The act of lying in bed for eight hours a night doesn’t mean you’re hitting your sleep goal. It’s the quality of those hours that matters. The more deep REM sleep you get, the better your body functions. A shorter bout of quality sleep can be even more beneficial than a longer sleep interval with many disruptions. Unfortunately, sleep disruptions are the name of the game here in 2020. In recent months, most people are experiencing 1.8 sleep disruptions per night, which affects their overall sleep quality. Long term, this can lead to burnout and exhaustion.
Here are a few tips to catch some quality Zs and make the most of the time you set aside for sleep.
Set a consistent sleep schedule.
Aim to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every night. This not only prioritizes sleep in your schedule, but it aligns your body’s internal clock that decides when you’re tired and when you’re wide awake. If you find you have trouble waking up with your alarm, try shifting your daily bedtime earlier. One hack is to lie down to go to sleep about 30 minutes before you actually want to be sleeping. Worst case scenario: It takes you those 30 minutes to fall asleep and you hit your bedtime goal. Best case: you get an extra 30 minutes of sleep.
Control your exposure to light.
You’ve likely heard that blue light emitted by our screens can halt melatonin production and hinder our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Make it a habit to turn your technology to night mode a few hours before bed. Most have a setting to automatically switch over with sunset. But you should try to get exposed to bright light right away in the morning, when possible. Turn on overhead lights when getting ready, or eat breakfast outside in the sunlight. Try to let natural light in throughout the day. This contrast between day and night will help your sleep quality.
Optimize nighttime nutrition for sleep quality.
Avoid eating a big meal within a couple hours of bedtime, or really filling and heavy snacks. This can affect the quality of your sleep throughout the night. Also, try to cut down on liquids before bed, so you’re not disrupting your sleep with excessive bathroom runs. However, certain snacks can promote restful sleep when eaten before bed. For example, try a banana, a serving of almonds, sliced turkey, chamomile tea, walnuts or cottage cheese. These foods are backed by science and can help you sleep better when consumed in small amounts before bed.
Try bedtime relaxation techniques.
A “body scan” is a relaxation technique to calm muscles and make it easier to sleep. Starting with your feet, tense then relax your muscles as you work your way up to eventually your shoulders and head. The act of purposefully tensing and relaxing all your muscles identifies where you’re holding tension and actively releases it, putting you into a relaxed state. Additionally, try this deep breathing technique to help you sleep better. Download Calm, which has tools to help you get ready to sleep.