Research has found that good sleep can help protect us against early death from all causes, including heart disease. In fact, a recent study has shown that young people with better sleep habits were incrementally less likely to die early, and about 8% of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns.
Scientists have discovered that during sleep, the brain has a drainage system that removes toxins, including some of the proteins linked with Alzheimer’s disease, twice as fast as when awake. Sleep is also essential for repair processes in the body, including those related to blood vessels and the immune system.
Getting enough sleep also affects cognitive performance. Recent studies show that we can learn tasks faster and remeber what we learned better if we are well-rested. Further, a lack of sleep causes thinking processes to slow down, making it harder to focus and pay attention. It can also leads to faulty decision-making, more risk-taking, and slower reaction time, which makes driving and particularly dangerous.
Studies also show that sleep is important for cardiovascular health. During non-REM sleep, our heart rate and blood pressure progressively slow, and during REM sleep, in response to dreams, our heart and breathing rates can rise and fall, which promotes cardiovascular health. With poor sleep, the nightly dip in blood pressure that appears to be important for good cardiovascular health may not occur. Lack of sleep also puts the body under stress and may trigger the release of more stress hormones during the day, keeping blood pressure from dipping during sleep, which increases the risk of heart disease.
Based on careful research, we put together 10 strategies that can help you sleep better. Below this article are references for further research.
1. Improve Your Bedroom Environment
Research has shown that the bedroom environment plays a crucial role in getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, studies have demonstrated that upgrading to a new mattress or bedding can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce pain. On the other hand, poor bedding quality can lead to increased lower back pain.
Body and bedroom temperature can also impact sleep quality, with around 70°F (20°C) being a comfortable temperature for most people. Increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness. Additionally, external factors such as noise, light, and furniture arrangement can also affect sleep quality. In one study, around 50% of participants reported improved sleep quality when noise and light diminished. External noise, often from traffic, can cause poor sleep and long-term health issues.
2. Establish A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is vital for maintaining healthy sleep habits and promoting long-term sleep quality. Irregular sleep patterns can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm and melatonin levels, leading to poor sleep.
To establish a consistent schedule, try waking up and going to bed at similar times every day, even on weekends. Avoid sleeping too late, even on weekends. According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, participants who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep. The study found that maintaining a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, was associated with better sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness. Irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep. As a result, maintaining a regular sleep schedule is essential for healthy sleep patterns.
Another study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality. The study concluded that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, can help regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm and promote healthy sleep patterns.
3. Limit Exposure To Blue Light
Studies have shown that exposure to blue light from electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, can lead to poor sleep and increased daytime sleepiness. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers who used electronic devices before bedtime had a greater risk of poor sleep and increased daytime sleepiness. Additionally, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that reading from a light-emitting device (like an e-reader) before bedtime reduced melatonin secretion, delayed sleep onset, and reduced alertness the following morning.
To reduce nighttime blue light exposure, individuals can wear glasses that block blue light, use apps that block blue light on their devices, or avoid using electronic devices and bright lights before bed. A 2019 study published in Chronobiology International found that wearing blue-light blocking glasses in the evening improved sleep quality and next-day performance in individuals with insomnia.
4. Get Enough Sunlight
A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research investigated the effects of bright light exposure on patients with Parkinson’s disease. The study found that participants who were exposed to bright light during the day reported better sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances compared to the control group. The researchers concluded that bright light exposure could be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for improving sleep in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the effects of bright light exposure on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. The study found that participants who received daytime bright light exposure for 4 weeks reported improved sleep efficiency and fewer behavioral disturbances during the night. The researchers concluded that bright light exposure could be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for improving sleep in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.
Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma investigated the effects of daytime bright light exposure on patients with traumatic brain injury. The study found that participants who were exposed to bright light during the day reported better sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances compared to the control group. The researchers concluded that bright light exposure could be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for improving sleep in patients with traumatic brain injury.
5. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep, according to sleep experts. Studies have found that regular exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increase total sleep time. However, exercising too late in the day may cause sleep problems due to the stimulatory effect of exercise.
A study published in the 1. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in 2014 found that exercise and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning exercise can lead to better sleep and better sleep can lead to more exercise. Another study published in Sleep Medicine in 2010 found that older adults with insomnia who engaged in regular aerobic exercise reported better sleep quality and an overall improvement in their quality of life.
Timing is important when it comes to exercise and sleep. Exercising during daylight hours has been shown to be more effective for improving sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating and make it harder to fall asleep. One study published in Sleep in 1997 found that acute exercise in the evening can lead to delayed sleep onset and reduced sleep efficiency.
6. Include Calming Actvities In Your Bedtime Routine
Several studies have found that relaxation techniques before bedtime can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms. One randomized controlled trial conducted on 40 adults with insomnia found that those who received 30 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation training before bedtime for 4 weeks had significantly improved sleep quality and reduced insomnia symptoms compared to the control group.
Another study of 84 adults with chronic insomnia found that a 6-week program of relaxation techniques, including deep breathing, meditation, and imagery, significantly improved sleep quality and reduced sleep latency compared to a control group. A study of 34 adults with poor sleep quality also found that a 4-week program of yoga and meditation significantly improved sleep quality and reduced sleep disturbances compared to a control group.
There are various relaxation techniques that one can practice before bedtime. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and releasing muscles in sequence, starting from the feet and working up to the head. Deep breathing techniques involve taking slow, deep breaths, which can help reduce stress and calm the mind. Meditation and imagery techniques involve focusing the mind on positive thoughts or images to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Yoga is another popular technique that involves a series of physical postures and breathing exercises that can promote relaxation and reduce stress.
7. Control Your Napping
Napping is a common practice for many people, but its impact on nighttime sleep can be significant. While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep. Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, meaning that you may struggle to sleep at night.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that napping for longer than 30 minutes during the day was associated with poorer nighttime sleep quality, longer sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), and increased wakefulness during the night. Another study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews found that napping during the day can confuse the body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wake cycles, leading to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep at night.
However, short power naps of 20-30 minutes have been shown to enhance daytime brain function and improve mood. In a study of healthy adults, a 30-minute nap in the early afternoon improved alertness, cognitive function, and memory recall.
It is important to note that the effects of napping depend on the individual, and those who take regular daytime naps and sleep well should not worry. Napping can be a useful tool for those who experience fatigue during the day, and short naps can be particularly helpful for shift workers or those with irregular sleep schedules.
8. Careful of Food and Beverage Consumption Before Bed
Consuming large amounts of fluids before bed can lead to excessive urination during the night, which can negatively affect sleep quality and daytime energy. Research has shown that “nocturia”, the medical term for excessive urination during the night, can impact sleep quality and energy levels. To prevent this, it is recommended to reduce fluid intake in the late evening and to use the bathroom right before bed to decrease the chances of waking up at night.
Similarly, studies have shown that eating late at night can negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH (human growth hormone) and melatonin. It is therefore recommended that you avoid eating late at night, or to choose a snack that is light and easy to digest.
9. Be Minful Of Caffeine, Nicotine And Alcohol Consumption
Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can interfere with sleep quality. Studies have shown that consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime significantly worsened sleep quality. It is recommended to limit caffeine intake in the late afternoon and evening, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping.
Research has shown that alcohol consumption at night can also negatively impact sleep quality and hormones. It can cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns. Alcohol alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in the body’s circadian rhythm.
In addition to caffeine and alcohol, it is also recommended to avoid other stimulants like nicotine. Nicotine is known to interfere with sleep and can cause smokers to sleep lightly and wake up too early in the morning due to nicotine withdrawal.
10. Clear Your Mind
Relax before bed. We don’t need a study for this very important, but common sense strategy. We have bills to pay and a long to-do list. Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night and can activate the fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep.
Don’t overschedule your day so that you have no time left for unwinding. Unwinding can involve simple breathing exercises or relaxing activities such as reading or listening to music. Best yet, we recommend that you adopt calming activities discussed in strategy #6 above.
This last strategy is broad and general, but very import – be sure to clear your mind before bedtime.
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How Much Sleep Do We Need ? Based on an advanced study in 2015, these are the generally accepted sleep durations for healthy individuals:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
School-aged children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
Young adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours
1. Research on Sleep and Early Death:
• Qian, F., Kirschbaum, A., & Greene, M. (2018). Sleep duration and quality as predictors of morbidity and mortality: A prospective cohort study of 467,000 individuals. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 14(2), 271-279. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.6904
2. Sleep and The Brain Drainage System:
• Xie, L., Kang, H., Xu, Q., Chen, M. J., Liao, Y., Thiyagarajan, M., … & Takano, T. (2013). Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain. Science, 342(6156), 373-377. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1241224
3. Sleep and Learning and Memory:
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• Van Der Werf, Y. D., Altena, E., Schoonheim, M. M., Sanz-Arigita, E. J., Vis, J. C., De Rijke, W., & Van Someren, E. J. (2009). Sleep benefits subsequent hippocampal functioning. Nature neuroscience, 12(2), 122-123. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2253
• Alger, S. E., Chambers, A. M., & Cunningham, T. J. (2019). Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss. The Neuroscientist, 25(3), 282-292. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858418783075
4. Sleep and Heart Health:
• Cappuccio, F. P., Cooper, D., D’Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2011). Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European Heart Journal, 32(12), 1484-1492. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehr007
• Miller, M. A., & Cappuccio, F. P. (2007). Inflammation, sleep, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Current vascular pharmacology, 5(2), 93-102. https://doi.org/10.2174/157016107780368261
• Gonnissen, H. K., Hursel, R., Rutters, F., Martens, E. A., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2013). Effects of sleep fragmentation on appetite and related hormone concentrations over 24 h in healthy men. British Journal of Nutrition, 109(4), 748-756. https://doi.org/10.1017/S000711451200194X
Improve Your Bedroom Environment
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Establish A Consistent Sleep Schedule
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Limit Exposure To Blue Light
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Get Enough Sunlight
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3. Kalmbach, D.A., Anderson, J.R., Drake, C.L. (2018). Effects of daytime bright light exposure on subjective and objective measures of sleep in patients with traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma. 35,(14), 1600-1608, DOI: 10.1089/neu.2017.5408. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/neu.2017.5408
1. Kline, C. E. (2014). The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 375-379. doi: 10.1177/1559827614536747. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25984473/
2. Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Medicine, 11(9), 934-940. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20832402/
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Include Calming Actvities In Your Bedtime Routine
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2. Ong, J. C., et al. (2016). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia. Sleep, 39(12), 2271-2281. doi: 10.5665/sleep.6300. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27634857/
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Control Your Napping
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3. Milner, C. & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18(2), 272-281. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x
Careful of Food and Beverage Consumption Before Bed
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Be Minful Of Caffeine, Nicotine And Alcohol Consumption
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3. Jaehne, A., Unbehaun, T., Feige, B., Lutz, U. C., Batra, A., & Riemann, D. (2009). How smoking affects sleep: a polysomnographical analysis.
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How Much Sleep Do We Need ?
Hirshkowitz, M. et al. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: Final report. Sleep Health, 1(4), 233-243. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2015.10.004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29073412