Sleep is one of those that some people think is ‘optional’. That we can disregard sleep because we are focused on other tasks. Yes, we can disregard sleep, but it will creep up and bite you later during the day. Sleep quality is important to help us function efficiently during daily tasks and keep our emotions in check.
Why Is Sleep Quality Important?
Try not to neglect sleep as it may result in:
- Havoc wrecked on hormone regulation (cortisol, growth hormone etc…)
- Impaired cognitive function
- Reduced working memory capacity
- Increased hunger throughout the day
- Lack of ability to focus or concentrate
- Less control over emotions
- Predisposal to more negative emotions
- Reduced ability to deal with oxidative stress
- Systemic inflammation
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased mortality risk
You may not realise how beneficial sleep is for you (other than the fact it feels good – which is a great reason to prioritise sleep). It’s important for regulating many of our basic physiological functions which we use every day without even thinking about them. So, on the other side of the coin, here are some of the benefits of high-quality sleep which you may not have known:
- Secretion of human growth hormone
- Supports hormonal balance
- Undergoes musculoskeletal growth and repair
- Facilitates recovery (especially after exercise)
- Aids functioning of the immune system
- Enhanced memory performance
- Increased creativity in problem-solving
- Higher likelihood of more positive interactions
- Reduced risk of illnesses
- Increased athletic performance
- Boosted resistance to daily stress (I’d say this is a good enough reason to prioritise sleep)
The reason I say that boosted resistance to daily stress is enough of a reason to prioritise sleep is that chronic stress can be detrimental to your health, and high-quality sleep or even adequate sleep can help mitigate the effects of daily stress (which tends to become chronic).
10 Tips To Improve Sleep Quality
So, here are 10 tips to improve sleep quality so you can reap those sleep benefits, and fend off those not so nice detrimental effects of poor sleep quality.
#1 – Don’t Stuff Yourself Before Bed
It might be the weekend or maybe you’re having a night out with your mates, but eating too much food before bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep. You are less likely to reach to reach the deepest phases of sleep and to get good quality sleep you’ll get into deep sleep. Keep portions small if you know you’ll be going to bed soon.
#2 – Turn Off Those Electronic Devices
Using electronic devices helps stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) and keeps our brain active. Sleep is best when we’re in a parasympathetic (relaxed) state, which is why it’s best to turn off or keep electronic devices away from us at least 1 hour before going to sleep. In addition, the blue light emitted from screens prevents the secretion of melatonin (sleep hormone) which can make it more difficult to get good quality sleep.
If you can’t change your habits (and most of us can’t justify turning off electronic devices an hour before bed), then I’d recommend using a ‘night filter’ on your electronic devices or wearing blue light filter glasses at night. A night filter will reduce the amount of blue light emitted from your screen so it will not interfere as much with melatonin secretion.
#3 – Do Some Form Of Physical Activity
Physical activity can help to tire your body out and has been shown to aid sleep quality. Exercise, in particular, is thought to do this by reducing stress and tiring you out. So, if you’re feeling restless at night, try engaging in some physical activity, or even better, exercise (to de-stress as well) during the day.
#4 – Go To Bed At Bedtime
This may sound like a bit of joke, but I’m not kidding. Set yourself a bedtime within an hour range, like 10 pm – 11 pm in which you have to be in bed and trying to fall asleep. The human body likes routine, and going to bed at the same time each day will help your body get into a sleep pattern which will help to improve sleep quality. You’re also less likely to wake up feeling cranky in the morning which is a bonus!
#5 – Earplugs To Drown The Sound
Maybe you live in a neighbourhood where there are lots of parties, or you simply live in a flat in the city where you simply can’t escape the sound of traffic. Earplugs, particularly for light sleepers can help to eliminate the stimulation caused by sound so that your sympathetic system isn’t stimulated. They may even help you to sleep more soundly during the night.
#6 – Take Midday Naps
Huh? Midday naps? I’m not lazy!
Well, I never said you were, just that midday naps can be a powerful tool to aid brain activity (and are great if you’ve had a sleep-deprived night) and can help you to feel more alert. If you’re one of those people who always feel like they need extra sleep in the morning, midday naps can help you to feel energised so you’re not so dependent on that extra 10 minutes (which soon becomes an hour) of sleep.
#7 – Dim Those Lights!
Your body has something known as circadian rhythms which are like an internal body clock that tells your body when to sleep, rise and even eat. It’s affected by environmental factors such as temperature and sunlight. Before we had all this technology, your body’s circadian rhythm would be in line with the rising and setting of the sun.
If it’s getting dark outside, it’s probably best to think about limiting your exposure to intense light by turning down the brightness. This will help you to better stay in touch with your circadian rhythms and fall asleep more soundly when it’s time.
#8 – Write Down Your Worries
Worrying and anxiety can make going to sleep more problematic. Maybe you have lots of thoughts on your mind and are worried you’ll forget something you need to do the next day. Sitting down for 10 minutes at the end of the day and simply writing down all your worries on a notepad next to your bed can help to lift the burden of having to remember so many things. It creates the illusion (a good one) that you’re putting away all your worries to the side whilst you sleep, so you can sleep soundly and hopefully not wake up during the night.
#9 – Meditate
Meditation is a great way to try and zone out from your surroundings and focus on trying to calm down for the evening. It is a great way of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, so you can start to relax more and improve sleep quality. Focus on relaxing and think about yourself drifting off to a place, free of stress or worry. Let that rigid expression on your face from your hard day of work go soft as the jaw of your mouth relaxes and you are lulled into a sense of serenity.
#10 – De-stress
Some of us have lots going on in our lives. Business. Work. Kids. Social life. Training. More.
All these stimuli can really fire up the sympathetic nervous system, keeping your brain firing signals to the neurones within, preventing you from getting to sleep. Maybe even meditation isn’t very effective.
What might help is truly trying to de-stress. Whatever factor it is that stresses you out most, try removing it from your life for a short period of time. I’d suggest a week. Forget about it, and see how your health and sleep fare. Without thinking about it, you may find it’s easier to get a restful night of sleep.
Further Reading: 11 Ways To Reduce Chronic Stress
My other suggestion is to try to de-stress by treating yourself. Have a massage or go to the sauna – something to help your body and mind relax. Let yourself feel at ease.
Could you do with implementing any of these tips? If you found this article useful please share it with others and let me know what you think of these 10 tips down below!