An average human being sleeps through one-third of their life. An average cat spends two-thirds of its life asleep. That should tell you just how important sleep really is for all living creatures out there. Because of that, evolution did not leave it to chance but developed certain principles that ensure a good night’s sleep most of the times.
Scientists have long known that sleeping is not sporadical. Instead, it is a skill that can be learned like any other skill. In the 90s, more than 200 sleep labs were opened throughout America doing just that. Today, there are many more. But you can do it yourself as well with the right approach. You can teach your body how to sleep more efficiently.
This is not something you can do overnight. However, by developing the right habits, you can significantly improve the quality of your sleep in a relatively short period of time. Here are several scientifically proven tips and tricks that will definitely help you do that.
1. Develop a Sleep Routine
This is by far the most important step in the whole process. Our bodies are machines that operate best when introduced to a routine. If they know what and when is going to happen to them, they can have more time to prepare for it.
To fall asleep and wake up efficiently, your body needs to produce hormones called melatonin and cortisol. If you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, it will know exactly when to start secreting these substances.
2. Exercise Regularly
Numerous scientific sources claim that regular exercise, three to four times a week, is the best thing you can do for your sleep. It has been used for a long time to reduce symptoms of insomnia and enhance sleep.
However, make sure that you don’t do exercise late in the day. Finish your workout at least three to four hours before going to sleep to give your body and mind enough time to wind down. If you do it regularly, it can reduce the time you need to fall asleep by 55%, according to experts.
3. Increase Exposure to Natural Light
Your body does not need your wristwatch to know when it’s time to go to sleep. Instead, it has its own biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. It tells your body exactly when it’s time to fall asleep and when to wake up.
To keep your biological clock working precisely, you should spend as much time outside during the day, exposed to natural light. This way, your body will know when the nighttime has come and when it’s time to call it a day.
4. Relax Before Bedtime
If you are stressed out during the day (and even if you aren’t), you should do something to relax your mind and body before going to sleep. There is no one thing that works for everyone, so you should find something that suits you.
Generally, most experts advise taking a soothing warm bath or a shower before sleep. You can also play some music and dim the light. Light up candles as well — it sounds like a cliche, but it works.
5. Reduce Daytime Naps
A daytime nap can be a lifesaver, but it can also be the killer of your sleep. Even though many successful people (like Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Napoleon, and John F. Kennedy) never skipped their daytime naps, it’s questionable whether you should do the same.
A short power nap can be very beneficial and help you make it through a hectic day. However, long and irregular napping during the day may confuse your body and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. Therefore, if you really need to, take a 20-minute nap and then continue with your day.
6. Avoid Big Meals Before Bed
Even though the human body can do a lot of things simultaneously, there are some cases when it can’t multitask well. One of these involves sleeping and digesting food efficiently at the same time. Therefore, if you want to improve your sleep hygiene and sleep quality, you should never eat a big meal before going to bed.
The rule of thumb is to finish your dinner at least three to four hours before passing out in your bedroom. However, being really hungry when you need to sleep does not help either. If you experience late-night hunger, have a small snack and a glass of water.
7. The Bedroom Is for Sleeping
If you want to have a full night’s sleep every day, you should view your bedroom as a sleeping temple. To do this, make sure to optimize the conditions in it and reduce distractions. If you haven’t already, take the TV out of the bedroom, along with the PC if there is one. Moreover, don’t bring your smartphone to bed with you. Leave it outside and use an actual alarm clock to wake up in the morning.
Other factors that you should be mindful about your bedroom include the temperature, the noise levels, the color of the walls, furniture arrangement, and external lights. Ideally, your bedroom should be a quiet, coldish, dark place where you can go and shut down completely until the next morning.
8. Invest in a Mattress and a Pillow
The mattress and the pillow you lie on at the end of the day cannot really be defined as habits. Yet, they play a crucial role when it comes to improving the quality of the sleep, so they need to be mentioned as well. Make sure to buy a high-quality mattress and pillow, you’ll increase your chances of sleeping like a baby. They can be quite pricey, but they’re more than worth the money.
One important piece of advice we can give is to try them out before buying. Don’t buy the mattress and pillow that someone has recommended to you. What works for someone else might not be ideal for you, and vice versa. Try several combinations until you find something that supports your back and neck properly.
In today’s world, more and more people are sleep-deprived—there are 50-70 million people with sleep disorders in the US alone. That’s why it’s crucial to realize that getting a good night’s rest is in your hands. By developing these healthy habits, you’ll help your body master the skill of sleeping.