Sleep Hack Your Way to Better Health
You've probably heard them all: never drink coffee before bedtime, stop your habitual afternoon naps and avoid using your smartphone at bedtime. And, hoping to sleep like a baby, you may have tried practicing one or all these techniques.
Yet, even after giving them all a try, you barely close an eye, let alone sleep for hours. Sleeplessness somehow plagues you and you can't even recall the last time you had a deep and peaceful slumber. Sound familiar?
Perhaps now you're wondering if the sleep hygiene practices you’ve been using have been wrong all along. Or, maybe your sleeping pattern is so erratic that you need better strategies than the ones you've been relying on. Deep down, you might even think that if this habit continues, it could affect your quality of life. We’re here to help.
Should I try a natural sleep hack?
Getting quality sleep every night is exactly what our bodies crave. Besides, there's no bliss in battling insomnia night-in after night-out. See, sleeplessness is one of those problems that many of us deal with but rarely discuss at the company water cooler. And, believe it or not, it’s estimated that a whopping nine million Americans rely on prescription sleeping pills every night to get to sleep.
But don’t let that frighten you. Insomnia is possible to manage, but it takes a bit of tinkering to find the sleep hack that’s right for you. And with your quality sleep restored, your body will certainly thank you.
What’s the benefit of a good night’s sleep?
One major benefit of a good night’s sleep is that it can boost both hormonal and cognitive functioning. Not only can good sleep leave you feeling less sluggish, but it can also help you reach your health and fitness goals and may even help you keep junk food cravings at bay.
After all, if you develop a habit of sleeping soundly, your general quality of life may just improve. You’ll most likely feel more energized, reinvigorated and ready to face the day. With good sleep hygiene alongside a healthy diet, proper workouts, and good lifestyle habits, fine-tuning your health can become a lot easier.
How much sleep do I need?
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, a good night's sleep should be anywhere between seven and nine hours, but the number varies slightly according to age. However, it isn’t always the number of hours you spend sleeping, but can also have to do with the quality of sleep that you’re getting. Think about it – do you get up several times at night, or do you find that you wake up feeling as if you barely slept at all?
Even so, less than six hours of sleep a night regularly can lead to sleep deprivation, and it could also hurt your general quality of life. Some sleep scientists have warned that this phenomenon has caused a global sleep loss epidemic. To combat this, researchers suggest going to sleep and waking at the same time every day to trigger our bodies’ natural sleep-wake rhythm.
Natural sleep hacks for overall wellbeing
There’s a seemingly endless number of so-called sleep hacks out there that could help your fight insomnia and have better quality sleep. Chances are, you’ve heard of some of them. Let's dive in and take a look at a few of them.
Make your bedroom a haven for sleep
Is your bedroom conducive to sleep, or is it messy and leaving you feeling anxious? We recommend revamping your bedroom to help you drift off. Try making your bed cozy using a soft duvet, and experiment with the air temperature until you find one that’s right for you. If you don’t have air conditioning, try out putting a fan near your bed to lower the temperature on warm nights – you may even find that the fan blurs out sounds and cause you to drift to sleep peacefully.
Be sure to put away items that might trigger stressful thoughts and ruminations. Place your laptop out of sight, and try your best to avoid scrolling endlessly on your smartphone. Reading a good book can work wonders and distract you from any stress you may have about the day ahead. And, try out a dimmer lamp at your bedside table to prepare yourself for some good shut-eye.
Change your evening eating habits
Although a full stomach right before bed may put you to sleep initially, it may cause discomfort later at night as your body tries to digest the big meal you had. Eat your fill, but do so at least an hour or two before going to bed. It’ll give your body adequate time to digest the food so that when you sleep you won’t run the risk of experiencing any stomach discomfort.
While you’re at it, avoid snacking on sugary foods before going to bed. Some healthy evening snacks you could try include a banana, a handful of almonds, a cup of savory miso soup or a cup of chamomile tea.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes before bed
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s a good idea to avoid caffeine before bedtime, ideally up to six hours before. That includes coffee, black tea, green tea and yerba mate – herbal teas, however, are just fine!
The same goes for alcohol. Although it can sometimes make you feel sleepy, don't be fooled. Alcohol's sedating properties, fade off quickly, most likely causing you to wake up after just a few hours of sleep, feeling tired and dehydrated.
It’s also a smart idea to avoid smoking before bedtime, as it contains nicotine. Just like coffee and tea, nicotine is a stimulant that can make you feel wired and awake, and may disturb your quality of sleep.
Keep naps less than 30 minutes
If you’re someone who enjoys an afternoon nap but you find yourself having trouble falling asleep (or staying asleep) at night, try to limit your snooze to just 30 minutes or less. And, if you can, try to nap around the same time every day so that your body gets used to your schedule.
Learn how to fall asleep
According to sleep experts, the best way to hop aboard the Zzzzsville-bound train is by gradually powering down at least an hour before getting to bed. Here are a few tips:
Avoid spending your pre-bedtime hours under bright light. The body's production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, starts when you spend time in darker spaces. So, go ahead and dim those lights!
Try not to bring your stress-related thoughts with you to bed. Keep your nightstand clear of work-related books, textbooks and index cards – anything that distracts you from a calm night of slumber. Clutter-free is the way to be!
Practice gentle yoga poses or meditate. This will help to soothe and relax your body, especially after a long, hectic day and help ease you into a relaxing night of sleep. 8fit has a new meditation feature that can help, so why not give it a go?
The importance of sleep
Considering how beneficial sleep can be for the body, getting quality sleep is something you don’t want to miss out on. Give our sleep hacks above a try, and remember that building new habits takes time. Perfect sleep may not happen the first night you try it, but with a little patience and perseverance, you can make it happen.