Discover These Simple Things You Can Do to Get Better Sleep Even When You’re Busy

With busy days, demanding jobs, and family responsibilities, good sleep can sometimes be hard to attain; especially on a regular basis. 

While you can’t change the amount of time you have in your day, there are certain steps you can take and habits to avoid to ensure you have an easy time falling asleep as well as maximize the hours you do sleep. 

Here are five fact-based tips for better sleeping habits: 

1. Aim to Stay In-Sync With Your Body’s Natural Sleep-Wake Cycle

The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms your body follows. Circadian rhythms are natural, internal 24-hour cycles that help regulate essential functions and processes within your body.  In other words, imagine your body has an internal clock that repeats every 24 hours. This clock is influenced by environmental cues; specifically light. This is why you feel more awake and alert when it’s light out and the opposite as it gets dark. 

When your natural sleep-wake cycle is aligned with the time you’re actually going to bed and waking up on a regular basis, it can help promote more consistent and restorative sleep. On the flip side, when your circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can create sleeping problems. 

For an adult, the ideal sleep-wake cycle is seven to nine hours of sleep and then 15 to 17 hours of wakefulness. Let’s say you’ve got a lot of responsibilities and seven hours is the most you can get. If you can go to bed at midnight and wake up at seven every morning, then you will be able to stay within your natural sleep-wake cycle and feel more rested than if you slept the same number of hours at different times each night. 

If you can’t sleep at normal times due to travel or your job, here are some suggestions for how to lightly adjust your cycle: 

  • For people who need to wake up before the sun comes up, turn on a bright light as soon as your alarm goes off
  • For overnight workers, wear sunglasses on the way home from work and use blackout curtains in your bedroom
  • Avoid sleeping in on weekends
  • If you need to make up for lost sleep, choose a daytime nap rather than over-sleeping

Research is also showing that disrupting your circadian rhythms can have negative impacts on both your physical and mental health. 

2. Be Smart About Napping

While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, as mentioned above, napping can also cause sleep difficulties or make your current ones worse. This is why it is important to time your naps well. The goal of a nap is to help your body and mind feel more refreshed throughout the day, but can it will do more harm than good if you throw off your sleep-wake cycle by taking a nap that lasts too long. A beneficial nap will only go into the first and second stages of sleep, which is beneficial. However, if you nap closer to a full sleep cycle which is around 90 minutes, your brain will produce different wavelengths that release specific hormones when it shouldn’t.

The recommended nap length is around 20 minutes in the early afternoon.  

Additionally, aim to fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you give in to taking a nap after dinner, then you may wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep.

3. Regulate Your Exposure to Light

Your exposure to light during both the day and the night can impact your sleep-wake cycle. This is due to melatonin which is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. The amount that is released is controlled by light exposure; your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark, which helps make you sleepy, and less when it’s light which helps keep you more awake. 

How to Alter Your Exposure to Light At Night

Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of going to bed. The blue light emitted by your phone, computer, or TV is specifically disruptive to your sleep because it blocks the release of melatonin. 

If you need to use devices, you can minimize the impact with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software

Avoid reading with backlit divides. Tablets that are backlit are actually more disruptive to your sleep than e-readers that don’t have their own light source. 

When going to sleep make surer to cover any electronics that emit light or unplug anything that produces light. 

4. Exercise Regularly 

People who exercise regularly experience many health benefits, but two positives that aren’t mentioned as often are better sleep at night and more alertness during the day. 

Please note that it can take several months of regular exercise before you experience the positive impacts on your sleep quality. The more intensely you exercise the more powerful the sleep benefits, however, a 10-minute walk can help. So aim to do what you can!

For better sleep, it is important to time your exercise right. This is because exercise speeds up your metabolism, stimulates the production of hormones such as cortisol, and raises your body temperature. This won’t impact your sleep if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but if you’re sweating it out too close to bedtime, you might be awake for much longer than you intended. 

Try to finish working out at least three hours before going to sleep. 

On the other hand, yoga and other low-impact exercises can be great for sleep!

5. Watch Your Eating and Drinking Habits 

It’s no surprise that your eating and drinking habits can affect your sleep. Did you know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it?

Here are the items you should avoid before bed: 

  • Any source of caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Big meals at night
  • Alcohol
  • Too many liquids
  • Sugary foods
  • Refined carbs

For the recommended daily sugar limit and healthy alternatives, check out our blog here

That being said, if you’re hungry, there are some yummy snacks you can eat before bed that will help ease you into a peaceful night’s rest: 

  • Turkey sandwich
  • Low-sugar cereal
  • Milk or yogurt
  • A banana

For some, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep, but for others, eating before bed leads to indigestion which makes sleeping more difficult. Make sure to listen to your body and follow what it is telling you. 

Better Sleep Starts in the Day

Getting the recommended amount of 7-9 hours of sleep each night is about more than being in bed for the optimal amount of time. 

Good sleep starts with your day and how you consistently engage in healthy habits such as waking up at the same time every morning and being physically active on a regular basis. It’s also important to set good sleep as a priority and remember how vital it is to your mental and physical health. 

Want a nightly checklist you can print out and use before bed to help you get into more good sleep habits? Download here!

Your better sleep checklist