10 Easy Life Hacks for Enhancing Restful Sleep
Okay, so let me make one thing super clear: I am not writing on this subject because I am some kind of well rested sleep expert. Far from it. In fact, right now, at this very moment, I am writing from a sleep deprived stupor.
When I had my first born, I was all ready for the dreaded sleepless nights everyone warned me about. Then I was blessed with a freakishly chill infant that slept through most of the night, and was easily and quickly fed and soothed when she did wake up.
But NOW, with my second born, I have your classic waking up multiple times in the night, hard to sooth, stumbling-to-the-kitchen-at-1am-to-refill bottles baby. And boy am I feeling the sleep deprivation!
So researching ways to enhance restful sleep – however many hours I am lucky to get – has become a recent interest of mine. Because it’s not just the duration of sleep that matters (thank God!) but the INTENSITY of sleep. Five hours of deep, restful sleep is far better for your health and much more restorative than eight hours of broken, light sleep.
In my gleaning for simple and easy life hacks to enhance sleep, these were the easiest and by far the simplest tips that seem to offer the most return for the effort. Give them a try and let me know what you think!
1. Get at least one hour of sunlight exposure during the day.
Your bodies master clock, or circadian rhythm DEPENDS on you getting ample light exposure in your waking hours to enhance restful sleep. Research by Dr. Mercola reveals that many indoor environments simply aren’t intense enough to set your internal clock. Your body requires “anchor light”, so called because it anchors your rhythm, causing it to be less fragile, so that light at night has less of an ability to shift your rhythm.
According to Mercola the first 30-60 minutes of outdoor light exposure creates about 80 percent of your anchoring effect! This is useful information, as this means that even just going outside for half an hour at lunch time can provide you with the majority of anchoring light you need to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm!
So spend more time outside during daylight! Try to take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or play with your children outside. Let as much light into your home and workspace as possible, keeping curtains and blinds open during the day.
2. Avoid caffeine hours 6 hours before bedtime.
Research from the Sleep Disorders & Research Center conducted at the Henry Ford Hospital have proven that caffeine affects your body up to 6 hours after consumption! Caffeine works by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. So this one step will go a LONG WAY toward enhancing restful sleep.
So avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) for at LEAST six hours before bedtime.
3. Don’t eat dinner within 2 hours of bedtime.
What you eat before bed (and when you eat it) can have a serious impact on your sleep quality (and weight!).
Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within 2 hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
4. Go to bed at the same time every night.
Having a regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s internal clock to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine!
Waking up at the same time each day is the very best way to set your clock, and even if you did not sleep well the night before, the extra sleep drive will help you consolidate sleep the following night. So set a regular bedtime… and stick to it!
5. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual.
Simply doing the same things each night will tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music with the lights dimmed.
I have started having a cup of herbal tea while my husband and I read a Bible study before bedtime. The important thing is that your routine is relaxing! Relaxing activities promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.
6. Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment.
We will spend a third of our lives sleeping. ONE THIRD. So it just makes sense to invest in a comfortable, healthy sleeping environment!
Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows. (Remember that most mattresses wear out after ten years.) If you suffer from allergies, consider allergy-proof slipcovers for your bed. Invest in some natural fiber fabrics for your sheets – wool is proven to enhance deep sleep, linen and cotton are great for keeping you cool, while silk offers beauty benefits (it’s great for your skin and hair!) CLICK HERE to read my blog post, “The Health Benefits of Wearing Natural Fabrics”!
Also, if a pet regularly wakes you during the night, you may want to consider keeping it out of your bedroom.
7. Banish electronics from the bedroom.
Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the bedroom will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep. Not to mention late night Pinterest or LOLcat meme marathons doesn’t exactly enhance sleep. (I’m majorly guilty on that one…)
Furthermore, that “glow” from electronics is also at work against quality shuteye. The small amounts of light from these devices pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. But more on that on the next point..
8. Keep your bedroom dark at night.
When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal gland is “turned on” and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours – all through the night – before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels. Daytime levels of melatonin are barely detectable.
When the eye, even with eyelids closed, perceives specific levels of light, the brain’s pineal gland triggers the production of serotonin, causing the human body to awaken. So if you want to stay sleepy at night.. stay in the dark!!
Cover electronics with a glow, get rid of nightlights (or use ones with a dim red hue), use heavy curtains or blackout shades and if all else fails, use an eye mask to block light!
9. Set your thermostat to 65 degrees at night.
Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University states that when you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature – basically, the temperature your brain is trying to achieve – goes down. Think of it as the internal thermostat.
If it’s too hot, the body struggles to achieve this set point. If you provide a mild drop in body temperature, it will actually induce sleep!
While the National Sleep Foundation recommends you keep your room at 65 degrees, they insist that if the cold is keeping you awake, you can raise it anywhere from 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit and still enjoy the same sleep enhancing effects.
10. Keep your room quiet at night.
If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbors, city traffic, or other people in your household (*cough*infant*cough*), try masking noise with a fan, using recordings of soothing sounds, or even try white noise. Earplugs may also help.
Do you use any of these ten life hacks for enhancing sleep? Think you’ll try some? Share in the comments below! ^_^