Do you feel tired all the time? Are you positive that you are getting enough sleep? When you wake up, does it feel like you hardly slept at all? Sleeping a perfect amount of hours, waking up and feeling well-rested, and functioning throughout the day does not come naturally to everyone. Everyone is different, and so they require different needs when it comes to sleeping.
Adults, on average, should be getting roughly seven hours of sleep each night, but everyone is different, and understanding your personal needs can help you get the restorative sleep you need. When we are talking about restorative sleep, we refer to the stages of sleep that give a person ample energy for the next day.
Getting enough sleep can be difficult for those with busy schedules or those who find themselves struggling to fall and stay asleep, but luckily, there are various ways that you can work towards improving your sleep. It’s not one size fits all, so consider trying out different methods to find what works best for you!
Lack of Sleep: What To Look Out For
Sleep deprivation is not so much about the total amount of hours you sleep but instead about the quality of the sleep you are getting each night. When you aren’t getting quality sleep, you might experience some of the following symptoms:
- Reduced attention span
- Trouble with memory functions, both long and short-term
- Lack of energy
- Confusion and incoherent
- Poor-decision making
- Sleep disturbances like nightmares
- Changes with your mood
- Hard time focusing
- Constant disturbing sleep cycles
Long-term side effects of not getting enough quality sleep can result in health-related problems, like diabetes, depression, heart attack, stroke, and hypertension. For some, stress and overworking may be a cause of your lack of sleep. If you spend too much time reading up on work emails at night or scrolling on social media sites late into the night when you have to be up early, you are furthering your ability to have a quality night of sleep.
For many, there are underlying problems that are causing them to have difficulty sleeping. Sleep disorders are more common than people think, and understanding where things might be going wrong for you can help you make the necessary changes.
Types of Sleep Disorders
People experience all kinds of difficulties with sleep, but some of the most common sleep disorders are:
- Insomnia: Up to one-third of all adults struggle with insomnia, which can mean various things to different people. Some experience insomnia by not falling asleep, others aren’t able to stay asleep during the night, and some have a mix of both of those issues.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is a breathing disorder where the upper airway is blocked, causing people to wake up choking or gasping for air. It can be extremely disruptive to the individuals that have it, causing them to have trouble staying asleep throughout the night.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: This syndrome causes many people to experience throbbing and painful sensations throughout their legs that make them want to move frequently. Most experience the symptoms late at night when they are trying to stay still, making falling asleep more difficult.
People with anxiety may also find that falling asleep and staying asleep is difficult. The natural alarm system in the body is on higher alert for those with anxiety disorders, causing disorders like insomnia to arise.
Stages of Restorative Sleep
When you are sleeping, you go through four stages. Many people repeat these stages anywhere from four to six times in one night. The first three stages are categorized are non-REM (NREM) sleep:
- Stage 1: N1 is the dozing-off stage that lasts for a few minutes.
- Stage 2: N2 is when your temperature drops, your muscles relax, and eye movement stops. Many people spend about half of their time asleep at this stage.
- Stage 3: N3 is when you’ve entered a deep sleep, and your body is very relaxed and enters slow-wave sleep. During this stage is when restorative sleep occurs, and your body can recover and grow from the previous day.
- Stage 4: Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is when your brain activity picks up, and many people experience dreams. This stage is essential for restorative sleep as it helps cognitive functioning like memory and learning.
How To Improve Your Sleep
These stages allow the body to recuperate and give you energy for the next day, so it’s important that you are getting restorative sleep. Understanding your body and its needs is essential when making changes to improve your quality of sleep. So many things could improve sleep, but we’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to help you get the sleep that you deserve!
1. Create a Nighttime Routine
Some people find themselves working too late into the night or sneaking a late-night snack, but is this really helping you out? Building a routine into your sleep cycle can help create a rhythm that your body recognizes as you begin to wind down.
Consider incorporating your favorite tea, some light reading before bed, your skincare, brushing your teeth, and maybe even preparing for the next day into your routine. Give yourself some time before you want to be in bed to do everything you need to in your routine.
In addition to setting yourself up for success for good sleep hygiene, make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable.
2. Avoid Certain Foods and Drink Before Bed
While we all love snacking late into the night while watching our favorite TV show, some foods and drinks can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Consuming large portions of food can offset your ability to fall asleep because they will be converted into energy simultaneously. Food and drinks that have caffeine or high amounts of sugar in them can also keep you up later into the night. Avoiding foods like:
- Chocolate: Chocolate contains caffeine, so it’s best to stay away from it late at night. Consuming too much chocolate before bed can make you feel groggy the following day
- Cheese: While cheese is delicious and comforting, it contains high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which causes people to feel more alert, making it much harder to fall asleep.
- Spicy foods: Spicy foods contain capsaicin which raises your body temperature and can disrupt sleep.
Foods that might improve your sleep are:
- Bananas and almonds: Bananas and almonds have high magnesium levels, which help relax the muscles and calm down the nervous system.
- Cherries: These are some of the best foods for helping sleep because they contain melatonin. Eating cherries before bed promotes a longer and deeper sleep.
- Caffeine-free teas: They can help you relax right before bed without the extra stress of caffeine being part of the mix. Some caffeine-free teas include chamomile, ginger, and peppermint.
3. Lower the Temperature At Night
During the second stage of sleep, your body is beginning to relax, and it lowers its temperature.
By sleeping in a cooler room at night, you can help your body enter this stage faster, as your body’s temperature will begin to drop with less restlessness. Keeping your room at a temperature between 60-67 degrees can be optimal for comfort. You may feel more restless when you are sleeping in warmer temperatures because your body can never go through the entire sleep process.
Sleeping with a fan directly blowing on you can often do the trick, but having air conditioning that keeps the room cool is a major bonus. If you are unable to do this, even sleeping with an ice pack wrapped in a towel pressed to your chest can lower your body’s temperature and allow you to fall asleep faster!
4. Spend Time Outside
Spending time outside allows for our bodies to connect to the natural rhythm of the circadian clock. The circadian clock is the natural internal process that regulates the sleep and wake cycle for 24 hours. When you spend more time outside, the sun’s rising and setting will connect to your internal rhythm. This makes falling asleep at a normal time easier.
Artificial light can trick the body into thinking that it’s not really time for bed. This results in issues with falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleeping in total darkness can help combat the problems with artificial light. The more time spent outside, the easier it is for your body to acknowledge that it's time to sleep.
5. Stay Away From Electronics
Staying away from electronic's blue light can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep. Artificial light like blue light tells our brains to be alert, even when we should be winding down.
Blue light will raise our body temperature and heart rate. This keeps us awake for longer and takes longer for us to settle down. A blue light was also found to suppress the body’s release of melatonin, making it harder to feel sleepy as the night progresses.
By simply putting away your electronics an hour before bed, your body can increase its melatonin production. This makes you feel more tired as you get closer to going to bed. This means turning off the TV, putting away your tablets and computers, and saying goodnight to anyone you’ve been texting. Try picking up a book or doing some meditation to promote restorative sleep!
Other Factors To Consider
Some other factors to consider if you are working towards getting a good night's sleep and improving your bedtime routine include:
- Limiting your alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycle.
- Monitoring your prescription medications and pills. Some medications can help you to stay up longer than you desire.
- Being sick or having illnesses can also interrupt sleep.
- If your job includes shift work, your body may be used to an odd sleep schedule.
Understand Your Body Better with Vessel
No two people will benefit from the same tips. It’s important that you get down to the bottom of all of your issues to find the best treatment methods. Our bodies are constantly trying to tell us more than we can understand, but with Vessel, you finally can see what your body needs to stay healthy.
With Vessel Health’s technology, you can see your vitamin, mineral, cortisol, and sleep levels. We can tell you if you are low on magnesium and how it could be affecting your sleep. Then, we offer suggestions on foods or activities that might improve the quality of your sleep.
We use our expertise to improve the quality of your life, so what are you waiting for?
Mikaela Frame See all the author’s articles