General Health · Get Well · Student Life

Improve Your Night’s Sleep

There is no doubt that those who succumb to the demands of modern day life have dealt with the effects of sleep deprivation. We go to bed too late and we wake up too early—in many cases, not by choice. Sleep is an extremely important function essential to cell generation, cognitive function, and basically every other bodily process. We need to sleep well, so how can we maximize the benefits of our night’s sleep when life can give us a fairly small window to hit the sack? Here are a few simple changes you can make to your bedtime routine to help ensure a better night’s sleep:

Check Your Pillow

Is your pillow too firm? Is it perhaps too soft? If your pillow is either, you may want to consider switching to one that lies somewhere in the middle. Your sleeping position should support the natural curvature of your spine, as supported by several research studies. This means that it’s important for you to find a pillow that supports your head in line with your spine, rather than holding it too high or sinking it too low. Doing so should certainly increase the quality of your night’s sleep, and your neck and back will thank you.

Avoid Screens

It’s important to stay connected to your social world, but if you’re checking your phone or on your computer too close to bedtime, you’re significantly decreasing your sleep quality. Blue light that is emitted from LED screens is received by your brain much like sunlight, interrupting your natural circadian rhythm, or biological clock. This produces a reaction in your body that makes it believe that it’s daytime, and therefore time to stay awake. Over time, this misplaced reaction can have serious health effects, at the very least it can lead to mild insomnia. It is recommended that you make your bedroom a place of pure darkness to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. If you must be on your computer after dark, try the red light converter app (https://justgetflux.com/), which converts your screen’s light to red light once the sun sets, eliminating the blue light problem and setting you up for a better night’s sleep.

Reduce Caffeine

It can be hard to avoid a cup of coffee or convenient energy drink when you feel the need for a daytime pick-me-up. However, if you’re consuming caffeine too close to the evening, you’re decreasing your ability to fall asleep and have a quality night’s rest. Once caffeine is consumed, it can take up to six hours to eliminate just half of its presence in your bloodstream. Caffeine is a stimulant and naturally blocks sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain, keeping you alert. This alertness delays that tired feeling that drives you to your bed. If you want to maximize the quality of your night’s sleep or fall asleep easier, it’s best to avoid caffeine several hours before bedtime.

Exercise

Daytime workouts have a significantly positive effect on nighttime sleep. Working out reduces the amount of stress that may be keeping you up at night while also lengthening slow-wave sleep, the deepest point of your sleep cycle. It is recommended to avoid working out within four hours before bedtime; however, exercising out of that time frame should certainly improve your ability to catch Z’s.

By Melissa Espinal

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