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A good night’s sleep does so much more than feeling ready to take on a new day. Sleep plays a crucial role in your physical and mental well-being.
You probably experienced a few days, after a night of tossing and turning, where you had trouble concentrating or were more irritable and impatient than usual. Sleep deprivation can affect mood and cognitive function.
But did you know that lack of sleep can contribute to chronic diseases and even weight gain?
Sleep deprivation alters your immune system and could also lead to cardiovascular problems like hypertension, coronary heart disease, and irregular heartbeat. Also, lack of sleep impacts hormones affecting appetite and the way the body processes and stores carbohydrates.
As a result, those with sleep problems may be more prone to diabetes and obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Luckily, there are things you can do throughout the day and before bed to improve your sleep quality.
Sometimes considered sleep hygiene, these 5 habits and practices may help you fall asleep faster and enjoy better sleep.
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Make Sure Your Daily Activities Prepare You for a Restful Night
What you do throughout the day can certainly impact how you will sleep. Physical exercise is a great way to burn off excess energy, so sleep comes more natural. If you don’t exercise much, start small. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic activity – such as brisk walking, biking, or swimming – can improve sleep quality.
Doing your exercise outside can be even more beneficial. Exposure to natural light – sunlight during the day and darkness at night – can help maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
If you’re a person that enjoys napping, limit it to 30 minutes or less. Anything more can make it harder to sleep at night.
Be Mindful of What You Consume Near Bedtime
You probably know stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can make it harder to fall asleep. Fatty foods, fried or spicy meals, and carbonated drinks can also cause sleep problems. Indigestion caused by these foods may trigger heartburn or other discomforts as you lay down for bed.
Some think a “nightcap” of their favorite adult beverage is the trick to falling into a night of deep sleep quicker. While it may help you fall asleep faster, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep as the body processes the alcohol.
If you feel the need to snack before bed, consider fresh fruits or vegetables, Greek yogurt, mixed nuts, or a little cereal with milk.
Establish a Sleep Routine
Your brain thrives on habits. Behaviors before bed can help the body recognize it’s time to sleep. Starting a consistent routine around the same time each night will make it easier for the brain and body to establish a healthy sleep cycle.
Start by putting away any electronics emitting blue light – cell phones, computers, or tablets – an hour before you want to fall asleep. Try reading a book instead. Enjoy one of the healthy bedtime snacks mentioned above.
Take a little time to meditate or do deep breathing exercises. Get your clothes and lunch ready for the next day. Or maybe journal about any pressing thoughts to help you decompress.
Choose activities that resonate with you. Then do them every day. The predictability will pay off.
Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary of Sleep
If possible, limit or remove any electronic devices from your bedroom. Make it a dark, cool, and relaxing place meant for sleep. Some people find white noise – like a fan or air purifier – helps block out distracting sounds.
If you’re having problems feeling comfortable or falling asleep on your mattress, consider investing in a new one. After all, just about one-third of your day is spent in bed. You want to make sure the mattress you have suited your needs.
Also, find a pillow, comforter, and sheets that help you feel relaxed and cozy.
Get Help for Chronic Sleep Problems
Everyone has the occasional bout of sleeplessness or insomnia. Perhaps work is a little more stressful than usual or you are struggling with a personal issue. If your sleeplessness continues and impacts the quality of your life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Talking to your doctor or a sleep specialist can help you understand the causes of insomnia or other severe sleep disorders. Sometimes a doctor will order a sleep study to get better insights about your sleep problems.
A sleep study is a non-invasive overnight exam where your heart rate, breathing, oxygen levels, snoring, and body movements are monitored in a controlled environment.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene Today
A few small changes can make a big difference in your sleep quality. Use these helpful steps now to feel more awake and alert in the future.
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