You know you’re supposed to get enough quality sleep. But how often does that realistically happen? Maybe you have trouble falling asleep, constantly wake up in the night, or perhaps you wake up in the morning feeling like an overworked zombie. Any of this sound familiar?
You’re far from the only one. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, more than 50% of people have difficulties sleeping.
So, for many, waking up feeling rested is a fairy tale. But it doesn’t have to be.
Luckily, there are ways to vastly improve the quality of your sleep. We’ve narrowed it down to the 5 the most effective ways to get the best sleep of your life, all backed by science.
When you’re exposed to blue light at night, it makes it hard to fall asleep and drastically reduces sleep quality. But where does blue light come from?
Blue light is emitted from artificial lighting and electronic displays. This includes fluorescent lights, smart phones, computer screens, and your T.V.
That means all those times browsing Facebook on your phone at night or binge-watching your favorite show before bed, can set you up for an awful night’s sleep by disrupting your natural body clock.
Because blue light is also found in sunlight, being exposed to it at night tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime, causing the suppression of melatonin in the body (1). Melatonin is the hormone that prepares you for sleep.
The best way to avoid the negative effects of blue light is to simply go unplugged an hour before bed by turning off electronics. Instead, read a book, meditate, or do anything else that’s relaxing to occupy your time before bed.
One of the tried-and-true recommendations sleep doctors make is that you should develop a consistent sleep-wake routine (2).
That means you should try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Even on the weekends, as hard as it may be. You see, when you wake up at the same time for work every day, your body biochemically adapts to that routine.
When you operate outside of your body’s sleep-wake routine, it can result in poor sleep and extreme fatigue (3). This effect is most obvious when you travel across time zones and experience jet lag.
To keep your sleep-wake routine consistent, establish set times to go to sleep and wake up every morning—even on the weekends. While it may be hard it first, your body will begin to adapt making it easier the longer you stick to it.
Getting some form of regular exercise is a big factor in getting a good night’s sleep. There are numerous studies that show just how important exercise is for your sleep.
One animal study, for example, found that exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm (4). This can help you sleep better at night and feel more awake during the day.
Additional studies suggest that low-impact exercise such as walking can reduce stress and improve sleep for those who struggle with insomnia (5). So, to increase the amount of restful sleep you get, try adding in a lunchtime or after dinner walk to unwind.
Do you consider yourself an early bird or a night owl? Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between. It turns out that you have a genetic predisposition to one of these sleeping habits.
According to Dr. Michael Breus, in his new book The Power of When, everyone fits into one of four sleeping patterns or what he calls a chronotype.
In his research, Dr. Breus found that the PER3 gene determines which chronotype you are. If you have a long PER3 gene, you’re most likely an early riser and need more sleep. A short PER3 gene means you likely prefer to sleep in and you can tolerate getting fewer hours of sleep.
According to Dr. Breus, when you follow your natural chronotype, your sleep quality improves and you’ll feel more rested.
With this in mind, to get a better night’s sleep try identifying your chronotype. Once you figure it out, you can do your best to work with it, and not against it. You can read more on this topic to see which chronotype you are here.
What you eat or drink in the evening can also have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. Improving your overall nutrition intake will benefit every aspect of your life.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid fatty foods, meat, caffeine, alcohol, and too much water before bed.
For instance, animal studies suggest that if you have a high-fat meal right before bed, it can cause your sleep to become fragmented throughout the night by interrupting your body clock (6).
If you’re especially sensitive to caffeine, you may need to have your last cup of coffee by lunch. Overall, you want to avoid eating and drinking too much up to 2 hours before bed so you don’t wake frequently in the night.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to wake up every morning feeling refreshed and energized? Well, you can. It’s all about adjusting habits to optimize sleep. If you still have trouble sleeping at night, make sure you’re not too stressed and try these stress busting tips to optimize your rest.