Can you go to bed and fall asleep within 5 to 10 minutes? Do you always wake up groggy and weary? Did you know 63% of people are unhappy with the amount of sleep they get?
Losing your sleep for even a few weeks can make you not only exhausted but also fatter. We read through five books to find out these six sleep hacks for a restful night, to help you wake up fresh and peppy in the mornings.
If you want to save the article for reading later, find the download link to the free PDF of the six sleep hacks (no email required) in the Final Words section below.
For those who prefer to listen than to read, here’s the audio version of the article; tap the YouTube link below to listen to the article:
6 Best Science-based Sleep Hacks
We dive into six of the most effective tips from sleep scientists (find out what a sleep expert says to make babies sleep fast) to help you sleep deeper and fuller every day. Sleep experts club these as Sleep Hygiene, meaning habits that help you to fall and stay asleep, and improve your sleep health.
Sleep hygiene is an important element of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the most effective long-term treatment for those suffering from chronic insomnia. CBT for insomnia might help you fix the thoughts and behaviors that keep you awake at night.
Here are 6 scientific sleep hacks for deeply refreshing sleep:
Sleep Hack #1. Set A Sleep Schedule
- Maintain a steady sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every day. Even if it is a weekend or a long holiday. Set a bedtime that allows you to have at least 7-8 hours of sleep. And get up at the same time in the morning as every other day. So, it’s three things: go to bed, stay in bed, and get out of bed, within fixed times.
- A consistent sleep routine strengthens your natural sleep-wake cycle, called the circadian rhythm. Regular sleeping time improves your sleep quality, that is, you get up more refreshed and rejuvenated.
- Sleeping and waking up at the same time every day improves your immunity, concentration, and emotional stability.
- For a change, rather than a wake-up alarm, set a gentle tune on your phone to remind yourself you are close to your bedtime. Dim the lights when the sleep-time alarm plays.
- Sleeping earlier is easier than you think. For example, write your sleeping/waking times on a piece of paper and stick it on your desk and your bathroom mirror: I sleep at 11 pm. I get up at 7 am.
Sleep Hack #2. Take Daily Naps
- Take a nap (snooze, siesta, or shuteye) during the day. Call it forty-winks or beauty sleep, but giving a brief rest to the brain increases its creativity, intuition, imagination, and ability to solve problems. Sometime back, a “nap bar” opened in Madrid, called Siesta & Go, where you could walk in and “lie down on a bed as if it were yours.” London has a Pop & Rest for tourists.
- Learning lessons after a nap equals learning after a full night of sleep.
- A nap reduces stress and fatigue. A study by Allegheny College of Pennsylvania on 85 healthy college students showed those who took daily naps of 45 to 60 minutes decreased their blood pressure and heart rates, and handled anxiety better.
- A NASA study of 747 pilots showed those taking 26-minute naps every day made 34 percent fewer errors at work and doubled their alertness levels.
- A study found a nap that includes the REM phase increases your receptivity to facial expressions of happiness.
- However, do not fill up the lack of proper nighttime sleep by daytime napping. Find out the best nap length.
5 key benefits of taking a daytime nap
- Recharging your batteries: An afternoon nap for an hour or so does wonders for your body and mind, keeping you running at peak performance levels while minimizing your risk of burnout.
- Making up for a sluggish night’s sleep: This is more of a ’emergency’ nap — if you’ve had a sleepless night for whatever reason, you can counteract the bad effects on your body and mind by getting a few more Zs.
- Staying alert in the evening: If you want to be active in the evening after a full day of work, napping is ideal. It will keep you alert and energized, helping you to maximize your waking hours.
- Refocusing your attention: Workplace obligations can be hard, especially during a pandemic. A short snooze will help you stay on top of your job and operate at your best capacity.
- Helping the body’s natural rhythm: Your Circadian Rhythm regulates your sleep routine. Your hormone levels drop late at night and early in the afternoon, which is why you frequently experience the dreaded “post-lunch dip.” Don’t resist it; instead, take an afternoon nap and your body will respond positively.
Sleep Hack #3. Avoid Stimulants
- Stop drinking tea, coffee, chocolate, sodas, nicotine, or cigarettes at least 4 hours before bedtime. The stimulant effect of caffeine takes up to six hours to wear off.
- A more favored recent tip is to avoid coffee and other stimulants after 12 noon. Sleep scientist Patrick M. Fuller, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, does as he advises: avoid all stimulants after midday.
- At all costs, quit the smoking habit altogether. Quit smoking not just for the sake of sleep but also for your health and your genes.
- Skip the late evening alcohol too. Alcohol initially makes you drowsy, since it is a nervous system depressant. But as soon as the blood alcohol level drops, it activates your sympathetic system. This drop makes you wake up from the deep sleep and dream phases of your sleep. So, you are groggy the next morning.
- Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Blue screens on digital devices are stimulants.
- Once you’ve banished all stimulants, and you still find it difficult to fall asleep, try a relaxation program such as sleep meditation. Meditation can improve your insomnia.
Sleep Hack #4. Exercise Daily
- Exercise enhances the quality of your sleep. Also, not exercising leads to poor sleep. So get into a daily habit of 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. If you find it difficult to get into a daily exercise habit, read this guide.
- Try this for a start: Get up in the morning and go for a 12-minute walk in the park. A 2010 study found that those who exercised in the morning before eating gained almost no weight and burnt more fat throughout the day than other men.
- But remember to schedule your workouts before late evening. Morning and afternoon workouts can increase your quality and quantity of sleep at night.
- Don’t do any heavy exercise within 4 hours of bedtime. However, light exercise as yoga or walking after dinner is fine.
Sleep Hack #5. Create Pre-Sleep Rituals
- Creating a new habit is hard. But there’s a solution — create rituals. These are specific end-of-the-day habits that prime you for a night of deep, restful sleep.
- Eat a light dinner, around 3 hours before bedtime, to give your digestive system enough time to work. Also, try not to go to bed on a hungry stomach, as it may not let you easily fall asleep.
- Do some light, fun activities after dinner. A 2018 study in Sports Medicine suggests you can exercise in the evening as long as you avoid any vigorous activity for at least one hour before bedtime. Once you’ve finished dinner, put off any serious work or issues until the next day. Read a soothing book (a paper book, not an ebook).
- Do not touch your laptop, phone, or any other blue light-emitting screen at least 2 hours before bedtime. Blue lights from digital screens depress the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep.
- Take a warm shower 1 hour before you hit the bed. Try dimming the lights in your bedroom an hour before bedtime. Low light stimulates your melatonin secretion.
- Try to switch off all digital devices 30 minutes before bedtime.
Sleep Hack #6. Build Bedroom Habits
- Keep your bedroom clutter-free. Do not let your pets into your bedroom; they disturb your sleep.
- Banish laptops and smartphones to a separate room. For best results, never install a TV in your bedroom.
- Do not eat or drink in bed. A US poll found that mattresses, pillows and even fresh scent of sheets all contribute to the quality of our sleep.
- Make sure the bedsheets and pillow covers are clean. Change your sheets weekly. Experts suggest you should replace your mattresses every eight years, by when you would have used around 20,761 hours lying on top of it. So, once again, make sure the bed you lie down on is clean.
- Close to sleeping time, cut down the bright lights. Shut out all the harsh noise; use earplugs or white noise if you need to.
- Adjust the room temperature to a comfortable level. Keeping your sleeping room at a temperature around 65°F or 18.3°C is ideal.
- Ideally, you should not take more than 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you are lying awake in your bed for 20 minutes or more, therapists suggest you get out of bed and do something non-stimulating (as reading a boring textbook) until you start to feel drowsy. When you do so, return to bed immediately.
Remember, these are not instant-magic pills. But you only need 3 to 6 weeks of practice to see the surprising results.
How Much Sleep Do You Get
How much sleep do you ideally need? Sleep researchers tell us we need roughly one hour of sleep for every two hours we are awake. The National Sleep Foundation recommends these sleep guidelines for adults:
- 7 to 9 hours for young adults and adults
- 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults
But how much sleep do you actually get?
Record your sleep and wake-up patterns over two weeks to find out how much sleep you’re getting these days. If you find a glaring mismatch between the hours you sleep and the hours you must sleep, it’s time to take action. Find a Sleep Diary here by the National Institutes of Health.
The truth is, since the invention of the light bulb about 140 years ago, the world has never slumbered when it comes to working. Electric lights are the reason we started to cheat on our body clocks. From there, we started to skip our sleep.
There’s no doubt you need to make time to sleep better and fuller. A good night’s sleep can make you feel wonderful and highly productive. It keeps you in a happier mood and increases your positivity.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a night owl or an early bird, you can’t have a healthy life without enough sleep.
So, use these sleep hacks to start giving yourself what you have been depriving yourself of, 8 hours of restful sleep every night. One last tip: Use your bed only for sleep and you know what!
Mind the words of Aldous Huxley, author of the 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World:
That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
• Our story: Happiness Project
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