3 Sleep Tips for a Better Sleep Schedule
Unless you’re akin to an ostrich burying its head in the sand to avoid knowing the truth, you know that getting enough consistent sleep is vital for your health and wellbeing.
Sleep disruption can cause short- and long-term adverse side effects in otherwise healthy adults and children alike. Many of these side effects are well known to the public, yet our problems with sleep remain.
On average, one in every two Canadian adults has trouble with either falling asleep or staying asleep, and one in five adults does not feel refreshed upon waking in the morning. So, what can we do about it? We’ve put together some sleep tips to help you achieve better sleep in the short term and, over time, create a healthy sleep schedule that’s conducive to your optimal wellbeing.
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
We’ve all been there—you wake up for the day after a long night of no sleep and feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. But it’s more than how you’re feeling that day.
Short-term sleep deprivation symptoms from a sleepless night include:
- more profoundly experiencing stress responsivity
- more body aches and pain
- decreased quality of life
- mood and emotional disorders and disruption
- deficits in memory, cognitive function, and performance
While none of those things sound fun, the dangers of long-term sleep deprivation are more severe:
- dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of fats in your blood such as LDL cholesterol)
- heart disease
- weight issues
- certain types of cancer
- an increased risk of death
All of these short- and long-term symptoms are risks for otherwise healthy individuals. The prognosis is even worse for those individuals who already have underlying health conditions.
With all that said, it’s easy to see why getting better sleep is critical. So, let’s talk about sleep tips to get into healthy sleep habits for life.
Sleep Tips for Healthy Sleep
If you have trouble sleeping, you might be feeling out of luck. You’re tired, but you just can’t get better sleep despite everything you try. Lucky for you (and all of us in a similar boat), there are some real, tangible sleep tips to help you create better habits and a better sleep environment. All of this leads to healthy sleep for the long term.
Sleep Tip Number 1: Set a Schedule and Stick to It
To varying degrees, all humans are creatures of habit, and we all thrive when we have predictable schedules. So, our first sleep tip is to set a healthy sleep schedule.
Why Set a Sleep Schedule?
Besides the human condition of doing better with structure, a healthy sleep schedule helps reestablish and reinforce your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
The sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm, is the body’s natural ebb and flow cycles of hormones responsible for sleep and other body functions. They run on a 24-hour cycle, and this is genetically determined.
When we talk about early birds and night owls, we can start to see that people are different. For example, some people’s hormones dictate later nights and mornings while others follow a more ideal and typical schedule where they’re ready for bed early and rise early.
When we go to bed and wake up at different times every day, we disturb our natural hormonal cycle and confuse our bodies. When we follow this sleep tip and set a healthy sleep cycle, we can reinforce our body’s natural cycle and set ourselves up for better sleep.
How to Implement Setting a Schedule
First, it’s important to take your natural circadian rhythm into account. So, for example, if you typically like to stay up and sleep in a bit later, don’t try to force yourself to go to bed at 9 p.m.
However, if your work or life depends on you waking up at a specific time, say by 7 a.m., you’ll need to work around that.
Most healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. So, based on your required wake-time, count backward, and set a bedtime to ensure you’re getting adequate sleep.
Once you’ve set your healthy sleep schedule, stick to it! Of course, that means on the weekends, too. Remember, being consistent reinforces that natural hormonal cycle and sets you up for better sleep long-term.
Sleep Tip Number 2: Set Your Room Up for Better Sleep
Once you’ve set a healthy sleep schedule, it’s time to make sure your bedroom is set up for better sleep, too! You might have heard that humans are like mushrooms and should sleep in cool, dark places. That’s not too far off, but there are other sleep tips beyond the temperature and lighting.
Obviously, you don’t want to sleep with a light on, but you should consider making it as dark as possible. Even slight light from a nightlight can offset your circadian rhythm, confusing your body, and the worst offender? Blue light from devices like televisions, mobile phones, and tablets.
In addition to limiting lighting, set your thermostat to approximately 18.3 degrees Celsius, and consider adding a white-noise machine.
Why Make the Room Cool, Dark, and White-Noisy?
Light, especially light from your devices, can affect your body’s melatonin production, preventing you from falling asleep or staying asleep. In fact, blue light can affect your brain for up to an hour after looking at it! So, it’s best to put all devices away for at least an hour before your bedtime.
Research has shown that better sleep occurs when the room is between 15.6 and 19.4 degrees Celsius. If that sounds too chilly, make sure you have plenty of warm blankets to keep you comfortable.
Lastly, studies have found that it’s not loud noises that disturb sleep but instead a disruption in what you’ve been hearing. It’s for that reason that a sound machine with white noise or some other comforting sound (like that of a fan or washing machine) can help drown out disrupting noises and help you have better sleep.
How to Set Up an Environment for Healthy Sleep
Setting your thermostat and adding a white-noise machine are straightforward sleep tips, but how do you make it darker? Aside from turning off all devices and ditching the night lights, consider adding black-out shades to your windows and closing any doors that let in light.
Sleep Tip Number 3: Check Your Stress
Our final sleep tip is to manage your stress, and we can feel you rolling your eyes already—you probably know too much stress is dangerous, but if you could control it, you would!
The good news is that better sleep is already one way to reduce the harmful effects of stress, so these sleep tips should start to help. But beyond that, what else can you do?
Why Reducing Stress is Important
Reducing stress is not only crucial for healthy sleep; it’s also important for a healthier life.
This is because chronic stress can have many nasty long-term effects like:
- mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
- cardiovascular diseases
- obesity and eating disorders
- skin and hair problems
- gastrointestinal issues and conditions
How to Reduce Stress
There are many ways to reduce stress, but some can be hard to do. For example, it’s easier to say, “quit your stressful job” than it is to just up and quit. However, there is one effective and accessible way to reduce stress without changing anything else—meditation.
Meditation is the act of calming the mind using focused attention and learning to experience thoughts and emotions from an observer’s perspective. Meditation is scientifically proven to reduce stress and rewire the brain.
Getting better sleep is of the utmost importance if you want to improve your overall health and wellness. By following these three sleep tips, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier sleep schedule and a healthier life. You can also consider adding sleep supplements to help you get on the right track!