Tips on How to Get to Better Quality Sleep – Scientifically Proven
Sleep is an ever-increasing and popular topic in the news and online and for a good reason. There have been some fantastic studies coming out that has highlighted just how vital sleep is to our body.
In this article, I will discuss some disturbing statistics that research has found that a lack of sleep can have on our body. I will then discuss my advice on techniques we should be employing to make sure we get a long and importantly good quality night sleep.
My interest in sleep came after reading a book called ‘Why We Sleep’ by Professor Matthew Walker. He is a sleep-expert and researcher and has travelled all around the world appearing on various podcasts, lectures, and television shows.
In my opinion, his book is thought-provoking and hugely consequential. We all sleep, therefore this will affect all of us. This information has altered my behaviour and attitude towards sleep, by being aware of these consequences a lack of sleep has, I’m hoping this will have the same effect on you. I will put a link here to the book, just read it, then give it to your friends and family. Everyone needs to read it.
I’m not a sleep-expert, but I have done my best to draw the latest research together to create this article. Unfortunately, the suggestions we will be going through are unlikely to help people who suffer from severe sleep disorders like insomnia.
Here are some of the statistics we have found on sleep, and what effects they have on the body. Now, these are not supposed to scare you. They are to inform and make you aware of what a lack of sleep long term can have on the body. Our main goal is for you to discover new ways to improve health by providing you with information. We have to make these changes for ourselves and we can only do this if we are informed. So take a deep breath and here are some facts on what a lack of sleep does to the body.
- For those people who are trying to lose weight and get in shape. If you are getting insufficient sleep (5.5 sleep opportunity), then 70% of what you lose in terms of weight will be from muscle and not fat. While on 8.5 hours of sleep each night, over 50% of the participants’ lost consisted of fat1.
- Injury rates increase in athletes who slept on average <8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for >8 hours. Therefore you could be making sure that you have a great diet, great training regime, stretch etc. But, if you are not getting enough sleep, you are still nearly twice as likely to get injured2.
- This next one was a shocking fact that we found and we think it highlights the extreme effect that sleep has on the body. Every year when daylight saving takes place, this is the practice of advancing clocks during the summer months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. In the Spring when everyone loses 1hour of sleep – heart attack rates up 24%. This is a scary statistic, obviously the majority of people it will have little to no effect on. Although if you are in a state of ill health then possibly it can have a dramatic effect. It goes the other way when we gain an extra hour of sleep heart attack rates goes down 21%3.
- People who sleep five hours a night are four times more likely to suffer from a cold4.
- 20% of all car accidents are due to sleepiness5.
- 75% of people who suffer from depression also suffer from a lack of sleep. Actually, there is not one psychiatric condition where sleep is not affected. It used to the conventional thinking that the psychiatric condition affected your sleep, but the consensus is changing, and while it is not going to be the only factor it would seem to play a critical role5.
After that depressing note, let us discuss what we can do to make sure we are not that statistic. Once again the purpose of those shocking statistics is not to scare you. Hopefully, they will spark a part of our brain that may lead to change. I think we all need this time to time, it is too easy to keep doing the same things we have always done. So here are our tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
I have listed all the studies here if you want to do more reading on the aspects I’m going to discuss.
Physical activity is an excellent way to help promote a good night’s sleep. Try to get your exercise session in the morning, maybe before work. This is because exercising in the short term increases your body core temperature, which we want to lower when we want to prepare the body for sleep 6,7,8,9,10. This leads to our next tip.
2. Lower your room temperature.
Mathew Walker recommends to aim and get the room around 18 degrees Celsius, which is going to be colder than most people’s room. Try opening windows, maybe have a fan. He also gives a good tip and one that we all know, which is to have a hot bath. Having a hot bath causes your blood vessels to dilate on your skin. Your body does this as it is trying to lose heat that you have gained from the hot water. Therefore, when you get out, your body is still trying to lose this heat, but now the hot water is not there anymore. Meaning your core temperature drops, helping you get your sleep and thus improving your quality of sleep. 11, 12,13,14
3. Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol.
We decided to get these two over and done with quickly, like ripping off a plaster. This one is not going to make us popular. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that blocks a type of receptor in the brain that promotes sleepiness. Also, caffeine has a long half-life in the body. This means that after you have had a drink of coffee, the caffeine from it will still be circulating in the body hours after. If you have a coffee at 12 midday, a 1/4 of that coffee is still in your system 12 hours later. We definitely wouldn’t, at midnight, before we go to bed drink a 1/4 cup of coffee and expect to sleep well. Therefore, get your coffee in early during the day and stay away from it from midday onwards 15,16,17. The only thing we are going to say about alcohol is that we know it objectively that it adversely affects your quality of sleep. This does not mean that you cannot have a drink now and then. But if you are struggling with you sleep, maybe stop having that glass of wine every evening and see if you notice your sleep improves. 18,19,20
4. Regular Sleep Patterns.
Every day make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time, every day. Even on the weekend set your alarm to the same time as you wake up during the week for work. Our bodies like routine and then your body know when to start to prepare itself for sleep. 21
Darkness is fundamental for good sleep. Make sure you have blackout blinds/curtains. Remove anything from the room that gives of light, and yes, that means your phone. As we all know, electronic devices give off blue light, which decreases a hormone in our brain that we need to signal to our body when it is time to sleep. 22
6. If you cannot sleep, then get out of bed.
If you are unable to sleep for 30mins or so, then get out of bed. Either read a book (or preferably listen to an audible book) or listen to some relaxing music. You do not want to associate the bedroom with anything else but sleep. If you just lay there and start to get stressed that you cannot sleep, then you may begin to associate your bedroom with stress or anxiety, not putting you in the right frame of mind to sleep. Also, do not go downstairs to the fridge. Eating late, unfortunately, once again affects our quality of sleep. 23
Making sure you are intaking adequate amounts of magnesium. Supplemental magnesium has been shown to improve sleep quality in the elderly. Therefore a lack of magnesium can impair sleep. Multiple types of magnesium supplements exist, but there are loads of magnesium-rich foods. Supplementation generally should not be needed. If your body has enough magnesium already, supplementing with more will not benefit your sleep. I will put a link here for good sources of magnesium. 24,25,26
Lavender has been shown to promote relaxation, alleviate insomnia, and improve sleep quality. These studies have been based around aromatherapy and were not the best of quality of studies (as you cannot double-blind). More recent studies have looked at oral supplementation of lavender. Most of them used a proprietary extract called Silexan. Silexan has been shown to alleviate anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase sleep duration. Just a word of caution, the Endocrine Society reports there has been some anecdotal evidence that lavender oil has estrogenic properties (this is a female hormone) and can cause gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in males). 27-37 This has not been proven, as there are no scientific studies that have made this link. We thought it would be worth mentioning, especially if you are male and considering trying this supplement. We would recommend that you try all the tips prior before you think of supplementation. 38
So we hope you have found some of those tips useful on what we would recommend to improve your quality of sleep. There are other things you can do, but to keep this article shorter, we think these are a good starting point. Mathew Walker’s book goes into more detail, so once again, we would recommend you pick it up. We believe it is a good idea to write these tips down somewhere. You are more likely to remember and follow through if you have them written down. Even if you follow one tip to start with, you might see some fantastic results. Just give it a go for a week or two. A podcast that we listened to by Rogaan Chatterjee interviewing Mathew Walker said- ‘I believe feeling good is addictive’. So give it a go, who doesn’t want to feel better?
Matthew Walker makes a great statement. If we could say we could give you a pill and it would improve your productivity, reduce how much calories you consume, reduce your fat level in your body, improve your mood, reduce your chance of injury, reduce rates of cardiovascular, autoimmune, psychological conditions and have no adverse side effects, would you take it? Unfortunately, it does not come in pill form but something more enjoyable, which is sleep.
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