Is it Monday morning and you’re bleary-eyed at your office computer again? Even after going to bed earlier and downing an oversized coffee, are you still daydreaming of actual dreaming? In that case, it might be time to examine your sleep — at least the quality of it.
Your snooze time is supposed to refresh you and keep you alert for your waking hours. If that’s not happening, you probably need to make a few changes. Improving the quality of sleep is possible. It frequently takes more than an earlier bedtime to do the trick, though.
Keep reading through these six tips. Scanning the list won’t put you to sleep, but the strategies could certainly make your shuteye a lot more satisfying.
1. Investigate Potential Sleep Disorders
For lots of people, bad sleep has nothing to do with bedtimes or too much caffeine. Sometimes, an underlying, undiagnosed health problem is to blame. If you suspect that’s your dilemma, talk to your doctor about a sleep study. It means trying to sleep — hooked up to a bunch of sensors — in an exam room for a night. You could learn valuable information, however, so it’s worth it.
For example, sleep apnea could be your trouble. It’s a condition where you stop breathing during sleep, so your brain sends your body a jolt. It kickstarts your lungs, but it disrupts your snoozing. Doctors frequently suggest a continuous positive airway pressure machine as the remedy. Delivered through CPAP masks, the steady stream of air such devices provide will help you maintain regular breathing all night.
2. Stay in the Light
Exposure to light affects your sleep more than just at night. Getting the right amount of sunlight during the day is a big part of keeping a healthy sleep-wake cycle. You’ll have more energy to be active during the day, and that can help you sleep better at bedtime.
For lots of people, spending more time in the sun means they sleep longer at night. In fact, some people report getting more light exposure makes it easier to fall asleep faster. No more tossing and turning for hours, waiting for your brain to take a break! If you live in a spot that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, don’t worry. Using a sun lamp or similar devices works well, too.
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3. Nix the Nighttime Blue Light
Not all light affects you the same way, though. Blue light — especially at night — can significantly mess with your sleep. Being exposed to too much can reduce your level of melatonin. That’s the hormone that helps you wind down and sleep deeply.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to limit the amount of blue light you take in. If you scroll on your smartphone at night, look for an app that can block blue light. Similar options exist for your computer if you’re working in the evening.
Looking for an even easier option? Turn off the TV and any bright lights roughly two hours before bedtime. Your brain will get the hint, and you’ll fall into a more restful slumber.
4. Skip the Nightcap
You’ve probably been there before. You had a hard day at work, or you’ve spent a busy day traveling. All you want to do is chill on the couch with a glass of wine or cocktail to unwind. It sounds like a great way to relax!
Not so fast. Alcohol actually presents a lot of hurdles to a good night’s sleep. Like blue light, it decreases your supply of melatonin. A few drinks can also make sleep apnea and snoring worse, setting you up for more sleep disruptions. So as tempting as it is, consider skipping the evening drink. You’ll probably be happier with yourself in the morning.
5. Try a New Bed Set
A pillow is a pillow, and a mattress is a mattress, right? Nope. The quality of where you lay your head and stretch out for several hours at a time matters. If you’ve been sleeping on the same pillows and mattress for a decade, take a good look at them. Bedding that doesn’t provide adequate support could be standing between you and a solid 40 winks.
Whether you want bedding that’s soft or firm is up to you. Keep in mind that it’s best to replace your sleep setup every five to eight years. If you do get replacements, you may see a drop in back and shoulder pain, as well as stiffness. All of that contributes to a much better night’s rest. Don’t stress about the price tag, either — there are plenty of affordable mattress options these days.
6. Avoid Long Naps
This one can be a hard habit to break when you’re barely keeping your eyes open during the mid-afternoon slump. Try your best, though, because it will pay off. If you’re taking anything longer than a 20- to 30-minute catnap, you’re setting the stage for a sleep struggle. In fact, longer naps could make you even sleepier during the day — that counts as a double doze-off fail!
Instead, if you need a pick-me-up, shoot for quick 20-minute snoozes. They can boost your memory and your mood. Some people report taking a short nap helps relieve their stress. Try to take your naps before 2 p.m., if possible. Earlier naps are less likely to mess with your nighttime sleep.
It only takes a few nights of staring at the clock for hours to realize getting good sleep is vital. When you’re well-rested, you work better, you think more clearly, and you have a lot more energy. If you struggle to get quality sleep, try not to get frustrated. Put these six strategies in motion, and you could be sleeping better in no time.