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Secrets To Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Finding it tough to fall - and stay - asleep? Here are 5 science-backed tips that'll help you get a better sleep nightly, so you perform and look your best.

Secrets To Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

You wake with a startle. Your bedside alarm clock flashes bright with the words: ‘3.38 am.’ This is the 1245th time you’ve stirred tonight – and honestly? You’re frustrated.

Going back to sleep will take you yet another 20 minutes of tossing, turning, and (maybe) mindless scrolling through Instagram… Leaving you with a total of 3 hours before your alarm blares at you to get going for the day.

And as you're probably aware, if sleep deprivation becomes a nightly affair for you, you can bid farewell to your gains (especially since natural muscle-building takes so long...)

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Adequate sleep allows your body to secrete optimal levels of growth hormones, responsible for muscle recovery and growth.

But of course, knowing the importance of getting enough sleep and doing it are 2 separate issues. Thus explaining why you're perpetually tired.

Don’t worry, though. Help is available.

Below, we explore how you can get better sleep through a list of tips (including a few related to sleep hygiene) proven to help accelerate your journey into dreamland at night – and keep you there for a minimal of 7 hours!

1 – Keep your bedroom cool

Let's be honest. Sometimes, your bedroom can feel like a sauna: warm, humid, and suffocating – particularly since the summer months are fast approaching and the temperatures are starting to rise.

Imagine trying to fall asleep when you’re a hot, sweaty mess. Impossible.

That’s why sleep experts recommend keeping a cooler room; doing so helps keep your instances of waking up for temperature-related issues (e.g. wiping sweat off your forehead) to a minimum.

Research agrees. In a 2017 study published in Science Advances, researchers found a compelling link between high night-time temperatures and less-than-ideal sleep (i.e. the higher the temperatures, the worse the participants' reported sleep).

But wait. Just how cool is ‘cool’?

Well, it appears that generally, a room that’s between 15°C to 19°C (roughly 60°F to 67°F) tends to be most people’s sleepy-time sweet spot.

If you can’t regulate the temperature in your room, consider sleeping with lighter (or heavier) pajamas, switching up your bedding (e.g. those made with breathable and cooling materials, where applicable), or even sleep naked – if you’re comfortable with that, of course.

2 – Eliminate as much noise as possible

Much like how temperature can keep you awake, sounds – like from your overenthusiastic neighbors or night-time ‘racers’ using the roads as F1 tracks – can keep you up longer than you’d like.

So, whenever possible, keep the noise levels in your bedroom to a minimum.

If ambient sounds are an issue, consider investing in a white noise machine. This helps create a ‘blanket of sound’ that masks sudden noise consistency changes (e.g. slamming of a door and loud talking in the hallway).

Studies suggest that using a white noise machine could help cut down on the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep by at least 40%! In other words: you can now head to zzz land in just 36 minutes if you’ve been consistently tossing and turning for an hour nightly.

Prefer complete silence? Easy. Try earplugs.

3 – Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime

If you've been relying on nightcaps and 'quarantine cocktails' – and believe that they're helping you to get a better night's sleep… Reconsider.

Yes, thanks to its sedative properties, alcohol can indeed help you fall asleep more quickly (i.e. aids with sleep onset). But what you don’t know is that if you drink before bedtime, you’re more likely to wake up throughout the night and clock in less deep sleep.

That’s because alcohol messes with your sleep cycles, resulting in abnormal arousals that cause you to spend less time in the important deep sleep stages.

Meaning?

If you imbibe too close to bedtime, both the quantity and quality of your sleep – not to mention your gains from all that hard work in the gym – will suffer.

It’s not just your alcohol intake you need to keep an eye on, either. Depending on your caffeine tolerance, you’re also going to want to time your afternoon pick-me-up so that it doesn’t keep you awake at night.

Just so you know: your body takes 4 to 6 hours to clear half of the caffeine you’ve consumed. So, if you drink that cuppa at 5 pm? You'll still have to metabolize another half of your ingested caffeine at 10 pm. Yep – you can count on that to keep you up.

4 – Get your daily dose of vitamin D

Practically living like a zombie, never once stepping out of your house in the daytime? Yeah… Let’s avoid that whenever possible if you wish to get better sleep.

See, your sleep cycle is regulated by something known as a ‘circadian rhythm’ – you can think of it as an internal clock that helps you stay awake and tells your body when it's time to sleep. And your circadian rhythm, in turn, is regulated by natural sunlight (or light in general, really).

Studies show that natural sunlight – or bright light – exposure during the day helps improve daytime energy, plus night-time sleep quality and duration.

So… Time to reset your circadian rhythm? Here's a much-needed disclaimer: obviously, getting out and about during the day during these challenging pandemic times may be more of a hassle than anything else, so if heading outdoors is not practical, invest in an artificial device or bulbs.

5 – Limit the time you spend napping

Naps are so delicious – and with WFH still a norm, settling in for a mid-afternoon nap (right before that evening round-up call) can feel so right.

But if this comes at the expense of night-time quality sleep? For the sake of better sleep, it's probably in your best interests to either cut down on the time you spend napping or even eliminate naps.

Consider upping the intensity of your workout sessions

Bonus: exercise is one of the best evidence-based tips for better sleep. Of course, if you’re reading this article, you’re likely already an active individual.

Here’s something to consider, though: what if you’re not challenging your body enough? What if your body is currently capable of achieving more and is finding your current workouts a bore?

Well… Truth be told, if you’ve been finding yourself struggling with a ton of energy at night – despite working out in the day – then it’s a pretty clear sign you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

And in that case, you might want to consider GymStreak, an AI-powered personal trainer app that re-calibrates your training plan every so often to make sure you’re always training hard enough to reach your goals – and be tired enough for a good night’s sleep.

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References

Issa, F. G., & Sullivan, C. E. (1982). Alcohol, snoring and sleep apnea. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 45(4), 353–359. https://doi.org/10.1136/jnnp.45.4.353

Messineo, L., Taranto-Montemurro, L., Sands, S. A., Oliveira Marques, M. D., Azabarzin, A., & Wellman, D. A. (2017). Broadband Sound Administration Improves Sleep Onset Latency in Healthy Subjects in a Model of Transient Insomnia. Frontiers in Neurology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2017.00718

Obradovich, N., Migliorini, R., Mednick, S. C., & Fowler, J. H. (2017). Night-time temperature and human sleep loss in a changing climate. Science Advances, 3(5). https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1601555

Passos, G. S., Poyares, D., Santana, M. G., Garbuio, S. A., Tufik, S., & Mello, M. T. (2010). Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 6(3), 270–275.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014

Research, I. of M. (US) C. on M. N. (2001). Pharmacology of Caffeine. In Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. National Academies Press (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223808/

Sanassi, L. A. (2014). Seasonal affective disorder: Is there light at the end of the tunnel? JAAPA: Official Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 27(2), 18-22;quiz 23. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.JAA.0000442698.03223.f3

Tuunainen, A., Kripke, D. F., & Endo, T. (2004). Light therapy for non-seasonal depression. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2, CD004050. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004050.pub2

Vitaterna, M. H., Takahashi, J. S., & Turek, F. W. (2001). Overview of circadian rhythms. Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 25(2), 85–93.