Have you ever wished you could sleep all day without judgement from others, or even worse, yourself? We’ll admit – it’s certainly crossed our minds once or twice. With the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world out there, restful nights can be few and far between.
So to help combat the imbalance between hours spent awake and those spent sleeping, we’ve created our “Sleep Better” goal. No, we didn’t quite figure out how to add hours to the day or turn ourselves into cats. But we did put together a comprehensive list of research-tested remedies. So all you self-diagnosed insomniacs, light sleepers, and chronic nappers, read on.
Biomarkers associated with sleep
Adequate sleep helps to regulate cortisol levels. So, not surprisingly, inadequate sleep can cause cortisol levels to rise above optimized levels.
Sleep helps to regulate several other hormones, including blood glucose stabilizers like insulin and sex hormones like testosterone. Not only can insufficient sleep reduce insulin sensitivity (causing blood glucose levels to remain higher than they should), it can also reduce testosterone levels.
Associations between sleep duration and inflammation markers like hsCRP have also been found. It has been shown that sleep deprivation can cause chronic inflammation, as indicated by high hsCRP levels.
But what about falling asleep? A biomarker that plays an integral part of this process is magnesium – it kicks off certain cascades that bring our bodies to a restful state.
Additionally, suboptimal vitamin D levels can also negatively affect sleep quality. But don’t overdo the supplements! Just as low levels exhibit negative effects on sleep quality, so too do excessively high levels.
Tips for falling asleep faster
Eating certain foods can increase your likelihood of falling asleep faster come bedtime. These include red and orange produce like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots, brazil and macadamia nuts, coconut oil, and calcium-rich foods like dairy and tofu. Fatty animal products, on the other hand, may contribute to your delayed sleep onset.1
Your early evening habits may also be contributing to your late-night restlessness. Consuming caffeine within a few hours before bedtime, for example, can prevent you from falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.2,3 And when choosing dessert, keep in mind that chocolate is a natural source, so like most things in life, moderation is key!
If you like to burn some extra calories before bed with a training session, you should know that might be contributing to sleep difficulties. Instead, try to build in some buffer time; exercise 4-8 hours before bedtime to increase your likelihood of falling asleep quickly.4,5
When getting ready for bed, avoid using bright light and eating. Both, if done too close to lying down, can impact your ability to fall asleep, so cap them off an hour before bedtime.6,7,8,9,10 Studies also show that bedroom humidity can cause disturbances in your ability to fall asleep; people sleeping in 80% humidity experienced more wakefulness and less deep sleep than those sleeping in 50%.11,12 You can reduce the humidity in your room with fans, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners.
Tips to enjoy (and maintain) a restful night's sleep
Your daily diet can help dictate sleep quality. To stay asleep longer, eat tomato products and fatty fish.13 Combining these foods with calcium-rich ones can also minimize non-restorative sleep.1,14 Reducing cholesterol, salt, non-water drinks, and saturated fat intake can also help.
Making small changes during the day can also have positive impacts on your sleep quality. Increasing sun exposure, reducing time spent watching TV and internet gaming, and reducing alcohol consumption can all help you stay asleep and improve sleep quality.15,16,17,18,19,20 So, if possible, sit by a bright window at work or take the time you would typically spend in front of a screen outdoors!
When winding down for some shut eye, set a bedtime routine and stick to it. Those who follow a regular bedtime routine report better sleep quality than those who don’t.21 What you do during that routine can also dictate how your night goes. When setting the scene, try to minimize environmental sounds with earplugs or a white noise machine and keep the room as dark as possible to minimize sleep disturbances.22,23
Before getting into bed, try taking a warm bath or shower – a warm skin temperature can improve the length and depth of sleep. If you’d rather clean up in the morning, similar effects can come from adding layers like blankets and clothing.24 Aromatherapy is also a tried and true sleep enhancer; studies show that lavender, geranium, mandarin, bergamot, and marjoram oils are your best bets. Try rubbing a few drops onto your chest or dripping (or spritzing) the same amount onto your pillow case.25
Do you snore or suffer from sleep apnea? Try sleeping on your side to reduce sleep disturbances.26 If you tend to toss and turn in your sleep, propping a pillow behind your back can help you stay still. Research also shows that keeping room temperature at 60°F rather than something higher (like 75°F) can improve sleep duration and morning alertness for those who snore or have sleep apnea.27
How to conquer daytime sleepiness
Of course, the reason sleep quality is so important is because we want to ward off daytime sleepiness. But if you still find yourself bleary-eyed in the morning, you’re not out of luck. Potassium-rich foods like potatoes, soybeans, pistachios and bananas can help to ward off the mid-morning crash.1
Another more long-term way of curbing daytime sleepiness is to lose weight. While easier said than done, weighing yourself daily is associated with the highest likelihood of weight loss and weight maintenance.28,29
Finally, to minimize mid-day drowsiness, harness the power of your circadian rhythm by getting exposure to bright light in the morning and minimizing exposure in the evening.30,31,32 While avoiding blue light at night isn’t easy, purchasing yellow-lens glasses, getting an app that filters the light output on your screens, or setting your devices to dim after sunset can surely help.
Ready to start sleeping longer, deeper, and more reliably? Make "Sleep Better" your next InsideTracker goal!