I don’t know about you, but I have been having problems falling asleep very often these days. I don’t know if it is because I barely leave the house (not a problem for me, really), or because the weather is changing and there are more light hours (welcome, summer!), but sometimes I can’t sleep until very late at night.
Apparently it’s not just me, by the way: some of my friends also find difficulties falling asleep. So I thought it could be interesting doing some research and bring you some tips to sleep better!
But before I start digging into how to sleep better, I would like to reflect on another question…
Why do we sleep?
Despite some people thinking that sleeping is a waste of time (never heard something that silly before, right?), sleeping is actually incredibly necessary for our human bodies.
You see, there are just so many explanations for why we need to sleep, scientist are not completely sure they can just accept one reason for it. In fact, living beings sleep for a number of biological reasons.
For starters, during sleeping time, our bodies regenerate. Cells restore throughout the day, but it’s during the night when this work gets mostly done. Muscle repair, protein synthesis, hormone release, and tissue growth are some of the processes that take place during our sleep. Therefore, it is very important to have a good sleep if we are sick or working out regularly.
At the same time, our brains also need sleep time to get rid of toxic byproducts that are created in the nervous system. A night of good sleep can help improve memory, creativity, learning, and concentration. It is also absolutely necessary for good emotional health. In fact, it affects the areas in the brain that regulate emotion, like the amygdala, in charge of the fear response. This explains why, when you sleep too little, you are most likely to become stressed.
(Actually, now that I think about it, sleeping less when we go back to our routine could be one of the reasons why we suffer from post-holiday blues. You can read more about how to beat post-holiday blues here!)
Lastly, sleep helps control our hunger hormones and protects against insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes type 2). So if you’re having problems with your sugar levels or are trying to maintain a “healthy” weight, sleeping is a great ally!
5 Tips to Sleep Better
1. Be aware of circadian rhythm
What is the circadian rhythm? Well, according to the Sleep Foundation, your body has a 24-hour natural internal clock that regulates your sleep patterns. It helps us fall asleep at night and be awake in the morning.
So, if this is a natural clock, why do we need to pay attention to it? Doesn’t it regulate itself?
Indeed, it does! In nature, circadian rhythms are controlled by the amount of light of the hour in the day. Our bodies have been designed (who knows by whom) to react to the blue light from the morning with energy and to the warm light of a fire in the night with calm. And of course, with falling asleep when there’s no light.
But due to our busy lifestyles and our love for technology, our circadian rhythms are suffering changes. If you work on your laptop until late at night or use social media when you can’t sleep, you are likely to be affected by the blue light coming out of these devices.
It’s this blue light that makes your body think, “Hey, wait a minute! It’s not time to sleep yet. I’ll need to be awake for another couple of hours, I must stay alert”.
What can you do against it? Well, I have 2 tips to sleep better if you think your circadian cycles are suffering. The first one, get away from blue light a couple of hours before going to sleep: no TV, no phone, no laptop.
But I’m reasonable. I know you are probably not going to do that (I certainly don’t!). Thankfully, some brands like Kensington Brand make affordable luxury blue light blocking glasses. These glasses block the blue light from your devices, helping you with headaches and sleeping difficulties.
2. Learn when to take caffeine
When I was ten, I used to laugh at my mum and their friends not being able to drink tea or coffee after seven in the evening. They said it was bad for their sleep.
Now I’m 27, and if I drink a Coca Cola after six, I don’t sleep until two or three in the morning.
Really sad, as I love Coca Cola, especially when I go to the cinema (and no one likes going to the cinema at 12 pm, or do you?).
Meanwhile, my grandma (who is older than 80 now) is able to drink a coffee at 9 pm and fall asleep in her armchair a couple of hours later while watching TV. I’m amazed by my grandma. She doesn’t get burnt with hot food, she is not affected by caffeine…
What I’m trying to say is, caffeine can affect you or not. So when learning how to sleep better, I don’t think you should reject caffeine. Maybe just learn how it affects you and make a conscious decision about it when given the option to have a coffee.
3. Develop a sleeping habit
You know I love sleeping and I hate getting up early. So when the weekend arrives, I’d rather sleep until 12 and go to bed after 12 as well. Now that I’m not working, this is what I do – I go to sleep at 1 am, and get up at 10:30. As you can see, I’m more of a night owl and it works well for me.
However, when I work at the office I have to get up earlier (obviously and unfortunately) and I go to bed pretty early as well. (I get too tired when I work, I don’t love it!) So my sleeping patterns get all over the place because, for me, the natural thing is getting up late and going to sleep late.
This being said, I can complain as much as I want about getting up early to go to work, but the truth is when duty calls everything else doesn’t matter.
So, in order to get a night of better sleep, we should try to sleep and wake up at a constant time. If this is 7 am Monday to Friday, it should be more or less 7 am Saturday and Sunday. This will help your circadian rhythms, you will be noticing a much better sleep in a few weeks.
4. Exercise, but during the day
Although exercising is one of the favourite tips to sleep better, it needs to be done right.
If you exercise during the day (say 7 am to 6 pm) – you are doing a great job. You will burn some energy and get tired with plenty of time to relax after your work out. Even a 10 minutes walk can improve your sleep, and that’s a very small goal. Everybody could make it! (Even me!)
But before you feel tired from working out, you are likely to feel excited. This is because exercise speeds up your metabolism and stimulates certain hormones (like cortisol) which can interfere with your sleep. If you don’t have a better time to exercise than a couple of hours before you go to bed, you could maybe try some yoga.
5. Design a beautiful, comfortable bedroom
To me, one of the most important tips to sleep better on this list is precisely this one. Since I moved into this flat (which bedroom faces East and receives daylight since 3 am in summer), I have come to realise how important darkness is for a good sleep.
I’m going to write an article for Hubpages where I will be explaining some of the most important features of a comfortable, relaxing bedroom. But just to mention a few here:
- Your room must be at a comfortable temperature: between 16-18°C (60-65°F). Higher than that, it will be way too warm to sleep (believe me, I know that: I’m Spanish). Cooler than that, you won’t be able to sleep either. I personally have to wear two shirts, a jumper and socks to sleep in winter in Glasgow (under a duvet, of course).
- As I already mentioned, try to get your room as dark as possible. This is, again, because we don’t want our circadian rhythms to go crazy with light coming in from the corridor or the street. You can improve the darkness in your bedroom by just buying block out curtains.
- A good mattress and adequate pillows are SUPER important. Also, an uncomfortable mattress won’t only make it impossible to sleep, but it could also hurt your back, muscles, and neck. I might do another article on this, as I’m becoming an expert thanks to my copywriting work.
- Your bedroom is to sleep. If like me, you are renting, it might not be entirely possible to design your bedroom as you want. And if you’re sharing your house, you might need to work from your bedroom from time to time. However, if this is the case try to find a desk where you can work from. Otherwise, you will make the relation automatically without realising – bed = work, and that won’t let you sleep easily!
- And finally, your bedroom should be as quiet as possible (I’m sure you already know that). If your room is facing a street or busy road, the best thing you can do is invest in double-glazed windows, which will also help you keep a good temperature throughout the year. If again, you’re renting, you could suggest your landlord makes some changes. And if they disagree, a couple of earplugs could do the job.
So these are my tips to sleep better. I hope they help you and that you know a little bit more about how to sleep better now. To be honest, I think it’s a very important matter we tend to disregard until our sleeping habits are all over the place and we start to experience sleeping difficulties. But it’s never too late to build a good sleeping habit!
As a last recommendation, I suggest you visit the website sleepcouncil.org.uk. I discovered it while writing some texts for work and I really love it. They have very good advice and great tips to sleep better.
I hope you have a good sleep tonight!! 🥱 😴🥱 😴