Sleep might seem like one of the simplest tasks we do each day. But if you dig into the science a bit, it quickly becomes clear that the chemical and physical drivers of this vital biological function are complex. In fact, many elements of sleep remain a mystery to researchers looking to help people with health conditions like insomnia and sleep apnea, or to discover the reasons why we dream.
Various studies exist about how lifestyle factors can influence sleep and point to answers to how to improve sleep. In this overview of daily habits that impact your daily rest, learn more about how the choices you make each day can pay off in a good night’s sleep.
Daily Habits That Improve Sleep
While we all need regular deep sleep to function at our best, the realities of daily life mean this isn’t always possible. Fortunately, there are some habits you can adopt to improve your sleep that also support your overall health.
Regular Exercise Can Help You Sleep Better
If you’ve needed an excuse to get off the couch, let it be the chance to get better sleep. Most of us know that regular exercise offers multiple benefits to our physical and even emotional health. Physical fitness also helps you fall asleep faster and get better sleep overall, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. There is still debate over the timing of workouts, however. Some studies indicate that working up a sweat too close to bedtime can keep you awake. If an after-work exercise routine is keeping you up at night, see if a switch to morning workouts improves your sleep.
Follow a Healthy Diet to Support Good Sleep
Unsurprisingly, overall healthy habits help us sleep better. This includes eating a well-balanced diet high in fiber, whole foods, and lean protein and low in fatty or sugary foods. In an NBC News article on how diet affects sleep, a sleep expert states that healthy eating helps brain produce neurochemicals that allow us to sleep better. Furthermore, a high-sugar, high-saturated-fat diet is linked with less restful sleep and more frequent waking at night. The good news is that changing your eating habits can support better sleep.
To Improve Sleep, Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
According to a Cleveland Clinic article about sleep habits and health, it’s not just how much sleep you get, but the regularity of that sleep that supports overall health. Citing a study that monitored people over an average of six years, researchers examined the habits of people who slept erratically. They found that subjects who went to bed and woke up at different times were at increased risk for obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and other health problems. The more varied the sleep schedule, the higher the health risks.
Establish a Soothing Bedtime Routine
Research linking inconsistent bedtimes to increased risks for health problems shows that bedtime routines aren’t just good for young children. Setting up a soothing bedtime routine is a great way to reinforce a consistent sleep schedule. These two habits combined can help you sleep more deeply and for longer periods each night.
Habits That Negatively Impact Sleep
In addition to adopting good habits to improve sleep, here are some behaviors to avoid:
• Consuming caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine – especially before bedtime
• Eating heavy meals too close to bedtime, particularly fried and other high-fat foods
• Living with prolonged stress
• Napping for too long too close to bedtime
To improve your odds of getting better sleep, learn more about the seven bad sleeping habits to break immediately.
Other Tips for How to Improve Sleep
While many factors that support or interrupt sleep are still being studied, it is possible to apply current research to solve the problem of how to improve sleep. Start by applying the habits above that improve sleep and working on reducing those that interfere with getting good rest. Don’t forget to set up your sleep environment for success – start by reading our tips for how to create a cozy sleep-friendly bedroom.