When it comes to getting more energy from your sleep, quality is much more relevant than quantity. If you want to have a day where you feel focused, mentally sharp, rested and engaged, you will need refined sleep habits.
How do you achieve this? Small tweeks and changes to your everyday routine may be all you need, and if you can manage to make a few adjustments, you’ll be on your way to the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had.
1. Go to bed at the same time each day
Keeping a regular bed schedule, meaning going to bed and getting up at the same each day will go a long way with making you feel more rested and energised. Be consistent, and you’ll see positive results.
When going to sleep, pick a time when you feel tired. Do not force yourself to sleep, rather choose a later time to go to bed. If you’re having enough sleep, you’ll usually wake up by yourself, without the need of an alarm.
2. Try to avoid sleeping in
It can be tempting to stay in bed on weekends, especially if you’ve stayed up late. However, just a couple of hours are needed to disrupt your internal clock, meaning you’ll feel the effects of this throughout the day.
If you feel you need to recharge your batteries during the day, it’s much better that you have a timed 20 minute nap rather than staying in bed until late or going to bed earlier. Try to stick to your routine.
3. Control your naps
Naps must only be taken if you really feel you can’t function during the day, as a result of a lack of sleep from the previous night. If taking them, limit them to 20 minutes tops, as longer naps can heavily disrupt sleep patterns. You can wake up with a slight headache, feeling moody, or even feel more tired than you were before taking the nap.
In addition, if you nap during the day, you’ll have trouble trying to fall asleep at night, which becomes a never ending circle.
4. Expose yourself to sunlight during the day
During the day, your brain secretes less melatonin, a hormone which controls your sleep-wake cycle. Lower amounts of this hormone make you more awake during the day, and larger amounts make you more sleepy at nights.
To your brain, light equals daytime and darkness equals nighttime. So don’t try to fight it and go with it. Get as much natural light as you can during the day. Try to work next to a window if you’re in an office, or go outside for walks, or exercise outdoors. The earlier in the day you can expose yourself to natural light, the better: your brain will feel more alert than ever.
5. Avoid screens at night, especially before bedtime
Bright screens with bluelight, such as those from smartphones, computers, tablets and televisions can confuse your brain, and make it generate less melatonin, which subsequently makes you feel more awake.
Even if you manage to go to sleep, it may not be as deep as it should be, and the result will be less restorative.
As a general rule, try to avoid all type of screens at least two hours before going to bed. If there’s no way to get around it, consider installing apps such as f.lux, which regulates the colour of your display according to the time of day, making it easier for your brain to adjust.
6. Darken your room as much as possible before sleeping
As we mentioned before: darkness equals night. So make sure the room is as dark as possible when going to bed. Close all curtains, turn off or remove all electronics that emit any type of light and turn off all lights. If this is not possible, consider wearing a sleep mask to cover your eyes.
If you need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, try not to turn on the light, as it will be easier and quicker for you to fall back asleep.
7. Make sure your room’s temperature and ambiance are optimal
You room’s environment is key to a good night’s sleep. First of all, the noise must be kept to a minimum. If you can’t escape the sound of traffic, barking dogs, or the party next door, consider improving it with soothing sound recordings, white noise machines, a fan, or simple earplugs.
In addition to the sound, the temperature must be perfect too. It can’t be too hot or too cold. However, a slightly colder room is better than a hotter one. The average best temperature is about 18°C.
8. Invest in a comfy bed
Your back and neck are worth spending decent money on, so choose a comfy bed. Select bed covers that leave enough room for you to move around in at night and still be covered, pillows that give you enough support (they can be firm or soft, it’s up to you).
You’ll also have to try different types of mattresses until you find the perfect one, as they have different levels of firmness. Generally speaking, it is better for the back to sleep on a firmer mattress, however the choice is ultimately yours.
Also, you may want to reserve your bed strictly for sleeping. If you use your bed to work or eat, your brain could potentially start relating it to other situations other than sleeping, which can end up messing with your sleep cycle. Better to keep things clear: the bed is either for resting or being romantic.
9. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise wards off the symptoms of insomnia, and it makes you more awake during the day. Even if you go for a short walk during the day, chances are you’ll sleep better. If you can add exercise to your daily routine, you will have more energy during the day and will get more energy out of each night’s sleep!
10. Watch what you eat and drink
You are what you eat, after all. So be mindful of what you put into your stomach, especially certain foods that can upset the digestive tract. Some of the foods you should avoid include caffeine, even in the morning, as it can cause trouble with sleeping even 12 hours after drinking it.
11. Don’t take big meals before bed
It is better to have bigger meals at the beginning of the day and smaller meals as the day comes to an end. Why? Because your body doesn’t need a higher energy intake right before it rests. In addition, some foods take a whole lot of work from your body to digest, and that can keep you up.
Some of the foods you should not have up to two hours before going to bed are fatty, spicy, acidic foods and alcohol.
12. Watch out for unhealthy habits
Another reason to quit smoking! If consumed in excess, cigarettes (especially nicotine) can keep you alert and awake, preventing you from feeling sleepy at nights.
13. Relax and meditate before sleeping
Nothing worse than trying to go to bed with a stressed, worried or fast-paced mind. You need to clear your head before you can enjoy a rested, good night’s sleep. Meditation can help you with this, as you can learn how to manage and control your thoughts.
Some of the techniques you can try are deep breathing, muscle relaxation (progressively, starting with your toes and working all the way up to your head), visualisation (picturing a relaxing scenario in your head), taking a warm bath or reading a book under a dim light.
14. Use apps to track your sleep patterns
Finally, there are some technologies that have been developed to help you with sleeping patterns. Some of the best known ones are Sleepyti.me and Sleepbot. Sleepyti.me calculates when you should go to bed accordingly to the time you need to wake up, whereas Sleepbot tracks your sleep quality, automatically setting your phone on mute so e-mails and instant messages can’t disturb you.