Sleep tips that aren’t just ‘don’t look at your phone before bed'.
Between Netflix addictions, young children, work/health/general state of the world anxiety, your neighbour’s dog, Instagram, TikTok, it being too hot or too cold, your partner’s snoring, traffic, that big dinner, wondering if you fed your goldfish, and all the noise in your head, it can be difficult to get to sleep these days.
According to the Sleep Foundation each of us needs between seven and nine hours kip per night, but we’re just not getting it. It’s no surprise, then, that the global market for sleep aids is worth $84.9 billion (as of 2021).
Lack of sleep doesn’t just make you irritable at work, you’re missing out on all the good stuff sleep has to offer like: improved brain function, muscle recovery, hormonal balance, lowered risk of heart disease, and general longevity.
With that in mind, here are our hacks to help you get to sleep that actually work.
Unless you live in the very north of the planet, like Norway or Finland, sunlight at night shouldn’t be much of a problem for you. But, getting enough sunlight during the day can help you sleep that evening. In fact, a 2014 study found “sun exposure improves the quality of sleep, state of sleep, and sleep patterns.”
There’s a reason children like having a book read to them before bed, and it isn’t just because they appreciate a well-crafted plot and dynamic utilisation of the English language. A 2021 study asked 496 people to read a book before bed, and the same number to do the opposite. A week later, 42% of the readers said their sleep quality had improved, while only 28% of the illiterate gang reported better shut eye.
Sure, the online study had limitations, but its findings were more or less backed up by another survey from book fetishists Penguin Random House in 2020. The study found 89% of before-bed readers rated their typical sleep quality 3/5 stars or higher, and those who read before bed got an average of 7 hours and 5 minutes of sleep – nearly half an hour more than those who didn’t read.
Famously, Santa Claus makes lists and checks them twice, but, strangely, he’s also able to stay up all night working. In real life, though, making a list can actually help you get your beauty sleep in.
The reason is purely psychological. According to a study from Baylor University, participants who wrote a list before bed fell asleep faster than those who didn’t. The thinking goes that when we make a list we empty our head of anxieties, leaving our mind quieter and more receptive to sleep.
Worried about all you have to do the next day? Write it down, leave the note by your bed and forget about it. Worried about something daft you said in a meeting? Write it out, forget about it and in the morning you probably won’t care anymore. And, even if nothing in particular is on your mind, the act of concentrating on a task that doesn’t involve an iPhone should help you nod off in no time.
Like journaling, meditating is a way of regulating the heartbeat, slowing the body and emptying our minds. So it makes sense that it is a fantastic sleep tool. You might never have tried it before, but if you’re struggling to get your rest, now might be the time to start.
Science backs it up too, with multiple studies finding it to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as strengthening pathways that calm your nervous system. Try ten deep breaths to start with and take it from there
This one makes sense when you think about it; it’s difficult to sleep if you’re in pain. So, before DOMs can settle in and ruin your night’s rest, make sure you’re focusing on recovery, be that cool downs, stretches or even ice baths. If muscle soreness is keeping you awake at night, it could be time to invest in some new equipment, and/or recovery boosting pre-bed drinks. It just so happens we have a few available here.
We often think getting in sleep mode requires us to be as warm and cosy as possible. But that could be the problem. According to data from the Sleep Foundation, the ideal sleep temperature is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) – which is actually around 3oC cooler than what we call ‘room temperature’.
The reason behind this is simple: our bodies prefer falling asleep in a room that is too cool, then heating up as opposed to falling asleep perfectly warm then overheating in the night. If you don’t like to or can’t sleep with an open window, consider investing in a fan, switching to lighter sheets for the summer months, or even opting for lighter nightwear.
Not the audiobook of the Don DeLillo classic, but actual white noise – the stuff untuned TVs emit in old films. According to a 2016 study, white noise was found to improve the quality of patients in ICU.
You don’t need to be seriously ill or injured to get the benefits, though, early studies found white noise helped babies fall asleep faster, while another study found adults fell asleep 38% faster when listening to white noise. Plenty of apps and even YouTube playlists can help.
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