101 Sleep Tips – Sports Medicine Weekly | Dr. Brian J. Cole
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Published on: 23-Sep-2020

Why is sleep so important?

The quality of your sleep plays a significant role in all aspects of your mental and physical health, from your emotional well-being to repairing muscle tissue. Having good, sustained sleep allows your body to repair blood and heart vessels. Therefore, if you’re not having good sleep on a regular basis, you could be at a higher risk of heart disease.

Along with heart health, good sleep improves your mental well-being. Studies show you’re able to learn more when you have good quality sleep. Conversely, if you struggle to sleep well, it can impact your decision-making abilities, retaining information, and more.

Sleep also has a major impact on your emotional health. A full night’s sleep helps you feel more rested and gives you the motivation to tackle the challenges of your upcoming day. Sleep also mitigates the effects of stress. Without it, you’re more likely to feel sad or angry. A lack of sleep can also lead to fatigue, microsleep (which is where you sleep in short bursts with your eyes open), and generally keeps you from performing at your fullest potential.

For those who are struggling to sleep at night, practicing good sleep hygiene is an effective first step to achieve a full night’s rest. Sleep hygiene is the set of behaviors that facilitate healthy sleep, like avoiding caffeine before bed. There are also medical treatments for those suffering from insomnia — we recommend talking to a doctor about your options.

While this list is intensive in scope and quantity, it’s important to take things at your own pace: practice one or two steps at a time, and stop if something doesn’t feel right. Our goal is to provide a range of different ideas that you can try because not all of them will be right for everyone.

We want to note that it’s ideal to speak with your physician about improving your sleep quality, especially if you’re thinking of trying supplements or medicines.

Click here for a printable PDF version of the sleeping tips.

Changes To Your Everyday Routine

  1. Avoid nightcaps: Alcohol can have a sedative effect that helps you fall asleep, but it won’t help you stay asleep and is likely to make you restless or even wake you up later on.
  2. Eat regular meals every day: Going to bed hungry may keep you up wanting a snack, while too much food can keep you up with indigestion. This sleep hygiene tip has been known to help those recovering from insomnia.
  3. Limit how much you drink at night, as this reduces how often you wake up to use the bathroom.
  4. Reduce bedtime snacking: As this could lead to acid reflux, keeping you awake. If you have to have a snack, try something light and non-acidic.
  5. Get enough protein: A university of Purdue study found adults who consumed more protein daily had better sleep quality.
  6. Eat the right foods to help you fall asleep: These include kiwis, turkey, almonds, fatty fish, walnuts, and white rice.
  7. Try these Midnight Cookies: They are high in tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps boost serotonin and melatonin to help you sleep better.
  8. Golden milk: Studies have shown turmeric suppresses inflammation and can prevent sleep deprivation. Mixing it with milk is delicious and great for bedtime.

Health

  1. Get enough exercise: Walking 150 minutes a week helps those with insomnia sleep better.
  2. On that note, avoid exercising within three hours or so before bedtime. Exercising regularly can help reduce anxiety and stress levels, helping you to sleep better. However, if you do exercise within three hours of bedtime, endorphins from exercise can keep you up.
  3. Do not consume caffeinated products: Drinking coffee, tea, or soda in the evening can prevent you from falling asleep.
  4. Refrain from smoking and other drugs use: Stimulants make it difficult to fall and remain asleep.
  5. Visit the chiropractor: They can recommend sleep positions and pillows to help you sleep better for your body’s specific needs.

Daily Schedule

  1. Avoid napping during the day, as this can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
  2. Maintain a regular bedtime and wake time, including on weekends: Keeping a regular sleeping schedule prevents disruptions that can occur from staying up too late on the weekends. It can also help maintain your circadian rhythm once you get into the habit, as your body will begin to naturally recognize when bedtime is near and help wind you down for bed.
  3. Sleep restriction: Tightening up your sleep schedule and reducing your opportunity for sleep can force your body to stay on schedule in order to make time for a full night’s rest. Maintain a tight sleeping schedule with no wiggle room for naps for at least two weeks.
  4. Chrono rhythm: Your chrono type concerns your alertness and activity during the day. Knowing your rhythm can help you sleep better and identify the best times of the day for activity, as well as give you insight into your eating patterns.

Light & Warmth

  1. Light therapy lamps: You can use these to treat sleep disorders and irregular circadian rhythms such as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
  2. Spend time outside in the light each day: Research has shown that getting enough vitamin D during the day is a part of good sleep hygiene. Time outside is actually clinically proven to help you sleep.
  3. “Experience Both Daylight and Darkness”: As important as daylight exposure is, your body’s experience with both light AND dark helps you stay alert while exposing your body to darkness can help you sleep. Light and darkness play a role in managing your sleep-wake cycle.
  4. Try showering at night: Doing so one to two hours before bedtime can regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which also relies on temperature.

Before Bed

  1. Wind down: Devote your last waking hour every night to a calm period where you can have a light carbohydrate snack before bed.
  2. Nighttime yoga/stretching: Yoga reduces stress which can help you sleep better. Three poses you can try include standing forward bend, corpse pose (Savasana), and Child’s Pose (Balasana).
  3. Take a stress-reducing nighttime bath to help improve blood flow and induce sleepiness.
  4. Wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening. Blue light interrupts your circadian rhythm’s go-to-sleep signals. Accordingly, blocking blue light helps your eyes relax and gives your body a fighting chance to get to bed on time.
  5. Go for a light nighttime walk to help your body reduce stress and anxiety. Just make sure not to get your heart rate going too fast, as that can be counterproductive around bedtime.
  6. Hydrate: Going to sleep hydrated prevents dry mouth or muscle cramps, both of which contribute to poor sleep quality.
  7. Dress in moisture-wicking materials: If you’re a sweaty sleeper, wicking material can keep you comfortable and prevent you from getting up to change.

Getting to Sleep

  1. Cuddle up: Snuggling releases oxytocin which improves your mood, reduces stress, and helps you sleep.
  2. Read a book in bed make you sleepy: Studies show reading before sleep helps you reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
  3. Read to your children: Read a calming bedtime story to your kids for some nice bonding time, and can be a relaxing bedtime activity to include in your nightly routine.
  4. Use the US Army Fall Asleep in 2 minutes tactic: This breathing and relaxation technique helped 96% of people sleep better, learn more about it here.
  5. Weighted blankets can reduce anxiety and stress levels, helping you to fall asleep quicker. Best of all, they are easy to make for you DIYers with this handy guide.
  6. Use a sleep mask to minimize light disruptions. A weighted sleep mask applies pressure that, much like a weighted blanket, helps your body relax.
  7. Sleep naked: Clothes can disrupt your body’s ability to lower your temperature at night, especially if you’re a hot sleeper, resulting in sleep disruptions.
  8. Breathing exercises: The 4-7-8 breathing method relaxes the nervous system.
  9. Switch up allowing your pet in bed: Snuggling next to your furry companion could lead to better sleep. Conversely, if your pet normally sleeps with you and you’re not sleeping well throughout the night, consider keeping them out of bed to limit disruption from their movements at night.
  10. Change your sleep position (back, stomach, side): Switching up your sleeping position can help you breathe better and sleep more soundly. Side sleepers usually get the best rest on mattresses with a softer profile, while back and stomach sleepers tend to like firmer beds because they offer more support.
  11. Swaddling isn’t just for babies: Adult swaddling can be a soothing way to relax muscles and induce sleepiness.
  12. If you can’t avoid TV at night (see our note about blue light), try a soothing program so you don’t feel compelled to pay close attention to the plot. Our favorites on Netflix: Our Planet, Night on Earth, and Disneynature Oceans. Here are six other show suggestions.
  13. Use your bed only for sleep & sex: Doing so allows your mind to associate your bed with those two activities only, allowing you to sleep more efficiently over time.
  14. Progressive muscle relaxation: This exercise involves lightly squeezing then relaxing your muscles to remove tension.
  15. Make a mental gratitude list: This practice distracts your mind from nervous or anxiety-provoking thoughts that make you feel restless and can help you fall asleep.
  16. Picture a happy scene: This visualization can create a calming effect and could help you have peaceful dreams.
  17. Face massage: By yourself or with a partner, practice giving each other facial massages. Researchers have compared it to meditation, as it can help refresh the body and mind.
  18. Don’t just lie there: If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and practice a calming activity before trying to go back to bed.
  19. Watch “oddly satisfying” videos: These delightful videos can reduce stress and help you calm down. Popular topics include soap cuttinghydraulic presses, and playing with slime.
  20. Blow bubbles: Not only is it fun, but because it requires deep breathing to blow them, you’ll feel calmer.
  21. Progressive relaxation: Squeeze then relax every muscle in your body starting with your toes and working your way up.
  22. Do the Brain Dance: developed by Anne Green Gilbert of the Creative Dance Center, this pattern dance improves cognitive function, reduces stress and has many more benefits. Learn how to do it here.
  23. Grounding techniques: To bring your focus away from tomorrow’s anxieties, bringing your attention back to the room you’re in can be as simple as touching an object or saying your name aloud to center your mind.
  24. Scalp massage: This reduces tension to help you feel calmer and promotes relaxation.
  25. Art therapy: Art can calm you down, center your mind, and help you sleep. Try some light drawing, painting, or even collaging an hour or an hour and a half before bed.
  26. Knitting is a great way to calm your mind and can even help you dream better.
  27. Tapas Acupressure Technique: This technique is proven to remove stress, past traumas, and more.
  28. Self-hypnosis: Hypnosis enters you into a dream-like trance where you shed stress and anxiety. There are great meditation apps you can choose from like Declutter the Mind.
  29. Reverse psychology might be the trick, as a Scottish Study found insomniacs had better luck falling asleep by talking their brain into trying to stay awake.
  30. Conversely, avoid looking at the clock or obsessing about not getting sleep. It keeps your mind alert and increases anxiety levels.
  31. Sleep medicine: Medications can treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. It’s important to consult with your doctor first before deciding on a treatment course.

Your Sleep Environment

  1. Try a weighted pillow: A weighted pillow or lap pad can be used to apply pressure to areas that carry stress.
  2. Use a wedge pillow: According to research, the triangular foam can reduce sleep apnea, heartburn, and other sleep disruptions.
  3. Body pillows can also double as comfortable snuggling companions that keep you feel cozy and ready to fall asleep.
  4. Update your mattress: The perfect mattress helps you sleep more comfortably, and won’t wake you up in the middle of the night because it’s irritating your back or side. If your mattress is older than 10 years — or if it’s simply not the right one for you — it’s probably time to choose something new.
  5. Breathable, high-quality sheets can keep you cooler and more comfortable. Organic cotton, for example, is a more breathable bedding material.
  6. Redesign your bedroom: Make your bedroom your calming sanctuary that’s clean and comfortable. Is there a floodlight outside your window? Does the morning sun hit you right in the eyes? Now’s the time to switch things up.
  7. Add plants to the bedroom: Not only do plants liven up a space to make it feel more homey, but certain plants have anxiety relieving or air-purifying effects than may help you get a better night’s sleep.
  8. Add a cozy rug: Place a cozy rug at the foot of your bed or the side you normally step in on. It will be the last surface your feet touch before you get into bed and can help you feel comfortable at bedtime.
  9. Turn down the thermostat: Finding your balance could be tricky, but a good rule of thumb is keeping your thermostat between 60°F and 67°F.
  10. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet: Use blackout curtains to keep the light out to limit sleep disruptions.
  11. Use a sleep tracker app: Many smartwatches include these apps that track your sleep patterns and notify you how often you wake up and stay asleep. You can tie your wake times back to your environment to see why you’re tossing and turning at night.
  12. Having a humidifier can remove bacteria and allergens from the air, keeping your throat and sinuses comfortable.
  13. Sleep with a pillow between your legs: This helps reduce back and hip pain and keeps your spine in proper alignment.
  14. Keep hands and feet cozy: Cold feet and hands might make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Wearing cozy socks make you comfortable and are good predictors of rapid sleep onset.
  15. Use a “do not disturb” sign to let others in your home know when you’re asleep. This is an especially good trick if you work abnormal shifts.

Mental Wellness

  1. CBT (Cognitive behavior therapy) is a comprehensive therapy that targets your cause of insomnia. Getting to the emotional root of sleep disturbance can address emotional baggage and lead to more mental wellness benefits.
  2. Practice forgiveness: If you can’t turn off arguments in your head, practicing forgiveness allows your mind to settle down so you can sleep. Thinking or speaking aloud to those who have hurt you in the past or even in the previous day can help you settle the day’s concerns.
  3. Use red nightlights if you need to get up to go to the bathroom. You won’t expose your eyes to full light, making it harder to fall back asleep. Red-tinged lights are less disturbing than white or blue, and can further help you get back to sleep.
  4. Before bed, mentally plan your responsibilities for tomorrow: You might choose to write a list or journal — do whatever it takes to avoid thinking about it when you should be trying to get to sleep.
  5. Avoid Sunday Scaries: For those who have a hard time sleeping on Sunday night in anticipation of work on Monday morning, controlling the urge to worry can be powerful. Set aside time to allow yourself to worry instead of worrying the whole day. Once your time’s up, shift your focus to something you enjoy to take your mind off of it.
  6. Meditation: Allows your mind to relax, leading to better quality of sleep.
  7. Write in a journal: Doing so allows you to clear out your mind and process your feelings instead of them racing through your mind as you try to fall asleep.

Sleep Technology

  1. Turn off electronics 1 hour before bedtime: It helps to destimulate your mind, maintain your sleep-wake cycle, and achieve REM sleep.
  2. Listen to an audiobook: Listening to an audio novel from Audible can calm your mind. Bonus: you can listen with the lights off for a smoother transition from wake to sleep.
  3. Listen to a sleep podcast: Hosts typically have warm, calming voices and talk about things that are entertaining but not distracting. Some of our favorites include Sleep with MeSlow Radio, and Sleep Whispers.
  4. Sound Asleep Pillow: Not only is this Bluetooth speaker pillow comfortable, it connects to an app on your phone which is compatible with a ton of different apps like Spotify, Audiobooks, and Apple Music.
  5. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): These stimuli focus on simple sounds such as water or whispering, which can soothe you to sleep. We recommend checking out these YouTube channels for audio and visual: Gibi ASMRASMR Darling, and Gentle Whispering are three to check out.
  6. Use a white noise app: White noise encompasses all sounds from trickling water to nature to help calm your mind. There are tons of great white noise apps and white noise machines if you want to disengage with your phone at night.
  7. The Dodow is an innovative pulsing night light that leads the rhythm with your breathing to help you relax.
  8. Anti-snoring self-adjusting pillow: This pillow uses sensors to detect when you’re snoring then moves your head to a better position to help you breathe and sleep better.

Supplements and Natural Options

  1. Melatonin: This hormone can help to regulate sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  2. CBD: This non-intoxicating extract can reduce pain and anxiety levels, and may even help users fall asleep and stay asleep.
  3. CBD Blanket: If you’d prefer not to ingest CBD, Curfew claims to have made the world’s first CBD blanket, which is intended to work like the CBD mentioned above.
  4. Essential oils and aromatherapy: Some use lavender scented essential oils as a sleep aid due to its calming properties. You can apply small amounts directly to your wrists and behind your ears, put it in a diffuser, or even use an inexpensive reed oil diffuser near your bed.
  5. Certain teas like Chamomile have a calming effect while Valerian Root can act as a sedative.

Speak to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements, to ensure they’re right for you. These supplements have been noted to aid in sleep:

  1. GABA inhibits some neurotransmitters and allows the central nervous system to relax.
  2. 5 HTP boosts your body’s serotonin production, which plays a role in the sleep cycle.
  3. Theanine is an amino acid that can have sedative effects.
  4. Magnesium can activate the neurotransmitters responsible for helping you sleep.
  5. There are several major acupressure points that when stimulated, can help you feel more relaxed at night, including on the wrist and leg.
  6. Acupuncture: Is a practice that restores the body, relieves pain, and eases stress, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
  7. The art and science of acupuncture (especially in combination with herbs) is also shown to aid insomnia.

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