At the end of every day, there’s just one thing we all are really craving for – a good night’s rest.
Here are 5 do’s and don’ts to get better sleep:
1. Don’t Smoke (At All!)
Smoking actually interferes with your sleep patterns, contrary to many who use cigarettes to tuck themselves to sleep.
Cigarettes contain nicotine, a stimulant that increases your heart rate making you feel more alert and awake, which you don’t want to be if you are trying to get some Z’s.
Nicotine is also highly addictive and fast-acting. Within a few seconds it enters your bloodstream and your brain, and in a matter of hours it starts exiting the body. If you’re addicted to nicotine, as many smokers are, it’s likely you may experience withdrawal symptoms during your sleep. Your brain will try to rouse you to get more nicotine and thus interrupt your sleep.
The more times you awaken at night, the lesser sleep you actually get, and the more sleep deprived you become. Smoking has many other health hazards of its own, and you can add sleep deprivation to that list. Not getting enough sleep eventually puts you in a perpetual bad mood, poor focus, and foggy mental function.
Science has long proven the link between cigarette smoking and sleep deprivation. In fact:
- Smokers have shorter sleep times by 33 minutes, and spend nearly 4% less time in deep sleep stage
- Every cigarette smoked equals 1.2 minutes of lost sleep
- Smokers are 4 times more likely to report feeling like they haven’t slept enough
- Regular smokers take longer to doze off and spend less time asleep overall
A study done in 2013 on mice revealed that smoking tobacco disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. The more tobacco exposure, the worse sleep disruption. If sleep deprivation becomes a regular pattern, you might even put yourself at risk to developing insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing such as sleep apnea or snoring.
So if you want to get better sleep, quit smoking.
Read this article by Tuck for tips on how to make the transition to quitting cigarettes for good a bit easier.
2. Don’t Drink Alcohol Before Going To Bed
You might think a nightcap will help you sleep better at night. 20 percent of Americans think so.
But you better think again.
Alcohol is almost always in every list of foods and drinks to avoid if you want a better night’s sleep.
Researcher Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director of The London Sleep Centre, shares in this article on WebMD that alcohol may seem to help you sleep as it induces sleepiness, but overall it disrupts your sleep cycles, particularly in the second half of the night. Alcohol suppresses breathing and can even cause sleep apnea, where your breathing stops and starts multiple times during the night.
The short-term and immediate impact of alcohol is to cut the time it usually takes to fall asleep – which is probably why most people with insomnia use alcohol as a sleep aid. However, alcohol disrupts your REM stage of the sleep cycle, which is the more mentally restorative type of sleep. Using alcohol as a sleep aid might make you feel as if your sleep has improved, but in fact is doing you more harm than good. This pattern usually leads to alcohol dependence and puts you more at risk for sleep talking, sleep walking, and developing memory problems.
Alcohol is also a diuretic which may lead to more nighttime awakenings and extra bathroom trips – interrupting your sleep patterns.
Now we’ve debunked the myth of alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol and better sleep simply don’t mix. So if you want to wake up feeling rested and focused, better put away that glass of wine in your bedroom and don’t drink alcohol before going to bed.
3. Do Lose Weight
Losing excess pounds may help you get a better night’s sleep.
For those who have gone above their recommended body weight, or are obese, the excess weight may have significant effects on their quality of sleep and overall health. Being overweight usually leads to sleep apnea – a condition where your airway collapses during your sleep. These temporary airway blockages cause frequent nighttime awakenings and may further lead to serious consequences like hypoventilation syndrome, stroke, and even death.
Research studies suggests shedding off the excess weight can improve snoring. In a study done on 20 asymptomatic obese men who snored heavily, their snoring significantly dropped altogether with an average weight loss of 6.6 pounds. Those who lost more weight by an average of 16.7 pounds completely eliminated their snoring.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine also observed 77 overweight volunteers with either prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes. A lot of them reported sleep issues such as daytime fatigue, sleep apnea, restlessness, sleep interruptions and insomnia. Half of the volunteers went on a weight loss diet plus exercise training, while the other half just did the diet. In the course of 6 months, participants of both groups lost 15 pounds on average and dropped their belly fat by 15%. Both groups reported better sleep quality.
There is indeed a link between losing excess weight and getting better sleep at night. So if you want to improve your quality of sleep, you need to put in the work of committing to old-fashioned exercise and a healthy diet.
Your body will thank you in the long run.
4. Do Embrace Menopause and Manage its Symptoms
Menopause is a natural part of the aging process in women.
It is technically defined as 12 months of no menstrual period. But before menopause occurs, women go through a period called perimenopause which usually lasts 3 to 10 years.
During this period, women experience a myriad of symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, irregular periods, increased anxiety, dryer skin, physical changes in the breasts, uterus, cervix, and ovaries, and insomnia.
Sleep problems are the core symptoms of perimenopause. According to the National Sleep Foundation, less than half of perimenopausal women enjoy a full, uninterrupted sleep at night.
These severe problems climb in severity among women drawing closer to menopause. The most common sleep issues reported by perimenopausal and menopausal women are:
- Less time spent in REM sleep, the “dream” stage of sleep associated with memory consolidation, learning, and mood regulation. Most women who don’t get enough REM sleep complain of daytime fatigue.
- Hot flashes and night sweats, contributing to insomnia
- Sleep onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep) and sleep maintenance insomnia (difficulty staying asleep)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Restless legs syndrome, characterized by uncomfortable tingling sensations in the lower limbs that usually occur while lying down.
Many surveys show that women consider insomnia as the most disruptive menopausal symptom. More often than not, this insomnia is caused by the body’s inability to maintain a consistent temperature – thus the hot flashes. A hot flash also stimulates a sudden surge of adrenaline, which tends to awaken you in the night.
While menopause is inevitable and may not be an easy period of life to go through, there are ways you can sleep better during this stage. Read this article by Tuck for recommended tips on how to embrace menopause and learn how to manage symptoms for better sleep.
5. Do Get a Bedroom Humidifier
Getting a bedroom humidifier can do wonders for your sleep.
In this article by Health Central, humidifiers are recommended to enhance your room’s airflow quality and may reduce your nighttime awakenings from a dry nose (usually because of the harsh chill from your air conditioning.) Low moisture levels in the nose and soft palate promote loud snores due to the inability of the air to move freely due to the dryness and gets trapped. Air starts to bounce around your sinuses, causing vibrations, or snores, that is your body’s way of loosening moisture and promoting airflow.
If you have sleep apnea, or suffer from loud snores, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality bedroom humidifier to put moisture back into the air you’re breathing and into your nasal cavities as well. Some humidifiers even come with a heated vapor option that stimulates the sinuses to make their own moisture.
Humidifiers also help avoid nighttime awakenings because of a scratchy throat, which may be another effect of a too cold, too dry sleeping environment. While you sleep, the vapors circulate and lubricate your airways to prevent them from becoming dry and clogged.
Lastly, humidifiers supplement your skin’s moisture retaining abilities. The vapors keep your skin hydrated and prevent you from tossing and turning from dry, itchy or irritated skin.