How To Sleep Better
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our lives. In fact, on average we spend around 1/3rd of our lives asleep. Given that it is such a significant aspect of our lives, it is important that we get decent sleep.
However, it is reported that 1 in 3 grown adults do not actually get enough sleep in America.
This is shocking considering just how important sleep actually is to our lives!
So, how can you improve your sleep, and why should you? We should change our view on sleep and prioritize it more, because it is more important than we think.
The Importance Of Sleeping Better
Having enough good sleep is very important. How we sleep at night affects our minds as well as our waking hours. There is an association between having a low quality of sleep and having irregular sleep schedules.
Although there are many other factors that can cause a lower quality of sleep.
Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by our circadian rhythm, which is a physical, behavioral and mental change in us that follows the 24-hour cycle each day. Primarily circadian rhythms respond to light and dark.
This will depend on the amount of sunlight or lack thereof, which triggers us to get tired.
Of course, sleep drive will also be increased the longer that we are awake. Sleep drive is simply how likely we are to fall asleep at any particular time. It is actually used by adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter in our brains. It reduces our need to sleep during the day.
If we go to bed and wake at the same time each day this will align our circadian rhythm with our drive to sleep which will make getting to sleep an easier feat. Although it does take time for us to settle into a new sleep schedule.
Low quality sleep is also associated with poor performance during the day, even if we are sleeping the same length of time. So having a proper sleep schedule is important.
What Is A Sleep Schedule?
We all know the very basics of what a sleep schedule is, or at least most do. So, let’s recap.
Sleep schedules are part of our daily routine, it is a fixed time for us to fall asleep and wake up each day. It is not limited to our work week, as many may think, it should be maintained on weekends and days off as well.
Habits and routines are very important to humans, and we can condition ourselves to a particular sleep schedule by being consistent and repetitive. Humans are creatures of habit and this benefits us, helping us form a healthy sleep schedule.
However, it can also be a curse, as we can trap ourselves in unhealthy sleep schedules too.
If we use our susceptibility to habit, we can actually train our brains to stick to new routines easier, so gaining a healthy sleep schedule is less difficult.
Benefits Of A Healthy Sleeping Schedule
We all wish that we could get more sleep, but it seems to be so difficult to get the right amount of sleep. Being tired all the time and yawning is tedious, but lacking sleep can also have a significant impact on your health too.
Ideally you need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night.
Let’s look at how a regular 7-8 hour sleep per night helps you.
INCREASES IMMUNE SYSTEM
Our bodies go through various cycles of sleep during the night, one of these cycles actually helps our bodies heal. The more and better quality sleep we have the more healing our bodies do.
This means that when your body gets what it requires, the proteins and immune cells in our bodies get what they need to supercharge and fight whatever tries to invade your body.
A good night’s sleep can do much more than taking multivitamins, and such. It is a cure for so many ails.
PREVENTS WEIGHT GAIN
Okay, so getting decent sleep won’t automatically shed the pounds all on its own, however, it can help prevent you from packing on even more, so your efforts to shed the weight won’t be lost.
If you do not get enough sleep your body will produce a hormone (Ghrelin) that boosts your appetite, and decreases the hormone (Leptin) that lets you know you are full.
When you put these two together, this results in some hardcore destructive late-night munchies.
When you do not get adequate sleep you will also end up stressed and your body will crave junk food more to keep you going through the day. (Sugar, anyone?)
When you “get up on the right side of the bed” it doesn’t mean literally, it just means you got enough good quality sleep that you are in a good mood, which makes sense. If you do not get enough sleep then you will feel tired and cranky.
However, if you do get enough sleep you will feel more chipper, happy, and will have more energy.
Little things won’t annoy you, you won’t feel angry, and you will feel content. Getting good sleep will keep you happy and calm, something that will benefit you and everyone around you as well.
If you do not get enough sleep this can lead to heart issues. Sleep helps to regulate your body and getting good sleep can prevent high blood pressure and even heart attacks.
A lack of sleep actually causes your body to start releasing cortisol which is a hormone from stress, this makes your heart work harder. Much like your immune system your heart needs a break to be able to function properly and to its full capacity if it doesn’t this can lead to problems.
This is another reason to sleep.
You might be doing great with all-nighters, and wowing your employer with the numbers you put in at night, however, if you put off a good sleep, it can actually affect your work.
Sleep and concentration are relative to one another. Getting a good night’s rest helps with cognitive function which can actually make you more successful at work.
Yet, one restless night can leave you a bit drained and frazzled which means that you will make mistakes and your coffee cup won’t be able to fix them.
You might fix that afternoon crash, extra caffeine can be a problem too. So, just sleeping well at night and having a good daytime schedule to match can fix everything.
INCREASES EXERCISE PERFORMANCE
Those who are sleep-deprived won’t perform as well in physical activity. Studies were done on basketball players, and if a player didn’t sleep well they weren’t a good player.
Sleep affects all types of performance in exercise. Sleeping can enhance your hand-eye coordination, muscle memory and reaction time.
It also impacts strength and power.
This is also relative to driving, road accidents also happen due to fatigue. When you drive a vehicle you need fast reaction times in the event of an accident or actually avoiding one. Not having sufficient reaction time due to a lack of sleep can result in a road accident.
When we sleep, our minds are still working, this is why we dream. Our brains process memories as we sleep, storing them and helping our brains to stay healthy. A lack of sleep encourages forgetfulness, and memory loss.
It is totally possible that if you do not get enough sleep you will lose memories or even create false memories. It is also possible that a lack of efficient sleep for a long period could result in memory disorders as well.
Sleep is an essential part of our ability to store memories and maintain mental health too. A healthy brain is a well rested brain.
How Sounds Help You Sleep Better
While noisy environments hinder our ability to get good sleep, there are some sounds that can help us.
Sadly some areas we live in can make it nearly impossible to get a perfectly quiet sleeping environment.
Yet, there is much interest in music and noises that can reduce the effects of these environmental noises that can disrupt our sleep.
It doesn’t work for everyone, but for some it is an absolute godsend.
LOW VOLUME MUSIC (BELOW 40 DECIBELS)
Some music can cut down the time it takes for you to fall asleep and can improve the quality of sleep.
Of course, this depends on the music, and it should be no louder than 40 decibels.
Using music to aid in sleep is most effective when you have started using it regularly for around 3 weeks or so. Integrating it into your bedtime routine can teach your brain to associate relaxation with bedtime, rather than anxiety.
Some people may have anxiety about going to sleep, especially those who have relative traumas or sleep disorders, music can help.
SLOW TEMPO (60-80 BEATS PER MINUTE)
Similarly, music should also be at a slow tempo, this means no dubstep, rap, or heavy music for bedtime. However, relaxing, chill out, or calming music can actually aid you in your sleep.
Keeping your music to a low volume and at a slow tempo can help to relax the brain. This is especially efficient as a technique for people who find their brains are a little too chatty at night and may struggle to quiet their minds.
With background music you can focus on the sounds, keeping your mind quieter as you go to sleep. This makes it possible for you to fall asleep faster.
MINOR OR SLOW CHANGES TO SOUND
When you are choosing the music that will be helping you sleep you do not want it to be a sound that frequently changes. Sudden changes in sound may jerk you awake. For this reason if you set up a song or a playlist keep the music very similar.
If there are to be any changes, it should not be significant changes. This means you should pick the same genres, tempo, and volume level for the songs that you use to help you sleep.
There are some great types of sounds you can use for this, which we will look at later.
Smooth sounds mean a sound that is relaxing and calming, it should not be sharp or jarring. It should feel calming and relaxing, something that feels like the noise version of a warm bath or a comfy pillow.
Smooth sounds flow from one section to the next with ease. There are no sudden and brisk changes to tempo or volume. Instruments maintain a similar pace throughout the song, and it feels almost predictable.
Smooth sounds will give your brain something to concentrate on, but you are not anticipating any sudden changes which can relieve anxiety relative to sleep.
10 Soothing Sounds To Help You Sleep
We mentioned some examples of music that will help you sleep. So, we have noted down 10 soothing sounds that will have the above qualities to help you drift off to sleep at night.
They can range quite greatly, so there is something for everyone. Not every style will work for everyone, so try out a few different ones from this list and see which style works best for you.
We all know what white noise is, but pink noise is new news to most. It is racking up quite a lot of attention these days as a sleep aid.
It is different to white noise which is typical for giving evenly distributed attention to every frequency of sound, as instead it creates a balance of low frequency sounds and high frequency sounds that mimic natural sounds.
People who use pink noise usually spend more time in a deep slow-wave sleep. It is also believed that it would aid in boosting memory retention in your sleep.
So, for those who want to improve memory through sleep, try out pink noise.
White noise has been known to aid sleep in those who struggle with insomnia. It is also very useful for those who have to sleep in loud environments.
It is a mixture of every frequency of sound all at once, at the same level. It does a very good job of masking other noises that can disrupt sleep, which is especially important for those who may live in busy cities or have a club near their apartment or house.
It creates a steady stream of sound that can help, it has even been used to help patients in ICU units to sleep through the night better.
Ocean sounds are also a popular choice. For most of us the crashing of the waves is a naturally calming sound anyway, and it transports us to a calming and relaxing seaside where we do not have a care in the world.
The sound of waves hitting the sand can be a very therapeutic noise, almost meditative.
It creates a mental state of contentment and relaxation. It can be deeply relaxing and helps your mind to focus on something other than the thoughts in your head. This makes it another brilliant sound to listen to if you find that your brain is a little too chatty at night.
WATER SOUNDS (RAIN SOUNDS)
You can also listen to other sounds, waterfalls, a tap not turned all the way off, a stream trickling. However, one of the favored sounds for many is the sound of rain.
Rain is a sound that we often find to be relaxing when we are all snuggled up in bed. It reminds us of cozy Sundays inside, warm, with a hot drink, hearing the rain outside.
Rain is very relaxing, although it is not when you are stuck out in it, when you are inside it is a really relaxing sound and many find that it helps them drift off to sleep easier.
Not only this but rain is a notoriously gentle sound, so there is no risk in a change of tempo or suddenly a raise in volume that could otherwise disturb your sleep.
While towns and cities remind us of the bustling activities of human life, and the adult responsibilities we have with work, stress and so on, nature reminds us of calm, contentment and peace.
There are many natural sounds that are based in the wilderness, woodland noises, jungle noises, a summer’s evening, campfires, the sounds of cicadas or frogs, or even farm animal noises.
There is quite some interesting science that talks about what this nature sounds can do for our minds, in reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression.
“Researchers have discovered that nature sounds alter the connections in our brains, reducing our fight or flight response.” – Scientific Reports Publication by Brighton and Sussex Middle School.
Soothing voices could be something like guided meditation tracks, sleep podcasts, or sleep stories. As long as a person has a soothing voice this can be extremely helpful for many. It almost borders on ASMR.
This type of soundtrack can be very useful for those with talkative minds at bedtime. It will help you to focus on what the voice is saying rather than the thoughts flying around inside your mind.
These tracks are usually done especially for sleep and will usually maintain volume and tempo.
RELAXING MUSIC (I.E. CLASSICAL)
Some classical music can be perfect for sleep, especially calming piano tracks. Mozart has some beautiful pieces that can aid in sleep, and there are countless playlists and sleep tracks of YouTube and Spotify based on Mozart’s works that will aid in sleep.
Strings and piano are both very soothing and help your mind and body to relax in your mind and your body.
If you listen to classical music at bedtime or just before bedtime it can aid in the quality of sleep. Studies were done on young adults with sleep problems, and it was found that classical music greatly improved sleep quality in these individuals.
Meditation is known for being very beneficial for relaxation, mental health, and physical health. Meditation also helps you learn to relax your body and your mind. This will always help you get to sleep if you have trouble sleeping.
Meditation soundtracks are also useful because they do not change in tempo or in volume, they are consistent. Guided meditation or just the soundtracks can help.
If you have extra trouble getting to sleep at night you could meditate yourself to sleep, which is totally possible. Emptying your mind and relaxing your body can help you drift off faster.
Solfeggio Frequencies are useful in relaxation, they relieve pain and tension in our bodies. 174Hz frequencies help to relieve pains from the body. You can notice your breathing calming and it helps you drift off. Learn more about these sounds here.
Over the last decade there has been an increase in the interest of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) for sleep or relaxation.
Triggers for this can be whispering, or crisp sounds can provoke well-being feelings and can be very conducive to sleep.
There are many ASMR soundtracks out there, and you may find one type that appeals most to you. Some people prefer whispering tracks, others prefer the sounds of sand or more gentle sounds.
It is a form of mental stimulation that triggers a relaxing feeling and calmness, especially useful if you find it hard to ‘wind down’ at night.
SOUNDS THAT RELAX YOU
Responses to sounds are very individual and unique, no one will have exactly the same tastes. Awake or asleep we all have different things that appeal to us, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures that help to relax us.
All of these things are connected to memory, and therefore it will depend. Note also that mental state will also dictate how we process audio and how we respond to it. Consider what sounds are most relaxing to you.
For some waves may keep them awake waiting for the next wave ‘crash’, meanwhile rainfall is relaxing. It is very individual and if often tied to our own experiences.
To learn more about the health benefits of music check out our in-depth article here.
Tips On How To Sleep Better
So, how can you sleep better? Well, it can be done in steps. There is no hard and fast rule to make everyone sleep better. What works for you may not work for someone else.
So, instead of giving you hard guidelines, let’s give you some tips to help you on your journey to better sleep.
ESTABLISH A SUSTAINABLE EVENING ROUTINE
The first step to sleeping better is to establish an evening bedtime routine that is easy for you to keep and is relaxing to you. It should be something that you look forward to doing at night.
Most people will have a routine that starts with brushing teeth, changing into nighttime attire, drinking some water, perhaps washing up.
You can add in other activities to this, it could be taking a warm bath, drinking a calming drink, perhaps some warm milk, or a sleep aiding tea, you could read a book, or do some meditation.
Whatever you choose, make sure that it is relaxing for you, and spare some time before your bedtime to complete these things.
CREATE A SLEEP MUSIC PLAYLIST
We mentioned sleep music to help you fall asleep, you could craft your own playlist. Ideally you would want to do this on YouTube or Spotify, or just on your mobile device, as adverts can change the tempo and volume, so you want to avoid these.
You can create your own playlist for this, or you can use one already created. Try our playlist made especially for achieving good deep sleep, right here!
CUT DOWN SCREEN TIME ON YOUR DEVICES
We don’t like admitting it, but our electronic devices are so bad for us when it comes to trying to achieve a good night’s rest. Televisions, smartphones, tablets, laptops and such all have a blue light which triggers our brains into believing it is still daytime!
This is so bad because it can totally mess up our circadian rhythm, and result in disturbed sleep or all our hard efforts failing.
Try to avoid any devices with a blue light a few hours before bed, at least 1 hour!
Some devices will have a function to remove the blue light on them and this can be useful if you absolutely have to use devices at night, although it’s better to just not use them at all.
KEEP YOUR BEDROOM CALM & RELAXING
You should turn your bedroom into a sanctuary for sleep. The ideal room for sleep should be cool, dark, and quiet. A bedroom that is too warm will disturb you throughout the night, a room that is bright will also disturb you during the night, and a room that is loud will also.
If you must have a light on, try to ensure it is a dull light and that it has orange tones so that it is not stimulating to your brain. To keep your room cool, keep a window open. However, if outside is too noisy it may be beneficial to get a quiet fan.
KEEP A SLEEP JOURNAL
We are so used to keeping dream journals, why not a sleep journal? It can be worthwhile to note down how you sleep.
Something that can be highly beneficial is if you have a watch or an app that records your sleep. You can then note this down in a sleep journal to track how you sleep each night. Including the time you fell asleep, when you woke up and how long you slept for.
You can even include facts such as if you woke up to use the restroom, or if you are able to track this, how many cycles of sleep you had (light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep cycles).
Doing so can help you see your progress, and see the difference in your long-term sleeping patterns. It can be ideal motivation for you to keep up a healthy sleep schedule.
Exercising during the day will help you to feel more tired in the evening. You should avoid doing workouts too late if this interferes with your sleep. Sometimes we get a burst of energy after doing exercise, although this does not apply to everyone.
Exercise uses up energy and can help us feel more ready for sleep at a more reasonable time of day. Doing exercise is also healthy for your body overall, so it is worth doing it regardless.
DO NOT SPEND TOO MUCH TIME IN BED
If you find that you are still wide awake after laying in bed for 20 minutes, get up and do an activity until you start to feel tired, especially if you still feel very awake.
That being said, there are counteractive statements about this. Sometimes we just cannot sleep for some reason, we might have something exciting happening the next day which is making us anxious or nervous, keeping us awake. Our mind may not quiet, or we might be uncomfortable.
Sometimes it is better to just rest your body even if you cannot rest your mind. Of course, this depends on how long you have been trying to get to sleep and your personal situation. It is worthwhile gauging it yourself.
This is especially true if you cannot sleep, and you only have a few hours left to rest before the next day. In some cases it is better to rest your body even if you cannot rest your mind. However, it depends on you. For some doing an activity will be just what you need to get to sleep.
MODERATE YOUR CAFFEINE, NICOTINE & ALCOHOL INTAKE
Never drink caffeine too late. If you were to try and sleep around 11pm or midnight, ideally you should stop drinking caffeine at 3pm. This stands even for carbonated drinks that contain caffeine such as Coca-Cola.
You should also avoid alcohol before bed, as alcohol can disturb your sleep as well. It will help you fall asleep, yes, but it will then spur brain activity later on, and you will find it harder to sleep after about 4 hours or so.
Nicotine is also something that should be avoided before bed. Nicotine can also have a negative effect on the quality of sleep. Avoid having a cigarette right before bedtime.
Sure, if you haven’t slept well a nap can be just what the doctor ordered, but frequent naps can make you feel less tired in the evenings and will reduce how much sleep you get the following night.
If you do nap try to limit it to 30 minutes. However, there are nap times that will also make you feel less tired based upon the cycles of sleep. If you nap you should nap for either 20 minutes, 60 minutes, or 90 minutes. This is to prevent you feeling tired even more.
KEEP ROUTINE FOR 3 WEEKS +
Once you start a routine it is important to maintain it. You should try to be as consistent as possible. Life is random and there may be things that will impact your ability to be exact every time. However, you should still try to maintain it.
If you try to maintain your routine for at least 3 weeks, your body will start to get used to it, and you will develop your new and better sleep schedule for better sleep and therefore better all round health.
All of this will be worth it if you are determined to stick to the schedule you build for yourself and be as consistent as possible.
Sleep is a very important factor of our lives that often goes overlooked. A lack of sleep can result in irritability, low performance, memory loss, and more. In fact a broken or poor sleep schedule can typically lead to depression, and a weakened immune system.
Getting a good night’s sleep is about knowing what relaxes you, what helps you wind down at night and what you should be avoiding. If something stimulates your body or brain, it should be avoided late at night. If something relaxes you, it should be more prominent at night.
Know yourself, and get better sleep. You will feel better for it!