The importance of sleep quality and how to improve it

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Nothing is as frustrating as poor sleep. Even though we practice sleeping every night, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Keeping track of where and how you sleep will reveal what factors are at the root of poor sleep. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning a good night's rest.

(Blue) light

Light affects sleep quality in the hours leading up to bedtime. Feeling sleepy is the result of Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Bright light can disrupt melatonin production. To avoid impaired sleep, do not bring your mobile devices to bed or use the computer immediately before attempting to fall asleep.

If you can't turn off your mobile devices or typically glued to your computer screen just before bed, consider installing f.lux, a program that gradually reddens the light emitted by computers screens after the sun sets. Warm red light is better for melatonin production than the harsh blue light typically emitted by screens.

Sound

Unlike eyes, ears don’t close. A quiet environment provides the best sleep, since loud noises can disrupt sleep even if they don’t wake you up.

If you live in a noisy neighborhood, consider earplugs or a white noise machine. If you fall asleep to music, make sure to set a timer to turn it off or lower the volume.

Timing

Going to bed at approximately the same time every night helps improve sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. People who work from home or travel regularly should take particular care to adhere to a consistent sleep schedule (if possible).

Caffeine intake

Caffeine has two main effects after ingestion:

  1. People who aren’t used to caffeine will experience increased adrenaline.
  2. Caffeine also blocks adenosine receptors, which is why regular coffee drinkers can use it to ward off the remnants of sleep every morning.

Ingesting more than 200 mg of caffeine a day will result in tolerance after a week of use, which will prevent caffeine from increasing your adrenaline levels.

That being said, people who aren’t used to caffeine definitely shouldn’t drink coffee before bed. Even though coffee veterans claim to be able to fall asleep after drinking a pot of coffee, the caffeine will still block some adenosine receptors, which results in impaired sleep.

For the best sleep quality, avoid caffeine and other stimulants for at least four hours before bedtime.


Improving sleep quality

Supplements should only be used as a last resort to improve sleep quality. If the lifestyle changes suggested above do not improve sleep quality or reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, consider supplementation.

Sedatives

People that are having trouble with sleep latency, or how long it takes to fall asleep, can try sedative supplements such as melatonin or lemon balm.

  • Melatonin is a popular non-addictive sleep aid that is safe for daily use. Dim light will increase melatonin production, but oral supplementation is also effective. Melatonin is also popular among frequent travelers because it can help fight jet lag.

  • Lemon balm is another sedative supplement. It should not be taken during the day, but can be used on an as-needed basis to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. People with intrusive thoughts can try lemon balm to prevent their overactive mind from keeping them awake.

Non-sedative sleep aids

If you have problems with sleep quality, or staying asleep, but have no issues actually falling asleep, can try supplemental Glycine or Lavender.

  • Glycine is an amino acid. About three grams of glycine before bed can improve sleep quality with no sedative side effects.

  • Lavender can also improve sleep through aromatherapy. Dabbing lavender oil on your pillow (men can apply directly to mustache) or near your bed can improve sleep, while taking 80-160mg of the oil orally can reduce anxiety, which can indirectly improve sleep. Prolonged skin exposure to lavender may result in irritation, so don’t put too much lavender oil on your pillow.

Bonus tip: Rutaecarpine is a herb that can be supplemented to speed up caffeine metabolism. If you accidentally drank regular coffee instead of decaf, or are really regretting the decision to pull an all-nighter, rutaecarpine can be used to alleviate caffeine’s sleep impairing effects. Do not use rutaecarpine daily.


A good night ensures a good morning

If you have a lot of trouble getting out of bed, can’t sleep, or just wake up exhausted, you need to re-evaluate your sleeping habits. Start with small lifestyle changes before supplementing for improved sleep. Improved sleep quality is worth it. There’s nothing better than crawling comfortably into bed, especially if you used to dread it.

Sleep deprived? Click here to learn more about the importance of sleep on your health.


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