We may not be able to control all aspects of our sleep, but we can take concrete steps to give ourselves the best chance of getting rest
Photos by Adi Goldstein, Mert Kahveci, and Sander Sammy/Unsplash
Sleep, just like food and water, is a necessity for survival. While we usually get an excess of food, and sometimes water, we usually lack in the sleep department. There have been debates about the cause of this but most experts agree that it’s a mix of different things. For example, the invention of electricity, at-home entertainment (like TVs and streaming), a busier lifestyle, and increased work demands are a few reasons why a lot of us stay up late. While these things, inherently, may not be bad, too much of it gets in the way of proper “sleep hygiene.”
This term has been coined in response to the fact that not a lot of people pay any attention to proper sleep. For most, it’s all about going to bed, dozing off, and waking up. However, it’s not that simple. For one, not everyone is blessed enough to catch some Z’s at will. A large percentage of us, myself included, struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep soundly. Personally, I’ve made some sleep strides and I’m here to share some of my learnings. Do take note that I am not a sleep expert but I think you can still learn from the tips I’ll be sharing.
Consistency is key
Let’s face it, we’re all creatures of habit. No matter how spontaneous we want to be, we still have some sort of routine on a daily basis. From eating and working to playing and sleeping, our bodies like to follow a certain pattern. This is the same for bedtime.
When we go to bed at different times or only when we feel like it, our bodies often get confused about whether it’s time to sleep or not. This wreaks havoc on our ability to not only fall asleep but also to go into deeper sleep phases. As a result, we often wake up tired or sleep too little. Here are things you can do:
Have a bedtime routine
Whether reading a book, having a warm cup of chamomile tea, or even praying or meditating, what we do before our heads hit the pillows is important.
Whether reading a book, having a warm cup of chamomile tea, or even praying or meditating, what we do before our heads hit the pillows is important
Get some momentum
Make sure you do your routine around an hour before your desired bedtime.
Find that rhythm
Try to wake up at the same time every morning, assuming you already slept long enough of course. Waking up at the right time, getting some sunshine, and going through your morning routine would allow your body to properly set its circadian rhythm. This allows for bedtime (and wake time) to come more naturally.
Prepare your room
Our sleep is only as good as how our bed and room allow us to sleep. Here are a few things you can consider improving.
Keep the room dark
Eliminate external light sources by using a blackout curtain and by covering all internal light sources (e.g. digital clocks, voltage regulators, etc.)
Use white noise
If you have an Amazon Alexa device, you can ask it to play white noise or other sleep-related sounds. I used to wear noise-canceling headphones and played tranquility sounds on YouTube. I have since moved on from this by wearing Bose Sleepbuds. These are tiny earphones that play relaxing audio without the need for a smartphone. It’s one of my best purchases since it basically allows me to disconnect from everything else before going to bed.
Use a weighted blanket
The jury is out on this but I’ve found that it helps a lot with restless legs and a sense of coziness. It’s one of those “you have to try it for yourself” things.
Keep it cool
During the pandemic, one of our realizations was that our aircon was too weak for our room. In theory it should be okay; however, since my wife and I share our bed with our son, we generate way too much heat. We decided to upgrade our AC unit to a more powerful one and we’ve been sleeping better ever since. If you can’t upgrade your unit just yet, consider adding more electric fans and use a dehumidifier to keep perceived temperature down.
Consider taking sleep supplements
I know some people frown at the word supplements. Hear me out first. There are some well-known (and well-tested) supplements that seem to improve sleep quality significantly. I’ve tested these myself and I have to say, they have made a difference.
This is the OG and most basic of all sleep-related supplements. Melatonin is essential for sleep quality as our body naturally produces it once we get some shut-eye. However, some people, maybe due to genetics, lifestyle, or stress, produce less of this on a regular basis. Supplementation, especially using time-released tablets, may help you stay asleep and sleep better.
Melatonin is essential for sleep quality as our body naturally produces it once we get some shut-eye. However, some people, maybe due to genetics, lifestyle, or stress, produce less of this on a regular basis
This is an unsung hero when it comes to sleep quality and relaxation. I personally use the Sleep Switch capsules by Lifestream since they’ve been working really well for me the past couple years. A lot of the sleep-related chemicals from our body are derived from magnesium. Its important role in the nervous system is one of the reasons why a lot of people have been giving this supplement a lot of love.
Ashwagandha is a plant-based supplement that supposedly improves stress and anxiety levels. It’s one of the primary ingredients in some products, including one I’ve been taking when I have bouts of anxiety. But some of my clients have been taking it regularly with great effect. They claim it doesn’t make you sleepy yet it allows you to stay calm and relaxed so you easily fall asleep. Of course, this works best with things like deep breathing and meditation.
At the end of the day, we may not be able to control all aspects of our sleep, but we can take concrete steps to make sure we’re giving our body the best chance of getting some much needed rest. Try these tips and let us know what worked for you.