Sleep is one of the essential pillars of health. With a lack of quality sleep, it is impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many factors impact sleep quality from the temperature of the room, to the amount of light coming through the window. Small changes have large impacts on how rested you feel each morning. For example, a cooling blanket can improve sleep quality by lowering the temperature of your body.
Aside from the bed you sleep in, there are several other factors that impact the quality of sleep each night. From the time you wake up to the minutes before bed, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep to feel more rested each day.
Tips for Sleep Improvement
Most of these sleep tips are free and easy to implement. A few are more advanced and require some investment, like purchasing a cooling blanket or ChiliPad. However, high quality sleep will improve your life overall, so it is worth it in my opinion to optimize the effectiveness of each night’s rest.
Sleep with a Cooling Blanket
According to sleep.org, the suggested bedroom temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. In a warm climate, a thermostat temperature that low is a detriment to your electricity bill. Alternatively, a cooling blanket or cooling mattress pads like the ChiliPad can be used to lower body temperature to improve deep sleep.
The ChiliPad is a hydro-powered mattress pad that heats or cools a bed overnight. The system contains a control unit that uses water and plugs into the wall at night. Temperatures of the ChiliPad range from 55 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sleep quality improves when the body has a lower core temperature. If the room you are sleeping in is colder, your body does not have to work as hard to cool down, and it can instead spend that energy performing important repairs.
The great part about the ChiliPad is that it doesn’t require the entire room to be cooled to experience the benefits. It is your own personal cooling blanket! Over time, this will save on utility costs. And, if you share the bed with anyone, they won’t be forced to sleep in an excessively cold room if they don’t want to. The ChiliPad allows you to set two temperatures for either side of the bed, depending on the model.
Sleep in a Dark Room
Light is a natural signal for our bodies to wake up. Any light pollution will confuse the body and reduce the quality of sleep. Turn off all lights and use blackout curtains to cover any windows that let in outside light.
If it is not possible to eliminate the light in the room you are sleeping, use a sleep mask to keep your eyes from absorbing the light.
Have a Sleep Schedule
Establishing a regular sleep routine is critical for quality sleep. By supporting the body’s natural circadian rhythm, you allow your body to prepare for sleep more effectively, thus producing higher quality rest.
Even on the weekends, go to sleep sleep and wake within a 1 hour period of your usual time. Your body’s circadian rhythm will thank you with higher quality sleep and more energy throughout the day.
Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Blue light comes from computer monitors, phone screens and TVs. The blue light that devices emit can disrupt the circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep. Blue light blocking glasses mitigate this disruption, but it is best to avoid screens an hour prior to sleeping.
Blue light blocking glasses are available on Amazon and they are fairly affordable.
To maximize the benefits of blue light blocking glasses, wear them for at least one hour prior to bed.
Finish Eating Early
Digesting food is a task that requires a lot of attention from your body. If you eat too close to sleep, your body cannot effectively perform all of its necessary repair functions during sleep because it has to devote a significant amount of energy to digesting food.
Additionally, having a large meal will raise core body temperature and make it more difficult to get a restful night of sleep. If you do find yourself in a situation where you cannot wait several hours after your last meal before going to sleep, having a cooling blanket like the ChiliPad will help combat a higher body temperature.
If possible, end your eating window at least 3 hours before bed.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Consuming a small number of carbohydrates before bed increases serotonin levels in the body which helps promote sleep. This can be in the form of a small piece of fruit, or some honey added to an herbal tea. It’s not a good idea to have a large bowl of pasta right before bed.
Avoid Caffeine After 12pm
Caffeine has a half life of 8 hours. This means that 8 hours after finishing a cup of coffee, half of the 130mg of caffeine is still in your system.
Caffeine is a great tool to help boost energy levels early in the morning, but it should not be used throughout the entire day, especially after 12pm.
Instead of reaching for an afternoon cup of coffee, go for a walk, preferably outside, to boost energy levels. If you are looking for a warm drink to sip on, have some herbal tea, or a cup of bone broth with salt.
Don't Use an Alarm
Ideally, we would all sleep and rise with the sun. However, this is not possible for most people with children, strict work schedules, or other lifestyle factors that may require early mornings or late nights.
A standard alarm usually jolts you awake and ramps up your heart rate before your eyes open. This is not an ideal way to start the morning. Additionally, you may start to anticipate the alarm, which can cause the last few hours of sleep to be less restful.
Light alarms have been developed to mimic the sunrise and allow the body to naturally wake without stimulating a fight or flight response first thing in the morning. The light will begin illuminating 20 to 30 minutes before the scheduled alarm to emulate the natural rising sun. At the time of the alarm, additional alarm sounds can be played to ensure you wake.
Phillips sells a light alarm clock and it is a wonderful replacement for a traditional alarm.
Turn Your Phone Off
A notification on your phone in the middle of the night is disturbing to your sleep, even if it doesn’t wake you up. Your eyes will absorb the light from the phone, even though they are closed.
The sound of any notifications can also be disturbing to sleep. If turning your phone off is not an option because you use it for an alarm, putting it in airplane mode or on do not disturb is an alternative. However, it is ideal to not use your phone as an alarm and instead use a light alarm clock like the one mentioned in the previous point.
Morning Light Exposure
Light exposure in the morning will regulate the circadian rhythm of your body. It will also help your body fall asleep at night when the sun goes down. The exposure to artificial light during the day has a negative impact on our circadian rhythm, and early morning sunlight exposure combats this.
If possible, spend at least 10 minutes outside in direct sunlight first thing each morning with as much skin exposed to the sun as possible. If you can ride your bike or walk to work, this is a great time to get sun exposure. Alternatively, roll down your car window on a commute, or take a walk around the block as the sun is rising.
Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is an electrolyte that supports many functions in the body. A lack of magnesium can cause muscle tightness, which makes falling asleep more difficult. A supplement of 200-500mg of magnesium glycinate before bed will relax the muscles and aid in falling asleep.
Magnesium is available in pill form, or as a powder supplement, like the one from Natural Calm. The powder is added to hot water and makes a great before-bed drink.
Stop Working (before bed)
Anything that is mentally stimulating will keep the mind active when you are trying to fall asleep. Thinking about a hard problem or working on a project right before bed will make it more difficult to fall asleep. It is best to do a relaxing activity like reading, instead.
Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy is an advanced technique to improve many aspects in life, including sleep. The red light combat negative effects of blue light, and are known to improve sleep quality. Red light therapy machines are available in several sizes. They are also expensive, so I would recommend only investing if you are serious about biohacking.
You can read more about red light therapy here.
This is a more extreme biohack, but it can significantly improve sleep quality. Breathing through the mouth at night can reduce your quality of sleep and it can cause dry mouth and snoring.
A special tape exists for mouth taping. It has a small slit that allows room for breathing through the mouth if necessary. The mouth tape is available on Amazon. More information on the benefits of mouth taping can be found here.
How much sleep do you need?
The amount of sleep your body needs depends on many factors. Your age and activity level are two key components to how much sleep your body needs.
According to sleep.org, the recommended amount of sleep by age is the following:
- Newborns: 14-17 hours
- Infants: 12-15 hours
- Toddlers: 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers: 10-13 hours
- School age: 9-11 hours
- Teens: 8-10 hours
- Young adults: 7-9 hours
- Adults: 7-9 hours
- Older adults: 7-8 hours
Although there are general guidelines for the amount of sleep you should get, the actual amount will be highly individualized. To figure out how much sleep your body needs, test a few nights by waking up without an alarm to see when your body naturally wakes you. Take note during the day if you feel rested, or sluggish. It is possible to get too much sleep, which can cause you to feel more fatigued during the day.
Even if you slept 8 hours last night, there is a possibility that only 30 minutes of the night was spent in restful sleep. Sleep trackers like the Oura ring or Whoop watch will monitor the time spent in each of the sleep phases.
Sleep trackers are not essential to improving your sleep However, they are useful if you are taking steps to improve your sleep, and you want to see what’s working. For example, if you purchase a cooling blanket like the ChiliPad, it will be useful to see the changes in sleep quality over time, based on the temperature the cooling mattress pad is set to.
A sleep tracking device is nice because it takes care of the overhead. All you have to do is charge the device and log into the app every morning to see the data. However, a sleep journal is also an effective way of tracking the quality of sleep each night.
I use a personal Google form that I fill out each morning. I answer questions about how I slept and what I did the day before. There are only a few multiple choice questions and a text field for comments. It takes less than 2 minutes to complete and it allows me to evaluate my sleep over time.
Some of the questions I ask are:
- How rested do you feel today?
- What time did you go to bed?
- What time did you wake up?
- Did you do anything differently yesterday that may have impacted your sleep? And what was it?
Google Forms are free with a Gmail account and easy to create.
To see which sleep hacks improve your sleep quality, implement one at a time and track your sleep either with a sleep journal, or sleep tracking device. Allow your body to adjust to a new sleep routine for at least one week before evaluating its effectiveness.
Is a cooling blanket worth it?
Investing in a cooling blanket, blue light glasses, or a high-quality magnesium supplement to improve sleep is invaluable. Getting the proper amount of sleep for your body allows you to perform better throughout the day, both physically and mentally. Improving sleep can also aid in weight loss, strengthen the immune system, and give you more energy throughout the day.