A good night’s rest isn’t just crucial for athletes and the health-conscious. Sleep is one of the most valuable actions we take each and every night: giving our bodies time to rest, recharge, and repair. When we sleep well, we actively improve memory, mental health, our ability to heal, and even hormone regulation. It can help our hearts, minds, and moods.
Overall, though, studies show that we just don’t get enough sleep.
Chances are, even if you aren’t an insomniac, you’ve had an odd night here or there where you just couldn’t get to sleep or you had restless, interrupted sleep. It probably ruined your mood the next day! Getting better sleep isn’t always as easy as regulating your sleep schedule or taking a pill.
Instead, there are often outside factors that are contributing to poor sleep and, ultimately, poor health.
If that’s the case and you want to improve not only your quality of sleep but your quality of health, stick with me for these four things that are ruining your sleep...and what you can do about it.
4 Things Ruining Your Sleep Quality
1) The Problem: You’re overheating.
While most of us enjoy cozying up beneath the blankets this time of year, getting too hot at night is one of the biggest things that can ruin our quality of sleep and prevent sleep altogether. The layers of covers, pajamas, and the room temperature can all impact the body heat that can build up and keep us awake at night.
The Remedy: Turn down the temperature.
The ideal night temperature for most is somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees. It sounds chilly, but once you generate heat beneath the covers, it will be just about right. At night, your body wants to cool down for sleep. Finding the balance may take some adjustment, especially for different seasons. It may help to keep a fan in your room to help regulate temperatures as they change.
2) The Problem: Your nightcap.
Because alcohol makes us sleepy, it might be a temptation to believe that it’s a good sleep remedy. The opposite is true! Alcohol, though it makes us drowsy, actually can prevent REM sleep as it metabolizes. So even if you get put to sleep by it early on, you’re likely to have a restless second half of the night. You'll find yourself waking up feeling tired. The drowsiness you feel early on is short-lived and ultimately, the sedative effect isn’t worth it.
The Remedy: Ditch the alcohol.
Switch to a glass of warm milk if you want a drink to help you sleep. If you’re going to drink at night, make it several hours before you plan on going to bed so that the drink can metabolize safely without messing with your sleep cycle.
3) The Problem: It’s too bright!
We’re designed to sleep in darkness. There are a few bad habits that can prevent us from having quality sleep: staying on our phones in bed late at night, sleeping with the television on, or even getting up to read when we can’t sleep. All of these habits exacerbate the problem. Light at night tells our body that it’s time to get up, so the body slows down the production of melatonin, which makes sleep more difficult.
The Remedy: Keep it dark and deviceless.
First things first: banish devices from the bedroom at least half an hour before it’s time to sleep. No TV and no phones. If you can’t sleep, don’t rely on a device to distract you until you feel too exhausted to go on. The light will only confuse your brain and make getting quality sleep more challenging.
If your room itself is too light due to outside forces, invest in some heavy duty blinds or blackout curtain so that you can get the room adequately dark.
4) The Problem: Checking the time.
Have you ever been unable to sleep and find yourself checking the clock over and over again, growing more and more frustrated as time marches by? This is a huge mistake. If you wake up in the middle of the night or just have found yourself lying awake, resist the urge to check the clock.
If you make a habit out of watching the clock, you could inadvertently train your circadian rhythm and you might find yourself waking up at that time every night.
The Remedy: Turn the clock around.
While traditional alarm clocks may be going by the wayside, if you still have one, make sure to turn it around so that you aren’t tempted to check the time when your sleep is interrupted. By the same token, resist any urge to check your phone when you wake up at night. You not only run the risk of this problem, but the light may keep you up as well.
As I grew as an endurance athlete, I became more attuned to all of the ways in which we must care for our bodies. As I get older and wiser, I realize just how crucial quality sleep is.
Don't neglect to catch those Z's!
What are you best sleep remedies? Let me know what works for you in the comments.