“Sleep is the best meditation.”
- Dalai Lama
Have you ever woken up after a full night of slumber, only to go through the day feeling completely exhausted? We’ve all experienced this lack of energy at some point in our lives, and it’s a big indicator that you need to ditch the coffee and overhaul your bedtime ritual.
The reality is that, despite a whole 8 hours in bed, you may only have spent a small portion of those hours achieving quality sleep.
How do we define “quality sleep”?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says the indicators of good quality sleep are sleeping at least 85% of the total time you spend in bed, falling asleep in 30 minutes or less and waking up no more than once per night. You’ve probably heard about the importance of REM sleep, or ‘rapid eye movement’. Our bodies sleep in cycles throughout the night, and REM is the deep kind of sleep that causes us to dream and alters everything from our heart rate to our breathing - it’s the kind we want more of.
The average person completes five 90-minute sleep cycles (some REM, some not), and ideally, we wake up between these cycles, not in the middle of one. Being jolted awake by an alarm clock in the middle of a REM sleep cycle can set you up for a day of yawning at your desk, sluggishness, and slow reaction time. This is also why you shouldn’t snooze your alarm, as this begins a new sleep cycle that will inevitably be broken after your 10 or 15-minute snooze. Here is a great video explaining what happens to our brains when we hit the snooze button.
What else can we do to improve the quality of our sleep?
There are lots of factors that contribute to a restful night’s sleep, and if you’re ready to overhaul your bedtime routine then you might want to try implementing as many of these tips as you can.
Tune in to your body clock:
According to the Alaska Sleep Clinic, too much sleep can be just as tiring as too little sleep, and we’ve all experienced the lethargic feeling that comes with oversleeping. Whether you create a sleep diary or use an app to monitor your nightly siestas, it’s important to actively think about the amount of sleep your body needs to run at its maximum potential throughout the day, and put this theory to the test, tweaking as you discover more about your sleepy self.
Think about what and when you are drinking:
Surprisingly, staying hydrated can help you sleep better, but try not to drink too much liquid close to bedtime to avoid those annoying midnight trips to the bathroom! If you’re a coffee drinker, have your last cup before 2 pm to allow time for the caffeine to leave your system before bed.
Design your space for optimum sleep:
It’s easy to believe that you are “just one of those people who can sleep anywhere!” but that might be less true than you think. Is your mattress as comfortable as it needs to be? Would you sleep better with white noise? Could your bedroom be too hot at night? Our bodies generally prefer a cooler temperature for sleep, so changing up your duvet for a thinner one might be something you’ve never thought to do. Lighting our Sleep Well Candle for an hour before bed could also ensure your sleep space feels as calming and relaxing as possible, thanks to the essential oils of lavender, chamomile, and palmarosa.
It’s no secret that more exercise could improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you spend long hours sitting at a desk. Have you ever done an intense workout, and had the best sleep of your life that night? You could achieve that same feeling most nights by simply increasing the amount of exercise you do each day. You don’t have to run a marathon to feel the benefits; a brisk walk or some gentle yoga can also do the trick.
Studies now show that watching a screen for several hours before bed can significantly disrupt our sleeping pattern. Try to limit your exposure to screens if you can, and definitely in the hours leading up to bedtime. If you absolutely have to look at your phone before bed, try using an app like Twilight to make your device screen adapt to the time of day, filtering the blue spectrum on your phone after sunset and protecting your eyes.