With many people suffering from bad sleep habits that prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep, it is important to try to break those sleep habits so that the poor practices do not lead to more serious problems like sleep apnea or other health issues such as severe lack of energy, chronic headaches, high blood pressure/hypertension, increased obesity rates and much more.
It has been shown that every half hour of sleep that occurs before midnight is equal to two hours of sleep after midnight making it more beneficial to go to bed early and rise early rather than going to bed late in the evening or early morning hours and sleeping until noon instead.
RELATED: If you are a Veteran, check out our article on sleep apnea and VA ratings.
How Does a Sleep Cycle Routine Get Thrown Off?
Many bad sleep habits can lead to a sleep schedule (the circadian rhythm) getting thrown off and poor sleep quality. These include eating too much or too close to bedtime, consuming caffeine later in the day or right before going to bed, listening to television or playing videos games in the bedroom within an hour of bedtime and watching late night movies on occasion among others.
Understanding The Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that influences the way our body functions. These include sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, alertness, and mood.
Different systems of your body follow circadian rhythms that are synchronized to your brain's master clock. This master clock is directly influenced by environmental cues like light, which is why circadian rhythms are tied to the cycle of day and night.
Circadian rhythms are important to your sleep hygiene. When they're not aligned, it can cause insomnia or other sleeping problems. Research has also shown that circadian rhythms play a significant role in physical and mental health.
15 Science Backed Tips To Get Your Sleep Routine Back On Track
Going back to basics is often the best way to get one’s sleep schedule back on track. Here are a few tips to help you break those bad sleep habits:
Analyze your sleeping habits.
The first step to making changes in your sleep routine is to identify the problem. Once you know what is causing the disruptions in your sleep, it is easier to tackle them one at a time. You then need to implement changes gradually and give your body time to adjust. Changing all of these at once will likely make them worse, and you may just fall back into old sleep routine.
Listen to calming music (Mozart, for instance)
Listening to calming music can help people sleep because it lowers their heart rate, slows down brain activity, and lowers stress hormones. Music can lighten moods and reduce depression levels. The type of music that you listen to is important. It should be soft music that does not create an expectation for excitement or a climaxing event, such as a rock song with heavy beats.
Don't eat too much before bedtime.
Eating before bed can cause your body's metabolism to slow.
Consuming foods with too many fats and sugars can cause bloating and indigestion, leading to heartburns and other problems that may keep you awake at night. This is because the body needs time to digest food properly before sleep.
As a general rule of thumb, it's recommended to have about 2 hours between your last meal and bedtime. This allows for digestion to occur and for the contents of your stomach to be processed to the small intestine which may prevent heartburn at night or even insomnia.
Converserly there are some foods that will help you sleep better such as Kefir.
Avoid caffeine at least a few hours before bedtime
Caffeine is a stimulant that has been proven to affect sleep patterns by reducing the time it takes for people to fall asleep while also increasing wakefulness during the night, causing poor quality sleep. Some studies have even shown that ingesting caffeine within six hours before bed can significantly reduce overall sleeping time.
Create a comfortable sleeping environment
Ensure your room is quiet and dark, get rid of clutter, and keep the temperature at the right level for you to sleep comfortably. Studies have shown that people who sleep in cooler rooms find it easy falling asleep than those who don't; they also stay asleep longer and wake up feeling better.
Sleeping in lighter clothes is also great way to regulate your body temperature. If it's too hot outside, you can sleep with less on and wake up feeling refreshed and cool instead of sweaty or uncomfortable. The same goes for when the weather gets frigid! You'll be more comfortable sleeping under cozy blankets rather than wearing heavy clothes.
Bonus Tip: A good mattress and pillow also go a long way in creating a conducive sleeping environment.
Create a bedtime routine
Create a sleeping routine by going to bed at the same time every night. Start by:
- turning off all electronics an hour before bed,
- avoid watching television while in bed,
- give yourself time to decompress.
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine will help your body perform better every day. Try to go to sleep by 10pm as the ideal time to go to bed and wake up is between 10 pm and 6 pm –this is when the best sleep quality occurs.
Regular exercises are known to help people feel better, sleep better and live longer, plus lose weight.
Exercise can help you to sleep by lowering levels of stress hormones so that your body can rest better at night. It has also been shown to help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia, making it easier for people to fall asleep faster. The key is not to exercise too close before bedtime, as this will have an energizing effect that will keep one up rather than allowing them to relax into a good night’s sleep.
You should not exercise within three to four hours before bedtime as it gets the body all “worked up,” so it is hard to relax.
Establish a calm pre-bedtime ritual
Research has shown that doing activities such as reading a calming book or listening to your favorite music can help people to fall asleep faster and enjoy a deeper restful sleep all night long – so try to include some type of relaxing activity before bedtime. You can also take a bath, meditate or practice stretching exercises. Anything that makes you feel relaxed and sleepy can be used for your calming pre-bedtime ritual.
Change your sleeping position
Sleeping on your side is the best position to sleep in as it can help keep you from snoring, reduce acid reflux and even improve circulation. A few pillows under your head or back can help with this if you find sleeping on your side too uncomfortable.
If you have any underlying conditions that force you to sleep on a specific position, you should seek medical advice from your doctor on how best to improve your sleep quality.
Read more on the best sleep positions for a good night’s sleep
Try natural sleep remedies
If all else fails, try some gentle herbal aids to help you relax and get a good night's rest. Chamomile, Valerian, and Passion Flower are all herbs that can help one drift off to sleep naturally and soundly.
Chamomile tea is known to calm the nerves, while Valerian helps one to fall asleep faster by reducing levels of stress hormones as well as increasing serotonin release, which works like a sedative on the body. Lemons are also known to be a great source of napsychollin, an essential hormone that promotes relaxation by reducing anxiety and stress levels.
Try drinking herbal tea before bedtime, or keep some on hand in case you can't get to sleep right away. If you are under any medication, consult with your doctor before taking any type of herbal remedy, as some contain substances that may interact with certain medications.
Get a massage
Getting a relaxing massage helps people to feel more relaxed and can help with sleep deprivation. Massages can help bring down blood pressure, ease pain and tension, and reduce stress hormones, making it easy to sleep and rest better at night. If you can't get one from a professional massage therapist, your partner can help. You can also try giving yourself one by using qualitative massage oils, especially those with lavender, as they have sedative properties that soothe you to sleep.
A few drops on the back or shoulders (where your hands can reach without struggling) might be enough. Lightly rub the area in circular motions for 5-10 minutes until you start to feel more relaxed and yawning, which signifies that you are ready to go to sleep
Although a glass of wine may make you feel more relaxed and help calm the nerves, this is not a good idea as it has been proven to disrupt sleep patterns. Instead of reaching the deepest levels of sleep, people often wake up in the middle of the night after consuming alcohol, making them feel very tired during the day. This causes an interruption in your regular sleep cycle.
Avoid taking lots of liquids right before going to bed.
If you drink excessive water/juice/smoothies, at night, your bladder has more work to do which takes energy away from sleep or causes you to wake up more frequently.
You can drink more water during the day but one glass of drinking water at night is enough to keep your body hydrated while you are asleep, making sure that the body's processes keep running smoothly. Try adding some cucumber slices or mint leaves into your cup if you want some added flavor!
Avoid naps during the daytime.
Avoiding naps during the day will allow your body to get better sleep at night when it needs it the most. If you do find yourself needing a nap, make sure that you limit it between 15-30 minutes, or else your body will become groggy and want more sleep. Also make sure you are getting enough sleep at night. This will help prevent you trying to catch up on extra hours of sleep during the day and break bad sleeping habits.
Write down stressors or thoughts.
Keeping a small notepad by your bedside can be helpful in soothing you to sleep. If there are things that keep running through your mind, write them down but do not dwell on them while you are writing or it will cause your mind to work even more. Once you have written down everything that is keeping you awake, put the notepad away and continue with your relaxing nighttime ritual. You will drift to sleep before you know it!
Bottom Line: Is my sleep hygiene going to improve?
The more you know about your sleep habits, the better equipped you are to find a bedtime routine that works for you. It can be difficult to change your old routine and sleep schedule, but it is worth taking some time out of your day to explore what will work best for you. There are plenty of options available when it comes to finding ways to falling asleep faster or stay asleep longer; all with different levels of success rates. Be patient in figuring out which method might work best for you. If still in doubt, visit your nearest sleep center.
If you are still not sure how to improve your sleep, or might require devices (to help stop snoring) it's best to seek professional help for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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