When it comes to the quality of your sleep, missing a few Z’s can do more than give your face that characteristic “tired” appearance. Inadequate sleep has been tied to serious issues such as an increase in workplace accidents and a higher risk for developing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and certain kinds of cancer. Simply put, sleep is vitally important for your concentration and overall health, which is why it is in your best interest to do everything in your power to improve your rest. Here are four ways to improve your sleep, so that you can stay healthy, happy, and productive.
1. Cool The Room
If you find yourself instinctively turning down your air conditioner at night, you aren’t alone. Millions of people prefer cooler sleep areas, but this preference is actually based on biological instinct-cooler sleeping areas promote better sleep.
Scientist H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, explains that when you go to sleep, your body temperature naturally goes down. Everyone has a “set-point temperature,” which is the temperature that your brain tries to reach when it rests. This natural reaction functions like an automatic internal thermostat, working hard to keep your body comfortable during the night. When you go to sleep, your set-point temperature automatically decreases, which means that a room that feels fine when you are awake might be too warm when you fall asleep. Cooler rooms have also been shown to increase deep sleep and REM movement, giving people the chance to enjoy more restful sleep.
Since the body tends to wake up when it is too warm, one way to improve the quality of your sleep is to make sure that your sleeping area is cool. Before bed, crank your air conditioner down a few degrees or consider sleeping with fewer clothes on. Use ceiling fans to keep the air in your home circulating. If you don’t have a central air conditioning unit, consider investing in a portable air conditioner, which can effectively cool a single room to allow for better sleep.
2. Avoid Screens Before Bed
Enjoying a fun television show or shooting out a few quick text messages before bed might seem harmless, but research has shown that screen time before bed can actually interfere with your sleep.
Research has shown that cognitive stimulation through playing games, watching television shows, responding to emails or listening to podcasts can “rev up” your brain right before sleep, which can leave your mind racing a million miles a minute instead of relaxing like it should. Studies have also shown that the glow coming from electronics can pass through the retina and into the hypothalamus, which could delay the release of melatonin, a chemical the body produces that promotes sleep.
To avoid problems, consider scheduling a “transition time” between your normal activities and bedtime. Instead of simply tossing your cell phone on your nightstand and immediately trying to sleep, schedule non-screen time activities such as prayer, listening to music, or meditation right before sleep. Dim the lights in your room to make the environment serene and sleep-friendly.
3. Consider Upgrading Your Mattress
If you can’t remember the last time you purchased a mattress, it might be time to hit a few stores, such as Best Mattress Las Vegas. On average, mattresses last between five and ten years because many contain internal cushioning and springs that can become less effective over time. As time goes on, your mattress might even develop uncomfortable divots, hard spots, or a completely loose sleeping surface that doesn’t support your body.
Sleeping surfaces should be firm enough to support your skeletal system and body weight, but soft enough to reduce pressure points and cushion the natural contours of your body. Arya Nick Shamie, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, explains that mattresses should support your body and keep your spine in a neutral position to keep your back in alignment. Without this support, sleepers can wake up with lower back or neck pain.
Fortunately, newer mattress models are more innovative than ever before. In addition to offering new and improved materials such as memory foam and silent springs, many mattress models are also compatible with adjustable bedframes, which allow the user to adjust the height and tilt of the head and foot area. Sleepers with acid reflux or asthma can position the upper portion of the bed upwards, allowing them to sleep in an upright or partially upright position. On the other hand, people with foot, leg, or hip pain can adjust the leg portion of the bed to lift or support the legs or feet, reducing swelling, pinched nerves, and muscle pain.
4. Track Your Sleep Data
Some cutting-edge adjustable beds are even integrated with smart technology and biometric sensors, allowing users to review their nighttime movements, heart rates, and breathing patterns. This information can give users detailed insights regarding the quality of the sleep they are getting, especially since some models can tell the difference between active movements, deep sleep patterns, and light sleep. This new technology can help people who struggle with their sleep, but aren’t sure why. By reviewing information about your sleep habits, you might be able to understand how much sleep you are getting, what might be interfering with your sleep, and how to avoid problems in the future.
If you need more help improving your sleep, consider talking with your family doctor. By undergoing a sleep study, your physician can carefully track your sleeping habits so that he or she can order treatment personalized for your habits, conditions, and personal preferences.