Top 10 tips to improve your sleep starting todayMaria Vera
Sleep is one of the most important functions of the body. It allows you to recharge your mental energy, rebuild the wear and tear from the day before, and all-around refreshes you for the day ahead. Sleep is so critical to our performance that even an hour short has a measurable effect on your cognitive ability, making your reactions slower and hindering your ability to make decisions. There’s a lot ot be said for making sure you catch enough z’s!
This short guide holds some top tips to help you make the most of your nightly downtime.
1. Keep it Quiet
Anyone who has lived in a Uni dorm for anything length of time can tell you that noise is a massive enemy of sleep. The amount of noise you’re comfortable with at night is a personal thing. Some people can quite happily sleep whilst the neighbors are throwing a rave, and others are going to be better off in an anechoic chamber -— most of us fall somewhere in the middle, if not toward the quieter end of the spectrum. The biggest issue is intrusive noise — those sounds that stand out from the background, the sudden, unpredictable noises that weren’t there previously. It’s not uncommon to wake in the middle of the night for apparently no reason, just because your sleeping mind heard the boiler come on.
To counter this kind of noise, try using a white noise generator. There are a ton of websites and apps that can be used to give a comfortable amount of background noise, to help you sleep more soundly. Soundscapes on offer range from high quality recordings of rainstorms to the sound of a comfortable cat’s purr.
2. Keep it Cool
One regularly overlooked factor is temperature control. Most people sleep best in a cool room — just a little colder than you’d be comfortable in awake. Use the right bedding for your climate, and make sure you crack the window to let in some fresh air. Being too hot is a fast route to a sticky, unpleasant night, even in winter. In summer, it’s well worth getting yourself a good fan or even an air conditioner. For best results, try setting things up so you’d be just cooler than comfortable outside of your sheets.
3. Embrace the Darkness
Putting aside your inner five-year-old, putting yourself into complete darkness is great for helping you drop off. Intrusive light can be a massive stumbling block when you’re trying to sleep. There are a few steps you can take to help create this dark environment. Getting good blackout curtains will make a big difference, alongside eliminating any unnecessary sources of light in the room. Try covering up LEDS and status lights, and getting rid of that over-bright digital clock will do wonders for helping you sleep.
4. Blocks Out Blue Light
Screens are amazing. The wonders of the modern flat screen let us access a vast variety of information at any time, and in any place. The downside is, they also keep you awake. Ever had the urge to check social media one last time before bed? Ever had the feeling you could finish just one more chapter before you sleep? The entire time you’re using a screen, you’re bathing yourself in blue light. Screens throw out a bright light in wavelengths that strongly simulate daylight. This triggers a strong response in your brain that suppresses the hormone melatonin — this hormone is a key part of the body’s system for shutting down for the night. Essentially, your screen is screaming: “Wake up! It’s daytime and you have things to do!”.
There are a couple of ways you can lessen the effect of blue light on your night. One is to use software to change the light coming from your screen and bring everything in to a warmer, gentler spectrum. Some phones now come with this feature built in as a “night mode”, and on computers you have the option of using something like the open source program f.lux.
These are great for reading, but the orange cast they put on everything can make other media look a little odd. The other solution is to use blue-light blocking glasses, with a special coating that removes most blue light before it reaches your eyes. The have the advantage of blocking the blue light consistently from any source, allowing your circadian rhythm to function naturally and helping you to relax at the end of your day. There several styles of glasses available, depending on your needs. Some, like the KLIM Optics, have a yellow tint to the lenses. This is a very effective method for removing blue light, but it can have some effect on your colour perception. There are more advanced methods of removing blue light, like the next generation coating used on the lenses of the KLIM Protect which filter out the blue light without any noticeable tint.
You’re not left out in the cold if you already wear glasses — clip-ons like the KLIM OTG allow you the benefits of blue light blockers without the expense
of a new prescription pair.
5. Get Comfy
The ideal amount of sleep is somewhere around eight hours for the average person — teenagers actually need more! That means you should be spending about a third of your life on top of a mattress. That being the case, it’s really worth investing in a good one.
We’re now in something of a golden age for mattresses. With the advent of memory foam and the aid of ecommerce, competition in mattress industry is steep — there is a vast selection of really high-quality mattresses at really cheap prices. A few hundred quid will see you sleeping on a bed that would be the envy of kings in an earlier age. From all accounts, the comfort of your bed makes an enormous difference to the quality of your sleep. Though it’s the costliest suggestion in this guide, we think it’s well worth the investment.
6. Take it Steady
Your routine is one of the most important factors, and for a lot of use it’s absolutely the hardest one to get right. In an ideal world, you’d be going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. (Yeah, you and I both know that isn’t happening as much as it should.)
This one’s hardest on the shift workers and students among us. Anyone who’s particularly fond of the night life is also going to find it pretty rough.
That acknowledged, if you can make it work consistency is well worth the effort. If you’ve been struggling to get a good night’s sleep for a while, try making a point of going to bed at exactly the same time every day for three weeks and see where that gets you.
7. Watch What You Eat
There are a ton of old wives’ tales about food and sleep. Eating cheese gives you nightmares, milk helps you sleep, and so on. What you eat doesn’t actually matter that much, but it is a good idea to hold off on a that heavy meal just before bed. For the last couple of hours in your day, stick to something light and you won’t be stuck in bed with indigestion. Likewise, going to bed starving is just going to make you miserable. Try and time your meals for optimum comfort, and don’t over eat. Cheese might not give you nightmares, but being a gassy bloated mess won’t help!
8. Go Commando
This one might be a little controversial — try sleeping naked. The Royal Marines swear by it, and for good reason. Wearing pajamas or underwear to bed traps the night’s sweat and filth in with you. By having a quick shower before and after bed, you’re not tracking the day or night’s sweat with you. Your skin is more able to breath, and you’re less likely to overheat in the night.
Overall going to bed clean and feeling fresh is a wonderful experience, and far more relaxing than trying to rest with the grime of the day still clinging to you.
9. Keep it Fresh
Change your sheets regularly! In a similar vein to the previous tip, fresh bedclothes make all the difference to your night-time experience. By changing your sheets at least every week, you keep them and yourself cleaner and you can avoid sleeping on a wrinkled, sweaty mess. As a free extra tip — never eat in bed if you can help it. Crumbs are an scratchy, itchy disaster zone, and a private hell for everyone exposed to them. Don’t do it! That indulgent morning toast is not worth the cost!
10. Make it Sacred
Another tip that’s hard to practice but has a massive pay-off: Keep your bed for sleeping. And, uh, sleeping-adjacent activities. If you’re anything like me, you love to read in bed. Don’t — get a comfy chair, and keep your books, your phone, and your Nintendo Switch well clear of the sleeping zone. Habits are powerful, and if you regularly read, watch or game in bed, you’re training your brain to prepare for those activities there. If, however, you can keep the bed just for sleeping, you’ll find that just getting into bed will be enough to start you on the road to dreamland. If you really need that rest, keeping it for just that will make a huge difference. I hope you’ll find these tips useful for making your own night just that little bit better. Sweet dreams, my friends.
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