Sleep is one of the most underrated things you can do to improve your health. The best part? It’s absolutely free.
So why are many people not taking advantage of this health-boosting asset? We think it’s because they don’t know how. But that’s about to change…
We’ve done our research and compiled tips from top sleep experts like Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., M.T.R., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine to see how you can improve sleep quality starting right now.
1. Don’t drink coffee right away
We know, you’re probably used to waking up to a nice warm cup of coffee. But that might not be the best thing for your body. It’s normal to feel a bit slow moving in the morning for as much as 10-30 minutes from the time you wake up. If you wait, you’ll naturally wake up and start to feel energized for your day.
What many people do is drink coffee right away, but the lift you feel might not actually be from the caffeine. Drinking coffee can take 20-40 minutes to produce effects on your body. So the boost you feel might be what your body naturally offers, instead of the caffeine like you think it is.
Best practice would be to wait until late morning—around 9 or 10 a.m.—before pouring your first coffee, so that the caffeine pick up will hit before your (natural) afternoon energy dip, and will clear your system before it can interfere with your bedtime.
2. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed
This will put the idea of a “night cap” to bed. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it negatively affects that quality of your sleep throughout the night. It can even cause you to experience shallow wakings (you might not be aware of this) which decrease the quality of your sleep.
The effects of alcohol are most pronounced in people who are sensitive to it’s effects, or in cases where you have more than 1-2 drinks before bed. So while you might think that wine helps you wind down and get to sleep, it could actually be making you feel more tired.
A good idea is to stop drinking after dinner. A glass of wine with dinner is ok, but don’t continue drinking afterwards. This will give your body time to process the alcohol before it’s time to sleep.
3. Create a Morning and Evening Routine
The key here is to create a routine that you can be consistent with. Your consistency will improve your body’s ability to wake up and wind down on time, giving you a better and more restful sleep experience because it keeps your circadian rhythm the same every day.
Experts say that a good night’s sleep starts the minute you wake up in the morning. Getting yourself up and starting your day right away when you wake up (no lingering in bed) will help set you up for better rest that night. A general rule is that your bed should be for sleep (and sex) only. That means no reading or watching TV before falling asleep.
Speaking of getting ready for sleep, not taking time to wind down is one of the biggest mistakes people make. This is especially important when you have a busy day. Your body needs time to adjust and prepare for sleep.
Starting a healthy sleep routine could include putting down your phone 30 minutes before bed. Take a shower, read a book, stretch, or have some light conversation with a loved one as a way to wind down before sleep. Establishing a wind down routine will improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
4. Alter your eating hours
Since you’re now going to wait to drink your coffee, you can also wait to have breakfast. It’s ideal to keep your food intake to a 10-12 hour window each day. This gives the body adequate time to process your nutrients and a solid fasting window to rest and repair.
Avoid going to bed on a full stomach by setting your breakfast and dinner time and keeping them consistent throughout the day. Aim to finish your last meal or snack 3 hours before you go to bed. From there, count ahead 12 hours to see what time you should have breakfast the next morning.
A full 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule isn’t necessary here. Keeping a 10-12 hour fasting window is easily achievable and will work wonders for your sleep and digestion.
Both diet and lifestyle affect the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine first thing in the morning and alcohol before bed can improve your energy level and how rested you feel throughout the day. It’s important to create a sleep schedule that you can maintain with consistency, especially when it comes to taking time to wind down before bed. You might also want to adjust your eating hours to maintain a 10-12 hour fast overnight for best results with sleep and digestion.