If you find yourself in wanting to grow as an individual and improve your skill set, you have to master the art of sleeping. Getting quality sleep is just as beneficial as an proper exercise and nutrition regime. Without proper sleep to prepare you for a tough day ahead of self-improvement, you are not going to be as efficient as you want to be.
Lack of sleep will have negative effects on brain function, which will hamper your ability to absorb new knowledge and put it into practice.
I have covered the importance of sleep in countless articles before, but I have never given a wide variety to tips on how to actually improve your sleep. So lets dive into 5 ways that you can use to improve the quality of your sleep!
1. Go to bed and wake up at consistent times
For me personally, the one method that has yielded me the most consistent results is to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. I started to add this trick to my before bed routine, and within a week I was already able to notice the improvement in my sleeping quality.
Your body has a circadian rhythm, which is much like an internal body clock. It essentially helps regulate our brain and hormone levels. Being consistent with when you go to sleep and when you wake up will allow your circadian rhythm to more easily function. This will aid your sleep quality.
If on the other hand, you have very irregular sleeping hours, the circadian rhythm will be all over the place. Hence it will not be able to perform its job effectively. Studies have even shown that it doesn’t really matter at what time you go to bed or wake up, as long as they are the same hours everyday of the week. This includes weekends as well!
If you want to go to bed at 3 am in the morning and wake up at 12 o’clock in the afternoon, then that is perfectly fine. But once again, make sure you do this 7 days in the week!
If you miss your bed time occasionally, it is really not a big deal. You will not notice many negative effects the next day. However, you will have to continue your sleeping schedule the next day!
2. Proper Diet and Exercise
Our diets have a massive influence on our sleep, particularly the nature of certain foods and drinks, as well as the time we ingest them. Take caffeine for example. It has numerous health benefits, but drink it in the late afternoon or evening, and it can really mess with your sleep quality.
See caffeine stays active in your blood stream for up to 8 hours. So if you are drinking coffee after 4 pm, you might have a tough time falling asleep, especially if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. The main solution if you crave for a cup of coffee at night is to drink the decaffeinated version.
Another example we can take is alcohol. I have already briefly outlined the function of the circadian rhythm and highlighted the importance of it for our sleep cycle. It turns out that alcohol actually alters our melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that is key for our circadian rhythm.
It is generally advised to stay away from drinking any liquids 1-2 hours before you go to bed. This will decrease the chance of waking up in the night. To decrease this risk even further, make sure you go to the bathroom before you sleep!
Of course it goes without saying that a healthy diet of food will improve your sleep. But the time at which you eat your meals in relation to your sleep can also be of vital importance. Avoid eating a dense meal 4 hours before bed. Your digestive system slows down significantly during sleep, which is not great for your rest when your stomach is full of food. That being said, a small snack before bed is no issue!
Getting your daily exercise is also crucial for your sleep. It is an ideal way to tire out your body. The nights where I felt that I slept the best were those directly after a day of much physical exertion. I am sure you can also think of times where you were so physically fatigued, that you fell asleep before your head even hit the pillow and had one of the most satisfying sleeps of your entire life!
It is important to note that strenuous exercise does affect hormone levels, particularly adrenaline. If these hormones are present in high enough doses when you go to bed, you sleep can be negatively affected. So make sure you do not exercise to late into the night. This gives your body the opportunity to absorb and get rid of these hormones.
3. Increase sunlight exposure
The circadian rhythm finds its way back once again! I won’t stress the importance of it again, I am sure you get the picture. What I will do however, is show you another way to strengthen it.
Natural sunlight has been shown to help keep your circadian rhythm working optimally. Not only does sunlight this have numerous health benefits for during the day, it also improves your sleep quality!
Individuals who suffer from SAD [seasonal affective disorder] are treated using light. SAD is a condition where a persons circadian rhythm is out of tune. Using sunlight or mimicking sunlight, we are actually able to help regulate the circadian rhythm and help it function as it normally should.]
These studies have even extended to people with insomnia, which have seen massive improvements is their sleep quality by exposing them to sunlight!
4. Limit daytime naps
Day time naps, however amazing they might be, should be limited. Taking an afternoon nap for multiple hours is a surefire way to mess up with our evening sleep. In particular, it confuses our internal clock.
That being said, naps are a great way to rest your mind during a busy day. If you limit your naps to 20 minutes or less, your nighttime sleep is not affected. On top of that, these short power naps have been shown to have many positive effects for the brain during the day, so I recommend you to really try them out.
I personally take a 20 minute nap after I had lunch. I find that it increases my productivity quite a lot in the afternoon and evenings, especially for mind heavy tasks such as studying.
Note that the effects of napping can vary greatly between individuals. In my friends group there are people who respond very positively to these naps, but there are also others who simply can’t sleep for just 20 minutes. They say they cannot get out of bed and end up sleeping for hours. Which as we just discussed, ends up harming their sleeping quality during the night!
5. Make a “before bed” routine
It all starts with shutting off any electronic device about 1 hour before you go to bed. The main reason for this is to limit your exposure to blue light. Once again this is due to the negative impact it has on your circadian rhythm.
Try and replace scrolling through Instagram and Facebook by a relaxing activity. This can be by taking a nice warm shower/bath, or reading a book. One of my favorite activities is through mindfulness mediation and journaling. I go more into depth on the benefits of that here.
If you are able to clear your minds of any worry or bothersome thoughts, you will find it much easier to fall asleep quicker. This in turn also means that you will sleep longer during the night, which is always advantageous.
Sleep is of vital importance, and it is something you have to ensure you get right if you want to start working on yourself. I hope you enjoyed the read!