I hope you slept well last night, because today is World Sleep Day! Rest assured (no pun intended) that no matter the quality of your slumber, today’s post will lend you information all to do with sleep.
Sleep is a crucial factor affecting all aspects of our lives, whether instantly or over time. In today’s world it is a constant battle trying to relax our thoughts and steer clear of blue light from technological devices. Many issues resulting in sleep problems are preventable or manageable. So with the inspiration of World Sleep Day, hopefully this post amongst other resources inspires you to revamp your sleep routine.
What is World Sleep Day?
An annual event, the US-based World Sleep Society founded World Sleep Day, which aims to address sleep issues and decrease the problems associated with those issues. For the general population, like myself, it’s a reminder that sleep is just as, if not more, important as other facets of wellness.
6 Must-Haves to Improve Your Sleep Quality
1. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants before bed
Caffeine can increase adrenaline production, hence helping us feel more alert and awake. The National Sleep Foundation states that half our caffeine consumption could take 6 hours to be fully released from our bodies. From this data and my own personal sleep problems, I think I’ll be trialling my 5pm coffee at 3pm instead!
Similarly, exercise before bed can increase alertness also, making it harder to fall asleep than if you exercised earlier in the day.
2. Avoid blue light
We’ve probably all heard at some stage that blue light is bad for our sleep. Why exactly is this? The Sleep Foundation states that blue light (the physical light from devices such as laptops and phones) can suppress melatonin. Melatonin is the ‘sleep-inducing hormone’. Melatonin is the hormone that encourages sleep. Therefore, blue light’s most basic negative aspect is that, when used before bed, will make it harder to fall asleep.
3. Have a consistent bedtime and wake-up time
If blue light (or other factors) affect what time you fall asleep, your circadian rhythm may be impacted also. The circadian rhythm involves a cycle which sleep falls into. The light that affects when we fall asleep and when we wake-up is part of this rhythm. According to the Natural Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), natural and environmental factors can affect the circadian rhythm. This can include hormones, temperatures, bodily functions, and blue light. Jet-lag is also a good example, with the NIGMS stating a disruption in circadian rhythm as a result of travel. Your biological clock may take a few days to reset to the new time-zone.
Therefore, in regards to having a consistent sleep-wake cycle, it is important that we do our best to work for our circadian rhythm, not against it. Some external factors such as noise from a car honking in the middle of the night can’t be avoided. However, other factors like avoiding blue light and winding down before bed are in our power. Try to find a bed time and wake-up time that suits you, and trial sticking to it for a month.
Meditating can help alleviate feelings of stress and calm the mind, thus aiding sleep quality. In a 2012 study on university students, the umbrella terms of psychological problems and stress were the 2 most reported causes of poor sleep. As expected, work, school, and other non-negotiable activities may create stress or affect our usual sleeping habits. For example, another study of Hong Kong business students found duration of sleep to be shorter on weekdays, attributed mainly to early morning lectures and residing on campus. Although workers and students show a recurring theme, an awareness of these causes will allow people to create new habits or seek professional help.
Meditation lets us pause and breathe, allowing the mind to not worry about the past or future. Whether it’s 3 minutes or 30 minutes, meditation is just one way to wind down before sleep and let go of the things holding you back from getting a better night’s sleep.
5. Plan for the next day
If your mind tends to think about all the things you have to get done the next day, or you’re unaware of what you should even do tomorrow, planning in advance will help take those thoughts out of your head. Using a planner can help achieve this. Writing your top 3 priorities of the day will give you clarity on your most important tasks tomorrow, leaving additional tasks as optional if time allows for it. You can go to bed knowing that you don’t need to remember all these things that have to get done tomorrow, because they’re written down.
6. Save your bed for sleeping (and pleasure) only
It’s time to start improving your sleep quality! Oftentimes the bed is turned into a diner or cinema. I’m guilty of this too. Why watch a show on Netflix at my desk when I can get comfortable lying in bed with a snack? By not engaging in activities in bed (excluding intimacy), we can create an environment where we know that when we get into bed it’s time to unwind.
I’m currently forming new habits where I do watch a Netflix show at my desk or in another room. If I’m so tired that I feel like I need to lie down, then that is a sign I shouldn’t be watching anything anyway. The time spent in bed should instead be for a 30 minute nap, reading, meditating, or sleeping.
Altun, I., Cinar, N. & Dede, C. 2012, ‘The contributing factors to poor sleep experiences in according to the university students: A cross-sectional study’, Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 557-561.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute n.d., Sleep deprivation and deficiency, Bethesda, viewed 9 March 2020, <https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency>
National Institute of General Medical Sciences 2017, Circadian Rhythms, Bethesda, viewed 12 March 2020, <https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/factsheet_circadianrhythms.aspx>
National Sleep Foundation 2020, Caffeine and sleep, Washington, viewed 13 March 2020, <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/caffeine-and-sleep>
National Sleep Foundation 2020, Why electronics may stimulate you before bed, Washington, viewed 12 March 2020, <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed>
Tsui, Y. & Wing, Y. 2009, ‘A Study on the Sleep Patterns and Problems of University Business Students in Hong Kong’, Journal of American College Health, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 167-176.
World Sleep Society 2020, World Sleep Day is March 13 2020, viewed 8 March 2020, <https://worldsleepday.org/>