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Medically reviewed by:
Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez
Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer with more than eight years of research experience in the field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos obtained his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA), supported by the Fulbright Program.
Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has authored multiple original research papers in top journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals. Carlos has also participated in international scientific meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.
Stress, mood swings, fatigue, rapid weight gain, headaches, inability to focus, decreased memory, and impaired work performance are just some of the short-term consequences you can experience when you don’t get enough sleep. And long-term sleep deprivation is even worse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep. As a result, every aspect of their lives is impacted.
Are you one of those people? Are you struggling to get enough sleep, but nothing seems to work?
Don’t worry, as we have reviewed a large number of scientific articles to bring you the best possible science-backed tips for getting better sleep.
Watch our video and say goodbye to your sleepless nights!
Why Is Sleep so Important?
Health experts agree that good sleep is one of the foundations for leading a healthy life. Rest is an absolute biological necessity. Regular high-quality, restorative sleep has many benefits, including:
- Better cognitive functioning
- Healthy circadian system
- Better fat reduction
- Faster muscle recovery
- Balanced hormone levels
- Longer lifespan
And on the other end of the spectrum, research shows that lack of sleep leads to harmful short-term consequences, including:
- Daytime fatigue
- Mood swings
- Impaired memory
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of motivation
- Decreased work and academic performance
- Weight gain
And if you don’t improve your sleeping habits, prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to:
- Anxiety and depression
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Premature aging
- High blood pressure
- Early death
As you can see, sleep deprivation is very serious, and you should always aim for better sleep.
So, what can you do to improve your nightly rest?
Science-Based Sleep Tips
Everyone knows that you are supposed to sleep for eight hours every night, but is that really true?
The amount of sleep varies depending on age, and while teens need from 8 to 10 hours, experts suggest that adults should get anywhere between 7 to 9 hours. To make things a bit more complicated, it seems that this isn’t true for everybody.
Moreover, quality of sleep also plays a massive role in how rested you’ll feel the following day. Some studies show that sleep quality may be as equally, if not more important than sleep duration, in the development of many medical conditions.
Although some people are naturally good sleepers and need less resting time to function properly, the chances of this being you are slim. So here is what scientists recommend to improve your sleep and maximize your potential.
Control the Light in Your Environment
You might have heard about the circadian clock that dictates your daily rhythms. This biological clock tells you when it’s time to go to sleep or wake up, and you can adjust it with light exposure.
When we perceive dimmer light in the evening, our brain starts the production of melatonin, which is a hormone responsible for inducing sleep. In the morning, bright light cues the brain that is time to be active, as the production of melatonin stops.
But what happens when you expose yourself to bright light in the evening?
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, room light exposure before bedtime leads to disruption of melatonin production. In fact, evening room light exposure during regular sleep hours leads to a 50% decrease in melatonin levels.
But that’s not all.
The same study found this light exposure to affect blood pressure, thermoregulation, and glucose homeostasis.
So, make sure to dim the lights once the sun starts setting. You can use smart light bulbs, which can easily be programmed to this automatically. Also, remember that exposing yourself to sunlight during the day is also vital. Besides, studies show that light exposure has positive effects on our mood, alertness, sleep, and overall well-being.
And don’t forget to avoid using all electronics before bed, as screens emit blue light which tricks our brain into thinking it is daytime. Indeed, studies have repeatedly shown the harmful effects of blue light on our nightly rest.
A 2015 study showed that even something as small as swapping your eReader for a good old-fashioned book at night could drastically improve sleep, alertness on the following day, performance, and overall health.
Try to Maintain a Regular Sleeping Schedule
Sleep associations are incredibly strong. Keeping your sleep schedule consistent will teach your nervous system when it is time to eat, rest, and be active, and you will become a more efficient sleeper.
Having an irregular sleep schedule may also lead to disrupted circadian rhythms and melatonin production, as well as poorer academic performance in students.
So, you better follow a sleep schedule and stick to it. Even on weekends!
Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake
Sure, you rely on a morning coffee to get you going and keep you productive during the day. But always remember caffeine is a brain stimulant that can mess with your sleep/wake cycle.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that caffeine consumption has disruptive effects on sleep when consumed less than six hours before bedtime. So keep that in mind the next time you feel like drinking coffee in the afternoon.
And stay away from other sleep-altering substances like alcohol. Although many people think that alcohol helps them sleep, it actually disrupts the production of melatonin and reduces the time spent in deep and REM sleep.
And if your partner has been complaining about your snoring, you should definitely avoid alcohol, as research shows it can make things worse, and may even amplify symptoms of medical conditions such as sleep apnea.
Manage Your Naps
Naps can be your best friend as research shows they can boost wakefulness, productivity, and performance. However, that is if you keep them under 30 minutes only.
When you don’t limit your naps, they can decrease the amount of sleep time during the night, which can disrupt your sleep patterns.
Another common mistake is that people nap too close to bedtime. That makes it harder to fall asleep at night, and it significantly shortens sleep duration.
So next time you feel tired after 4 PM, why don’t you forget about napping and take a short walk outside instead?
There is a good reason why all health experts recommend regular exercise. It is excellent for every aspect of your life!
Among so many health benefits, exercise can also make you a better sleeper.
Research shows a positive correlation between sleep quality and exercise. Regular exercise can decrease sleep onset and increase both sleep duration and time spent in the deepest stages of sleep.
So get that gym membership and start working out.
Consider Taking Melatonin Supplements
Melatonin supplements are a useful treatment option in patients with sleep disorders.
Studies suggest that melatonin has some positive effects in elderly insomnia patients. While receiving melatonin, they exhibited better sleep quality and improved morning alertness, without any withdrawal symptoms after discontinuation of use.
In addition, melatonin supplements can also help people get their circadian rhythms into order. Talk to your healthcare provider, and obtain some information on how you can incorporate these supplements into your evening routine until you get things back on track.
Becoming a better sleeper takes some time and persistence, but with these science-based tips, you are off to a good start.
Find things that help you unwind in the evening and stick with your routines.
Did we miss anything?
Is there something that helped you get your sleep to the next level? Let us know in the comment section.
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Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.