How To Get More Sleep
In recent years, there has been a wave of findings that established how crucial quality sleep is. Sleep is the single most effective thing we do each day to reset our mental and physical health. With the regularity of new sleep science discoveries on the rise along with the general increase in buzz around sleep health, we thought we’d cover you with a few tips and tools on how you can improve your sleep quality.
If you’re not sure why it’s important to take measures to ensure you get enough sleep, we’ve looked at the importance of sleep in a previous blog post. Read that first here.
How to prime yourself for a good night’s sleep
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman describes and explains this in one of his podcasts, which we highly recommend!
Depending on the time of the day, there are different factors that can influence your circadian rhythm.
Setting yourself up for a good night of sleep already starts in the morning when you wake up.
In the morning, your body temperature increases naturally, which triggers us to wake up. This change in temperature also increases the release of a hormone called cortisol. When you think of cortisol, the first thing that comes to mind is its close association with stress. It’s true that we don’t want this hormone to be chronically elevated throughout the day, however, we want cortisol levels to peak early in the day as it’s needed for your metabolism, alertness and focus throughout the day.
To improve your alertness and focus, you can do the following:
- Strive to get bright sunlight 30-60 mins after you wake up. Try to get direct sunlight exposure for 5 minutes or 10 minutes on cloudy days. To do so, get outside and do not wear sunglasses (you also don’t have to stare directly into the sun).
- Take a cold shower, as this will increase your core body temperature, which will make you more alert. Additionally, you will also benefit from a release of dopamine, which helps with your motivation and ability to focus.
- If you don’t want to get under cold water, exercising in the morning can be another option to increase your core body temperature.
- Delay your caffeine intake for around 90 to 120 minutes after waking up. By doing this, you will avoid an energy crash in the afternoon. As a result, you will also not feel the need to have more caffeine in the late afternoon, which will be beneficial for your sleep at night.
- By having breakfast, you’ll trigger your metabolism, which will make you more alert. However, avoid having a very large meal as this can have the opposite effect and make you tired. People who prefer skipping breakfast can choose to do one or more of the previously mentioned options to increase alertness.
There are also things you can do in the afternoon that will set you up for the best possible sleep at night.
- Avoid caffeine after 4 pm. Even if you feel that you’re not caffeine sensitive, having caffeine late in the day can still disrupt your sleep.
- If you enjoy napping during the day, it’s okay to do so but don’t nap too late in the day or too long as it disrupts your ability to fall asleep at night. Keep them shorter than 90 minutes.
- If you’re able to get outdoor sunlight exposure in the late afternoon and evening, this will be favourable as it signals to your body that evening and nighttime are coming.
And in the evening?
You’ll want to avoid the mechanisms that make you more alert, as discussed earlier. As natural light disappears in the evening, the body will release melatonin, a hormone that induces drowsiness. The below tips can help you with this.
- Avoid bright artificial lights of any colour
- Dim lights in your house and if possible, avoid overhead lights and use desk lights or lights positioned lower to the floor.
- Dim screen lights and avoid looking at screens just before bedtime.
- Use candlelight as an alternative.
- Take a hot shower, bath or sauna. Your core body temperature will drop afterwards, which helps with sleeping.
- Make sure you have a cool and well-aired sleeping environment.
- Limit your alcohol intake. When drinking alcohol, some people may fall asleep more easily, however, your sleep will be more disruptive and of less quality.
Prioritising your sleep is essential to recharge your body and mind. If you start implementing these habits into your day-to-day life, you’ll feel the benefits in no time!
- Huberman, A. (2022) Sleep Toolkit: Tools for Optimizing Sleep & Sleep-Wake Timing. [podcast]. 8 August 2022. Available at: https://hubermanlab.com/sleep-toolkit-tools-for-optimizing-sleep-and-sleep-wake-timing/
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