If you’ve ever experienced sleep deprivation then you surely know how important it is to improve the quality of your sleep. For some of us, consistently getting good sleep is the holy grail. Anyone who’s gone through a period of poor sleep or not enough sleep, will tell you the terrible impact is has on daily living – it’s enough to make you feel downright crazy!
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just make you feel crazy, lack of sleep is also linked to weight gain. Getting good night’s sleep is one of the top ten things that healthy people do on a consistent basis. Follow these helpful tips to improve the quality of your sleep and start sleeping like a baby.
Top 7 Natural Ways to Improve Quality of Sleep – Starting Tonight
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip # 1: Develop Regularly Scheduled Sleep Times
Remember when your mother said, “It’s 9 o’clock. Time for Bed”? Well there is wisdom in her words. Going to bed and getting up at the roughly the same time helps to cultivate routine sleep habits and conditions your mind and body to sleep, even on weekends.
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip #2: Sleep in the absence of light
Your pineal gland is responsible for your circadian rhythm – literally your wake/sleep cycle. Light triggers your pineal gland, at the back of your brain, to wake you up. One hour prior to going to bed, avoid using any electronics that create light, as well as your TV. Use black out curtains to keep out any ambient light. If you wake up during the night to use the bathroom, try not to turn on the light and instead keep a small night light on in the bathroom.
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip # 3: Tune in with your 90 minute sleep cycle
It takes approximately 90 minutes to complete one sleep cycle. Each sleep cycle is made up of five stages, with each stage playing an important role in our health and wellbeing. Research shows that the best way to feel rested in the morning is to wake up at the end of a 90 minute sleep cycle. For example: if you want to wake up at 7 a.m. you should aim to be sleeping by either 9:30 or 11. Simple count back 90 minute segments from the time you want to wake up to figure out when is the best time to fall asleep. If you do wake up during the night, it’s quite normal, and it’s almost always at the end of the 90 minute sleep cycle.
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip #4: Have a Sleep mantra
Most people who wake up in the middle of the night have a difficult time falling back to sleep. This may be to do incessant, repetitive thoughts – you know, the hamster caught in the thought-wheel that goes round and round. One way to stop this cycle is to come up with a sleep mantra – a short phrase that you repeat to yourself that replaces the circle of thoughts. An example of a sleep mantra is “I am falling asleep”, or “I fall asleep easily”. Similar to a sleep mantra, you might want to find some kind of audio that is enjoyable to listen to. I personally like to listen to
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip # 5: Listen to Something Relaxing
I personally love this recommendation, but I know it’s not for everyone. Some people may find listening to something too distracting, and others like to listen to the sound of nature, or binaural rhythms or even interviews on podcasts or the radio. Experiment and play with different audios to see what works for you. I tend to find it difficult to fall asleep because of repetitive thoughts. One of my surefire ways to remedy this is by listening to one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Pema Chödrön. I particularly love her audio series called “Getting Unstuck“. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times and it still helps me relax without fail.
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip #6: Watch the Timing of Exercise and Stimulants
When it comes to exercise and sleep it is all about timing. Regular exercise is a great way to contribute to good quality sleep however, vigorous exercise too late in the day may be too stimulating. Speaking of stimulants, be careful of what you consume as the day goes on. Drinking green tea (that contains caffeine) in the morning may be okay but may start to affect your sleep if you drink it after lunch. Chocolate, in any form, as well as tea, sodas (hope you aren’t drinking those any more), are stimulants that may be keeping you awake.
Improve Quality of Sleep Tip # 7: Take 5 Minutes to Meditate Before Bed
If the word meditation scares you then just call it something else – call it quite time or sitting still for a few moments to observe your breath and your thoughts. Meditation has innumerable health benefits and one of them is helping you to relax which is ideal before sleeping. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end to reap the benefits. Simply taking 5 to 10 minutes of meditation can offer you health benefits. Another wonderful audio series by Pema is How to Meditate with Pema Chödrön: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind. This is a great place to start if your new to meditation.
If you really want to get ahead in the sleep game, consider keeping a sleep diary. Each day record when you get up, when you go to bed, when you fall asleep, your exercise, caffeine consumed, and your mood. Review after a month to see if there are any patterns that you can identify that will help you improve the quality of your sleep.
Be well, and rest well!
Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii,
Laura Dawn, Author of Unhooked: A Holistic Approach to Ending Your Struggle with Food as well as Mindful Eating for Dummies.