A Guide to Perfect Sleep: 14 Scientifically Backed Tips To Get Better Sleep
The science: Lavender has been shown to have sleep benefits. Sniffing lavender essential oil before bed has been shown to increase quality of sleep, reduce anxiety, promote deep sleep (Karadag et al., 2015; Cho et al., 2013; Goel et al., 2005). It has also been shown to decrease the time taken to fall asleep and increase self-satisfaction with sleep (Lee & Lee, 2006).
2. Sleep with a Weighted Blanket
Sleeping with a weighted blanket has been found to provide sleep benefits The weight must not be too light or heavy (15-30 lbs is typical for adults), and should be evenly distributed throughout the fabric.
Studies on insomniac adults have shown that sleeping with a weighted blanket increased the quality of sleep and decrease agitation (Ackerley et al., 2015). The pressure from these weighted blankets produces a calming affect by reducing physiological levels of arousal.
3. Melatonin Supplements
The science: Melatonin is produced in the brain by the pineal gland around 2 hours before bedtime. Researchers found that taking low doses of melatonin in the evening made it easier to fall asleep and reach deep sleep. The subjects who took the low dose melatonin did not feel groggy from it the next morning (Zhdanova et al., 1995).
4. Limit Blue Light
Put electronic devices away 2 hours before bed or wear blue wavelength-blocking glasses. Researchers have found that people wearing blue wavelength-blocking glasses for 3 hours prior to bedtime experienced a significant improvement in sleep quality and mood (Kimberly & James, 2009).
The science: Electronic devices emit high concentrations of blue light. Blue light adversely affects production of the sleep producing hormone melatonin – the chemical that regulates sleep – more than any other wavelength. A 2015 study examined the effects of blue light on sleep and found those that used a blue light devises like a cell phone before bed took longer to fall asleep, experience less REM sleep, took longer to wake up and were sleepier once they woke up. (Chang et al., 2015).
5. Vitamin D Supplement
Low levels of vitamin D has been linked to poor sleep quality. You can absorb vitamin D through sunlight or through your diet. If you’re not able to regularly get vitamin D, consider taking vitamin D3 supplements, especially during winter months when you are less likely to get the sun exposure you need.
The science: Studies suggests that vitamin D deficiency is associated with sleep disorders (McCarty et al., 2014). Vitamin D receptors are located in parts of the brain typically associated with sleep. A study performed in 2017 found that vitamin D supplements made it easier to fall asleep, increased sleep quality, and increased sleep duration in 20-50 year old people with sleep disorders (Majid et al., 2017).
6. Sleep in Total Darkness
The science: Melatonin is a chemical produced in the brain’s pineal gland at night time in order to regulate the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. When there is even the slightest amount of light in your bedroom, your melatonin production is partially inhibited which interferes with your sleep. (Reiter, 1991).
7. White Noise
White noise helps you fall asleep by masking background noise that would otherwise prevent you from sleeping. For this reason, a white noise machines have been found to help people sleep.
The science: A 2001 study found that white noise made it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep (Borkowski et al., 2001). Another study found that white noise made it easier to stay asleep in otherwise distracting environmental noise, such as with the noise of the intensive care unit (ICU) (Stanchina et al., 2005).
8. Wake Up To Sunlight
Sunlight during the day, especially in the morning, helps regulate your body’s sleep cycle. If your circumstances prevent you from getting sunlight, consider an at-home light therapy lamp which emulates sunlight throughout the day.
The science: The body’s circadian rhythm is a 24 hour internal clock which controls the natural sleep/wake cycle. It is controlled in the brain by the hypothalamus and is affected by outside factors such as environmental lightness and darkness. Studies have found that getting sunlight every morning acts to restore the human circadian rhythm (Smith & Trinder, 2005).
The science: Studies have shown that moderate and regular physical activity has therapeutic and sleep promoting benefits. The most beneficial effect comes from aerobic endurance training and acute exercise that lasts for more than an hour. On the other hand, be careful not to take things too far. High intensity, exhaustive, long duration exercise may disrupt sleep by decreasing REM sleep and increasing wakefulness (Sherrill et al., 1998).
10. Stick to Regular Bedtime and Waketime
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day- yes, even on the weekends – can have a positive impact on your sleep. It will make it easier for you to fall asleep and more deeply.
The science: Studies suggest that trying to sleep earlier than your normal bedtime may result in difficulty falling asleep, while going to sleep much later than normal bedtime may result in more fragmented, shallow sleep (Stepanski & Wyatt, 2003).
11. Warm Your Body Temperature
Wind down from a long day and get better sleep by taking a bath about an hour and a half before going to bed. If you don’t have a bathtub, you could still reap the benefits by taking a 20 minute warm shower.
The science: A study showed that increasing body temperature through taking a warm bath before bedtime led to increased depth of sleep (Horne & Reid, 1985). Getting out of the warm bath and into your cooler bedroom leads your body temperature to drop, which signals your body that it is time to rest.
12. Wear Socks To Bed
Wearing cozy socks when you go to sleep in order to keep the feet warm and induce your blood cells to widen and causing your muscles to relax – a process called vasodilation. You can take things a step further by keeping a warm water bottle at your feet.
The science: A study published in Nature found that vasodilation in the skin of the hands and feet was the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep. Keeping the hands and feet warm can rapidly induce vasodilation and thus promote a faster onset of sleep (Kräuchi, 1999).
13. Limit Alcohol, Try Chamomile Tea Instead
The science: While alcohol has been shown to help you fall asleep faster, once it has been metabolized by your body you might experience more waking during the second half of your night. Further studies have shown that tolerance to alcohols sedative effects develops after 3 nights (Williams & Salamy, 1972).
14. Be Mindful
Mindfulness techniques before the bed have been found to help people all asleep. One way to practice mindfulness is to sit still in a comfortable position and quietly focus on your natural breathing. Become aware of your body as you breath, release any tension, and let any stressful thoughts slowly slip from your mind. Find more tips for meditation and mindfulness here.
The science: Mindfulness meditation has been shown to significantly reduce insomnia, fatigue, and depression (Black et al., 2015). This works by inducing a relaxation response and relieving stress, which for many people lies at the root of their insomnia.