Even though quality sleep is an essential component of good health, there are still many adults who aren't getting the quality or quantity of sleep that they need each night. There can be many reasons for this, from a hectic schedule to poor eating habits.
No matter what the cause of the issues, the good news is that there are things you can do to address them and to start getting better sleep. If you are looking for some simple and natural ways to start getting better sleep here are some things you can try.
Create the Right Sleeping Environment
One of the best things you can do for yourself if you are working to improve your sleep quality is to make sure that you have an optimal sleeping environment. While many are aware that it is important to have a comfortable space to sleep, they may not realize how much of a difference the space they are sleeping in can make in the quality of sleep that they get. From the quality of your double mattress to the amount of light in your room, there are many different factors that can affect how deep of sleep you get.
If you have an uncomfortable bed, and your bedroom is hot, bright, and noisy, you may not find it easy to sleep through the night. For deeper sleep, your first priority should be to make sure you are sleeping on a bed that is comfortable and that doesn't result in any kind of muscle or joint pain.
After that, you need to assess other things in your sleeping environment, like the amount of light and noise that you are exposed to. Light can signal to your brain that it is time to wake up, so finding ways to keep light blocked out of your room until you are ready to get up can make a big difference in your ability to get enough sleep.
Besides light exposure, the amount of noise you hear in your bedroom can impact you significantly as well. While some repetitive noises can be calming and can actually help you sleep, other noises like barking dogs or traffic can prevent you from falling into deeper cycles of sleep, even if you are able to get some rest. One good way to help reduce noise is to wear earplugs. For those that find earplugs uncomfortable, trying out noise-canceling panels could be beneficial.
Along with noisiness, heat can be a problem as well. It tends to be the easiest to get good quality sleep in a room that is slightly cool. A room that is too stuffy or hot can lead to restless and light sleep. Turning down your thermostat before bed can be a good option in cooler seasons. When it is hot, seeking out pillows and mattress pads with a cooling gel may be beneficial.
Watch Your Diet
It isn't just your sleeping environment that has a big impact on how well you are able to sleep, what and when you eat matters a lot, as well. Something that many don't know is that their diet can cause either poor or deep sleep, depending on what they eat.
Foods that are high in sugars, refined carbs, and bad fats can all contribute to inflammation in the body, as well as hormone imbalance. When you're experiencing heightened levels of inflammation and your hormones are thrown out of balance, it can cause a wide range of disturbances to your system. This can be particularly true the more that your sleep hormones are impacted.
To avoid hormonal issues that can hurt your sleeping ability, it is important to work to reduce the harmful foods in your diet and to increase your intake of foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats. If you aren't sure where to start when it comes to improving your diet, keeping a food journal and tracking your meals can be beneficial for getting a more accurate sense of what your daily meals are truly like. Additionally, by also keeping a sleep journal and recording the amount and quality of your sleep, you can more quickly see the connection between the meals that you are eating and how they relate to your sleep quality.
Watch the Beverages You Drink
Watching what you drink is also key when it comes to getting better sleep. This can be especially true in the instance of caffeine. Even though a caffeinated drink like coffee or an energy drink can be great in the morning to get you going, the reality is that these drinks can also keep you up late, as well. What some don't know is that even if you drink these beverages well before their bedtime, they could still be sabotaging their sleep. This is because caffeine can stay active within your system for up to several hours after you have consumed it. If you want to make sure that the caffeine you are drinking isn't keeping you up at night, it can be beneficial to limit your intake to the morning and early afternoon or to consider eliminating it from your diet altogether.
Cut the Screen Time
Something else that can hurt your ability to sleep well in a big way is the amount of time you spend staring at a screen, especially in the hours right before you go to bed. Even though watching some TV or scrolling through social media feeds on your phone may seem like relaxing ways to unwind and get ready for bed, the reality is that these habits can be disruptive to your sleep cycles. This is due to the fact that many screens emit a blue light that signals to your brain to stay awake.
The longer that you look at one of these screens, the harder it may be for you to relax and shut off your mind when you are ready to sleep. To avoid these kinds of issues, finding other ways to relax before bed that doesn't involve screens can be a good alternative. For some, taking a hot bath can be a good idea, while others may find doing gentle stretch a better way to get in the right mindset for bed. Reading, journaling, and coloring, or drawing can all also be other great alternatives for getting yourself into a relaxed and bed-ready state.
Some Parting Considerations
While quality sleep may be essential to good health, there are still many out there who don't get the sleep they need at night. Even though it may not always feel easy to get great sleep, the good news is that there are many simple and natural things you can do to help improve your overall sleep quality.
Most know that good sleep is important, however, they may not realize how many things they are doing that are secretly sabotaging their sleep. By finding ways to reduce stress, as well as practicing better sleep hygiene, you can start reducing stress and improving your sleep quality today.
Starting with the tips above can lead you to healthier sleep patterns, and a sleep diary or journal can keep track of changed habits. Quite often patients have a sleep study without adequate information into their nightly habits and get diagnosed with Insufficient Sleep Syndrome, which is basically having terrible sleep as a result of voluntary (albeit unintentional) behaviors that impact their sleep negatively.
If you start to notice a negative pattern that could be corrected by your own choices, make changes after a week and see how your next week goes. If there is a vast improvement to your sleep, you may be able to correct the behavior yourself and avoid having an unnecessary sleep study.
A sleep study may still be the best choice though the type of sleep study varies by a patient’s symptoms. Healthcare providers will monitor your sleep either in a lab or at your home using portable home sleep apnea testing equipment.
If you live in Alaska and are ready to take back your sleep, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator who can help you determine if a sleep study is right for you.