Sleep quality is hard to measure but can definitely be improved using these simple tips.
A person’s perception of whether they had a good sleep or not may be separate from other more clinical factors such as sufficient duration, REM cycles and breathing patterns.
According to a NCBI study: The subjective meaning of sleep quality is defined by tiredness on waking and throughout the day, feeling rested and restored on waking, and the number of awakenings they experienced in the night.
The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) is more of an effective instrument used to measure the quality and patterns of sleep in adults. It differentiates “poor” from “good” sleep quality by measuring seven areas: subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, habitual sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, use of sleeping medications, and daytime dysfunction over the last month.
Tips to Improve Your Sleep Quality
1. Avoid Chemicals
The stimulant caffeine present in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers should be avoided for several hours before bed.
Although alcohol may help bring on sleep, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School claims that after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night.
Similarly, smokers should refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime.
2. Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment
Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or use a “white noise” appliance.
Block light with heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask. Light is a powerful cue that tells the brain that it’s time to wake up.
Keeping the temperature cool and the room well-ventilated triggers a response in the body to release more chemicals signalling the time for sleep.
Consider keeping your pet out of your bedroom if it wakes you during the night.
3. Get Comfortable
As part of a relaxing environment, your bed also has an effect. One study looked at the effectiveness of a selected bedding system on quality of sleep. They found it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60%, back stiffness by 59% and improved sleep quality by 60%.
10 years is the typical guarantee period for a good mattress. If you haven’t replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick fix.
4. Don’t watch the Clock
Staring at a clock in your bedroom, either when you are trying to fall asleep or when you wake in the middle of the night, can actually increase stress, says Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, making it harder to fall asleep.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep get up, keep the lights dim, and perform a relaxing activity until you are ready to return to bed.
5. Evening food and drink
Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion. If you get hungry at night, snack on foods that won’t disturb your sleep.
Drink enough fluid at night to keep from waking up thirsty but not enough that you will be awakened by the need for a trip to the bathroom.
6. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is one of the best ways to enhance all aspects of sleep and has been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia.
In insomnia patients, exercise provided more benefits than most drugs in a study conducted by the Federal University of São Paulo. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night awake time by 30%, anxiety by 15% and increased total sleep time by 18% .
7. Clear Your Mind
It can helpful to have a routine before bed to help you quiet your mind. It’s important to distance yourself from things that cause you stress throughout the day.
Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia.
There are many strategies you could try, include relaxing music, reading, taking a hot bath, deep breathing and visualisation.
8. Melatonin Supplement
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that signals your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed .
It may be one of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster. In one study, melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day and helped people fall asleep faster. Another study found half the participants fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality.
Melatonin is also useful as it helps your body’s circadian rhythm return to normal.
Important Sleep Terminology
Often referred to as the “body clock”, it’s a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep or rise. This internal body clock is affected by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature.
REM sleep is the portion of sleep when there are Rapid Eye Movements. REM sleep is a vital component of our sleep patterns and includes high levels of brain activity due to dreams.
Sleep Apps that promote better sleep
Sleepbot has three major features: It can track your movement and sound levels and aims to wake you up at the right time.
It can show the user how you sleep tonight affects the rest of your week and shows the user how pattern changes affect them long-term providing actionable recommendations and tips.
Sleepbot provides trend graphs going back 6 months that include your sleep length and sleep patterns showing users what sleep they had during the night.
Sleep Cycle doesn’t record nighttime sounds but uses the phone’s accelerometer to detect motion. While you sleep, you go through cycles of sleep states. Your movements vary with each sleep phase.
Sleep Cycle uses sound analysis to identify sleep states by tracking movements in bed. Sleep Cycle uses a wake-up phase (30 minutes by default) that ends at your desired alarm time. Duringthis phase, Sleep Cycle will monitor signals from your body to wake you.
The app includes white noise and a heart rate monitor, and has sections to record notes on sleep quality and mood upon wake-up.
Sleep Time is another good option without the noise recording option. The app includes white noise and nature sounds to help you fall asleep and a smart alarm for wake-ups.
The color-coded daily, weekly and monthly graphs will appeal to data-lovers, and the percentage breakdowns of sleep and wake time are easy to read.
The app includes a section where you can make your own notes on your sleep quality, plus there’s a heart-rate monitor.