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How to Sleep Better at Night

Tara Youngblood Mar 10, 2023

Sleeping Tips

Ugh, it happened again! You didn't sleep well the other night. Many factors can interrupt the quality of your sleep, including everyday stress, work, family responsibilities, and unexpected new challenges.

Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most influential things you can do to maximize your health.

Studies indicate that insufficient sleep can have immediate detrimental impacts on exercise capacity, hormone levels, and cognitive abilities.

In recent decades, there has been a decrease in both the quantity and quality of sleep. As a result, a significant number of individuals experience inadequate sleep regularly.

While there are distinct factors that we cannot control, below, we've listed healthy habits and sleeping tips that can encourage and teach you how to sleep better at night. Start with simple adjustments and see what works best for you.

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Sleep Tricks to Sleep Better at Night

Similarly, there are some sleep tricks that we can all benefit from sleeping like a pro at night.

Exercise in the Morning

Exercise is one of the best ways for your body to naturally find its way into deep sleep. Appalachian State University did an exercise and sleep study that tracked three groups exercising at 7 am 1 pm, or 7 pm, three days per week. It showed that the participants who got the most profound, longest sleep (aka, the best sleep) were those who exercised in the morning. [1]

Morning exercise can help you sleep better

Did You Know: People who exercise in the early morning spend 75% more time in a deep restorative stage of sleep than those who exercise later in the day.

Morning exercise provides the energy you need to zoom through the day and ensure that you’re in good shape for another round of regenerative rest come evening.

In the case of sleep health, it’s more beneficial to exercise in the morning than at night because of the rise in your core body temperature, which stays elevated for roughly four to five hours following a workout.

Did You Know: In a study, it was recorded that morning exercise has very different effects on metabolism than the same workout later in the day. [2]

Does Exercise Help You Sleep?

Studies indicate that creating an exercise routine can help you sleep better, and adequate sleep may promote healthier physical activity levels throughout the day. [3]

People who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can see a difference in sleep quality that same night.

Sleep Tip: What are the consequences of exercise before bedtime? Studies indicate that moderate exercise near bedtime will not harm your sleep. But completing your workout at least one hour before bedtime is suggested.

Read More: Does Exercise Help with Sleep

Eating healthy

Eat Healthier Foods

An inadequate diet is a double whammy when it comes to sleep. Not only does it make you feel sluggish and tired, but it also hampers your ability to get good sleep.

Talk about an unhealthy sleep cycle – that's why eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is crucial. This means starting your day out well with a healthy breakfast and being reasonable about those late-evening snacks. Experts suggest eating dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime to ensure good sleep. [4]

Consuming high-carbohydrate meals can harm your sleep. Recent studies have found that meals high in carbohydrates can raise the number of times you wake up during the night, ultimately reducing the deep sleep quality. [5]

Limiting or avoiding eating big meals late at night and smoking altogether is best. If cutting out cold turkey, it can be challenging. Consider drinking caffeine-free tea like Lavender or Chamomile, which can naturally promote sleep and relaxation.

Nutrients That Increase Sleep

Two types of nutrients can increase your ability to get good sleep. They’re tryptophan and vitamin C.

Foods with Tryptophan:

  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Salmon
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Seaweed
  • Turnips
  • Pineapple

Foods With Vitamin C:

  • Oranges
  • Red Peppers
  • Kale
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava

Avoid Eating Late at Night

Eating late at night can adversely affect your sleep. When you eat late at night, your body doesn't have enough time to digest the food properly, leading to indigestion, heartburn, and disrupted sleep. It's important to avoid eating too close to bedtime to promote healthy digestion and a good night's sleep.

But, depending on the meals or snacks can play a role. A recent study determined that participants that consumed a high-carb meal 4 hours before bedtime helped them fall asleep faster. [6]

Caffeine

We hate to be a buzzkill, but caffeine and alcohol affect sleep performance and quality.

Effects of Caffeine on Sleep

Let's start with coffee and caffeine, stimulants that we love for their effect on getting us moving. There are plenty of benefits of coffee, [7] which is consumed by more than 90% of the US. Population.

That is, until we don't want to keep it going, which tends to be later in the day or evening. We can't turn its stimulating effects off, so we've got to lean on our ability to restrain the intake after specific times.

Most sources recommend the amount of caffeine intake sometime between 2-4 pm and not exceeding 400mg of caffeine daily. Caffeine can make it difficult for some people to fall asleep if taken close to bedtime. It can delay the timing of your internal body clock, reducing your total sleep time. [8] If you're craving coffee, give decaffeinated coffee a try.

Caffeine Sleep Study: Consuming caffeine (400mg) up to 6 hours leading up to bedtime significantly decreased sleep quality. [9]

Effects of Alcohol on Sleep

Then there's alcohol, a depressant. Many experience alcohol's relaxing qualities without comprehending the disturbance it causes to our sleep. How does alcohol affect sleep? While alcohol may help us fall asleep more quickly, it can prevent you from getting deep sleep and REM sleep. It can negatively affect your hormones resulting in poorer sleep.

REM sleep is a more mentally restorative time for sleep. It often occurs because the alcohol in your body keeps you in lighter sleep. Additionally, alcohol has been linked to increase or cause symptoms of snoring, sleep apnea, and disrupted sleep patterns. [10]

Increase Light Exposure During the Day

Interestingly enough, getting some time outside while the sun's up can help you sleep when the sun goes down. Scientists say that getting as little as 10 minutes a day of continuous sun exposure can lower your evening cortisol levels and allow you to wind down and get quality sleep. [11]

A very good idea (if possible) is to combine morning exercise with this tip to double down on sleep efficiency. Natural sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm and keeps it healthy by telling your body when to increase and decrease your melatonin levels. Increasing natural light can improve your energy and improve your sleep duration and quality.

Did You Know: Individuals with insomnia experience enhanced sleep quality and longer duration after exposure to bright light during the daytime. Additionally, the time taken to fall asleep decreased by 83%. [12]

Bedroom Temperature

You may have noticed the challenge of sleeping well when living in hot locations. The key to better sleep is to keep your sleep environment cool. The best temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, so set that thermostat somewhere in that range until you find the best temperature. Keep in mind that everyone has a slightly different optimal sleep temperature).

Sleep Temperature Tip: Along with the room temperature, you can cool your body by sleeping with light, breathable clothing such as bamboo or cotton. Avoid synthetic materials that often trap heat and keep your body hot.

It's Time to Sleep Cooler

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Blue Light and Technology

Most individuals have an evening routine involving catching up on social media or watching TV to unwind before bed. The devices such as your smartphone and TV emit blue light, which blocks the release of melatonin after 1.5 hours of use in the evening, making it challenging to fall asleep.

Most devices we use to emit blue light are defined as “a type of high-energy visible light, defined as having a wavelength between 380 and 500 nm.” The most common sources of blue light are commonly found in:

  • Televisions
  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones

Sleeping Tip: Power down for the night at least two hours before going to sleep. Think about how you can replace that time you would have spent watching TV or being on your phone unwinding by meditating, relaxing, reading a (paper) book, or just going to bed.

How can you reduce blue light exposure leading to bedtime? Below are some helpful tips.

  • Wear blue light-blocking sunglasses
  • Stop watching TV 1-2 hours before bedtime
  • Download apps that can help block blue light on your computer
  • Install apps that block blue light on your smartphone. Available for both iPhone and Android

If you want to learn more, read our blog about how blue light can affect your sleep.

Limit Amount of Daytime Naps

Taking a long nap during the day can diminish the quality of your sleep. If needing a nap, it's best to take a short nap, as they do provide some benefits. Sleeping in the daytime can ultimately confuse your internal clock, which can result in struggling to fall asleep at night.

Recently, a study of participants became more tired during the day following a daytime nap. [13] But, if you take naps regularly, you shouldn't be too concerned as the effects of napping depend on the person. For some, it may harm their sleep, while others don't notice a change in the duration or quality of their sleep.

Tip: If you find yourself having a difficult time sleeping at night, try to limit the duration of your naps or stop to determine if that is the culprit.

Improve Your Sleep Environment

Try keeping your sleep environment as dark as possible. It's necessary to let your body know it's time to produce melatonin and get quality sleep. Make sure to turn off electronics or lights while sleeping and shut out any external lights if possible.

Sleeping in a dark room is better for mental health. [14] A great way to do this is by using blackout curtains, stickers, or a sleep mask.

Light exposure during nighttime can cause havoc on our naturally increased melatonin levels, which slow down the body's natural progression to sleep.

Sleep body temperature

Relax Your Mind & Body

Relaxing your mind and body can help improve your sleep. When you're stressed or anxious, your body produces more cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with your sleep. By engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or Yoga Nidra before bed, you can reduce cortisol levels and promote calm and relaxation. Also, relaxing your muscles can help you feel more comfortable and fall asleep faster.

So it's important to take the time to unwind and relax before bed. You'll likely notice a significant improvement.

Final Though

A good night's sleep is crucial to your overall health and well-being. From creating a relaxing sleep environment to establishing a consistent sleep routine and focusing on your diet, there are numerous strategies you can use to improve your sleep.

Remember, it's important to prioritize your sleep and include it in your daily routine. By doing so, you'll reap the many benefits of a good night's sleep, from increased productivity to a better mood and overall quality of life.

Citations / Resources

[1] Fairbrother, K. R. (n.d.). The effects of aerobic exercise timing on sleep architecture. Libres.uncg.edu. View Resource

[2] Sato, S., Dyar, K. A., Treebak, J. T., Jepsen, S. L., Ehrlich, A. M., Ashcroft, S. P., Trost, K., Kunzke, T., Prade, V. M., Small, L., Basse, A. L., Schönke, M., Chen, S., Samad, M., Baldi, P., Barrès, R., Walch, A., Moritz, T., Holst, J. J., & Lutter, D. (2022). Atlas of exercise metabolism reveals time-dependent signatures of metabolic homeostasis. Cell Metabolism, 34(2), 329-345.e8. View Study

[3] Dolezal BA, Neufeld EV, Boland DM, Martin JL, Cooper CB. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:1364387. doi: 10.1155/2017/1364387. Epub 2017 Mar 26. Erratum in: Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:5979510. PMID: 28458924; PMCID: PMC5385214.

[4] Fujiwara, Y., Machida, A., Watanabe, Y., Shiba, M., Tominaga, K., Watanabe, T., Oshitani, N., Higuchi, K., & Arakawa, T. (2005). Association between dinner-to-bed time and gastro-esophageal reflux disease. The American journal of gastroenterology, 100(12), 2633–2636. View Study

[5] St-Onge MP, Mikic A, Pietrolungo CE. Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Adv Nutr. 2016 Sep 15;7(5):938-49. doi: 10.3945/an.116.012336. PMID: 27633109; PMCID: PMC5015038.

[6] Afaghi, A., O'Connor, H., & Chow, C. M. (2007). High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(2), 426–430. View Study

[7] Graham, T. E., Hibbert, E., & Sathasivam, P. (1998). Metabolic and exercise endurance effects of coffee and caffeine ingestion. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 85(3), 883–889. View Study

[8] Paprocki, J. (2013, August 1). Sleep and Caffeine. Sleep Education. View Resource

[9] Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195–1200. View Study

[10] Issa, F. G., & Sullivan, C. E. (1982). Alcohol, snoring and sleep apnea. Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry, 45(4), 353–359. View Study

[11] Jung CM, Khalsa SB, Scheer FA, Cajochen C, Lockley SW, Czeisler CA, Wright KP Jr. Acute effects of bright light exposure on cortisol levels. J Biol Rhythms. 2010 Jun;25(3):208-16. doi: 10.1177/0748730410368413. PMID: 20484692; PMCID: PMC3686562.

[12] Campbell, S. S., Dawson, D., & Anderson, M. W. (1993). Alleviation of sleep maintenance insomnia with timed exposure to bright light. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 41(8), 829–836. View Study

[13] McDevitt, E. A., Alaynick, W. A., & Mednick, S. C. (2012). The effect of nap frequency on daytime sleep architecture. Physiology & behavior, 107(1), 40–44. View Study

[14] Obayashi, K., Saeki, K., & Kurumatani, N. (2017). Bedroom Light Exposure at Night and the Incidence of Depressive Symptoms: A Longitudinal Study of the HEIJO-KYO Cohort. American Journal of Epidemiology, 187(3), 427–434. View Study

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