common problem among adults in which you feel the need to wake up several times in the night to urinate. So, while drinking water and staying hydrated is absolutely vital for your health, it is wise to reduce your water-consumption late in the evening.
9. Embrace the dark
In addition to abstaining from bright electronic devices before bed, try to sleep in a pitch-black room. Use blackout blinds or shades to occlude external light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also, cover up electronics that emit any light.
Doing so will stimulate your body to get ready for its sleep cycle. If you have to wake up in the middle of the night for some reason, use a dim nightlight or a small flashlight and don’t directly look into the light source. This will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
10. De-stress and wind down
If you are an anxious overthinker, bedtime is the time to procrastinate as well. Jot down all your worries and set them aside for tomorrow.
Residual stress, worry, or anger from your day can make it difficult to sleep. Take steps to learn how to stop worrying excessively. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at night.
Meditation, deep breathing, and stretching can help.
Proper time management is also important to reduce work-related stress. Set priorities and delegate tasks when you feel overwhelmed. The more overstimulated your brain is during the day, the harder it can be to unwind at night.
Allot specific times for interruptive activities like checking email or social media, and focus only on one task at a time. Later, when it comes to hitting the hay, your brain won’t be accustomed to seeking new stimulation and you’ll be able to de-stress better.
About Author: Mostafa is a seasoned growth strategist with over nine years of experience in growing SaaS and eCommerce startups. He has worked as a growth team leader at VC-backed startups and consulted with Fortune 500 clients including American Express, P&G, and Ford. Mostafa has also written for Wired and SmartBrief and is a regular tech contributor for the BBC. He currently heads growth at Somn, a sleep community, and eCommerce startup.