Three Ways To Get A Better Sleep At Night Without Sacrificing More Time
Dr. Ben Connolly
Good Quality Sleep
Good quality sleep is not always about getting that magical 8 hours of sleep at night. There are better ways to get an increased quality of sleep without requiring sleeping more and more. Research shows that we do not necessarily require 8 hours but that 7 to 7.5 hours is more than enough for the average adult. Knowing this and setting our goals for 7.5 hours of sleep, here are 3 ways to get a better sleep at night.
1. Have an actual night time routine
Too many patients in my office when asked what their nighttime routine does not have a solid answer. Each night seems to be different depending on their partners’ schedule or their kid’s schedule. The most common answer when I ask patients about their nighttime routine is that they watch tv and then go to bed. One of the routines I like to recommend to my patients is the following: Bedtime routine starts at least 1 hour before bed. This involves avoiding all screens for that hour, if not more. This means no tv, no cell phones, and no tablets. Instead opt for a book, (one of those things you actually hold and has pages).
The next important step is to have a cup of herbal tea an hour before bed. Herbal tea is amazing for bedtime routines and has nothing to do with the actual tea. It is the act of making tea which is key to the bedtime routine. The ritual of tea making dates back thousands of years and to this day I find it extremely effective in training your brain that as soon as you start the physical act of making tea, you start to calm down and get sleepy.
2. Adequate Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene means cleaning up your bedroom, but not the way you think. Don’t worry about that pile of clothes and the state of the top of your dresser. Instead, you’re looking for any source of light in your room and either removing it or covering it up. This means getting rid of your bedside clock which shines into your face all night. Also, look for any red status light on any electronics in your room and cover them up with a post-it note or playdough or puddy. Some light switches have a small light on them so be sure to cover them up as well. The reason for this is that any light which hits your skin or your eyes has been shown to decrease your melatonin levels which means that little bit of light is decreasing your quality of sleep. If you have bright street lights outside your window than be sure to invest into some blackout blinds.
3. Hold off on the alcohol
Often people think that alcohol helps them sleep, and while it may help you fall asleep it is overall negatively affecting your quality of sleep. What happens is that after you have a glass of wine there is an increase of a hormone released in your brain called GABA. GABA makes you feel relaxed and calm, it lowers your blood pressure and decreases your heart rate. The issue with alcohol is that once this alcohol wears off, generally 3-5 hours after you fall asleep, you wake up and can’t get back to sleep. Also, the quality of sleep with alcohol in your system is drastically reduced and can lead to feeling tired and unrested when waking up in the morning.