Sleeping is important. On average, we spend 1/3 of our lives doing it. And yet some of us do not get enough or suffer from it. Did you know that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60% of adults reported having sleep problems week in week out according to NFS?
What we have to realize is that sleeping enough is actually a choice. A habit that we should be practicing everyday. And to be able to have a good night’s sleep, we have to take into account the different factors outlined below that will determine the quality.
- Bed Partner
When the body temperature goes down, we tend to feel sleepy. This may be the main reason for afternoon slumps as our body temperature drops less than 0.5°C/1°F. During the night, it continues to fall right to about 4.30am when it is the lowest. This is the reason why it is important to keep room temperature as comfortably low as possible.
The best temperature for the human body is between 15°C-25°C or about 60°F-80°F. Air conditioning during summer helps to keep the body temperature low, resulting in better quality of sleep.
During winter, wear socks to sleep as cold feet can be disruptive to sleep. The best way to determine your own comfort level is to put a thermostat in the room and try to find your preferred temperature level by cooling it with an air conditioner or a heater.
Also, the very popular memory foam pillows and mattresses are exceptionally good in conforming to your body’s curves but the only drawback is that it retains heat. An alternate solution is latex but that of course has it’s own drawbacks. More of it in the furniture section below.
Light or the lack of it, plays a really important role in our sleep cycle. Long ago, it was instinct to be active (hunting, fishing, planting, harvesting, etc.) during the day and dormant when night falls for we are all diurnal. As the world modernized, we had electrical lighting to help us continue with our activities into the night.
Be surrounded by warm toned fluorescent lights instead of cool white ones. Warm tones are measured at 2700K while cool white at about 5000K and above. Further darken the room by using dimmable compact florescent bulbs. The key is to encourage melatonin production with as little light as possible, as the night progresses.
Nowadays, the main culprits that are affecting our sleep cycle are from the bright screens of the television, computer and smartphones. But if you can’t avoid it, try reducing the brightness automatically if not, manually. If you’re on Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone or iPad, download this brilliant application that follows your local time, changing the color of the screen accordingly when night falls. Android users, search for ‘Screen Filter’ in Google Play by Haxor Industry.
Each person has a different noise tolerance level. Some stay asleep through a ringing alarm clock, some awake at the mere sound of light footsteps. Do try to keep your house as quiet as possible, like telling family members politely if they routinely do something that wakes you up or keeping your dog in your house when you go to sleep, so as to prevent it from barking in the middle of the night for reasons unrelated to the security of your house.
There are also other noise factors that might take a huge amount of time and effort to solve like a neighbor’s barking dog, nearby social places (bars, theater, park festival, mosques), transportation noise (train, highway trucks, buses), etc. One of the solution for constant external noise factors that are out of our control, is to install soundproof windows. You may also opt to move but it doesn’t totally eliminate your risk of running into other noise issues.
Make it a habit to go to bed at the same time, everytime. Your job may require you to practice unusual sleeping times but it doesn’t matter, as long as you go to bed at the same time and you get the 6-8 hours of required sleep. If you travel through at least 3 time zones, try adjusting your body to your destination’s local time by gradually delaying or sleeping earlier.
If the plan is lights off by 10.30pm, 7pm would be a good time to eat dinner. If we have meals too early before bedtime, we will get hungry again and it would mess up our sleep mood. If heavy food is consumed too near bedtime, we may also find it hard to fall asleep as our stomachs will be hard at work digesting. It’s a bad habit healthwise, anyway.
Coffee, tea, coke and all other caffeine drinks should be consumed last together with lunch. On average, it takes 8 hours to eliminate half the amount of caffeine consumed.
Avoid drinking water 90 minutes to bedtime as that is the time it takes for the body to process liquids. Waking up a few times in the middle of the night to pee hampers the quality of your sleep.
High amounts of alcohol does help you reach a deeper sleep stage much faster but the only drawback is that it may reduce your sleep quality by waking you up much earlier than you should.
Regular exercise that pushes you to 75% of your maximum heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes during the day helps you fall and stay asleep according to Northwestern University researchers.
Avoid exercising too near bedtime as it raises your body’s temperature.
Food that is especially rich in carbohydrates indirectly increases the production of sleep promoting melatonin in the brain. A light snack like an apple, a banana, a few crackers or a warm glass of milk is all it takes.
Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant. It releases adrenaline, which causes an increase in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing. Even if you stops smoking today, you may still find it lingering in your body after 3 months! Stay healthy, quit smoking.
A snoring bed partner is one of the biggest contributors to sleepless nights. One of the ways to deal with it is to have the person sleep sideways on a contour pillow, explained further in the furniture section below. The shape of the pillow helps to keep you comfortably sideways, maintaining smooth airflow through the nasal passages. Better still, use proven anti snore aids like a good quality chin strap or a mouthpiece that help to keep jaws up.
This section has been further divided into individual posts to better explain the pros and cons of each item type that we directly use when we go to sleep.