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5 sleep science hacks proven to help you sleep

From setting a sleep schedule to getting back into the art of napping, sleep science has discovered the keys to unlocking a good night’s sleep.

From setting a sleep schedule to getting back into the art of napping, sleep science has discovered the keys to unlocking a good night’s sleep.

If you don’t sleep well most of the time, you’re not alone and are a good candidate for these sleep science hacks. According to studies conducted for sleep science, you’re actually in the majority.

According to a 2016 UK Sleep Study surveying 15,203 adults, 63.1 percent of people are unhappy with how much sleep they get. In the study, only 8 percent of people said they always wake up feeling refreshed. And 74% of people in the study admitted they actively worry about not getting a good night’s sleep.

Sounds exhausting!

Luckily, sleep science also some seriously effective hacks to get us back to rested + refreshed.

Sleep Hygiene via Sleep Science

We know good body hygiene aids us in staying healthy, but have you ever heard of sleep hygiene? The recommended behavioral and environmental practices – founded on scientific research – that help promote better quality sleep are cumulatively known as “sleep hygiene.” If it’s time to clean up your sleep act, try these five science-based sleep hygiene hacks. They’re proven to help lift the stain of sleeplessness … and get your sleep hygiene where it needs to be for some deeply nourishing shut-eye.

1

Set a sleep schedule

Try to go to bed at the same time every day. Yes, this means weekends too – not just weekdays.

But that’s only half the challenge. Having a regular sleep schedule also means waking up at the same time every morning. Try keeping a journal of when you go to sleep and wake up every day to track your progress.

Why is this important? It strengthens your natural sleep cycle, called the circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation: “Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day.”

2

Naps are your friend

“Napping is often seen as a form of laziness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of experiments have demonstrated the enormous benefits associated with even the shortest of sleeps, and so it is vital that you make napping part of your daily routine,” writes Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK in his book Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep.

The Allegheny College of Pennsylvania conducted one such experiment. The study found that students who took daily naps of 45 to 60 minutes decreased their blood pressure and heart rates, and handled anxiety better.

So if you’re feeling like you need a nap, you probably do. And your body will thank you.

3

Have a coffee before your nap … but not too close to bedtime

Usually, we think of having a coffee to wake up, post-nap. But if you only have time for a very short nap, your best bet is actually to drink coffee directly beforehand. It takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to kick in – just in time for when you wake up.

“If you need to feel wide awake directly after having a short nap, drink a cup of coffee or other caffeinated drink just before dozing off. The caffeine will start to work its magic about twenty-five minutes later – just as you are waking up,” writes Wiseman in Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep.

But you might want to make that pre-nap, early afternoon coffee your last one of the day. Patrick Fuller, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School who studies sleep, says he always avoids stimulants past midday.

4

Get some exercise in (before it’s too late)

Many studies have found a link between exercise and the reduction of insomnia. Aerobic exercise is especially effective at helping people sleep. Aerobic workouts are the kind that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs (quickening your heart rate and making you sweat!), thus improving the body’s utilization of oxygen.

There is scientific evidence that the very best time to work out is first thing in the morning, before you’ve had anything to eat. Try going for a short walk or jog, or getting some yoga in before breakfast.

According to sleep hygiene, it’s best not to get that exercise in right before bed. “Exercise can make you all hot and sweaty, and you need time to cool down before heading to bed,” writes Wiseman in Night School. If nighttime is the only time you can get a work out on, opt for a very light option such as tai chi or yin yoga.

5

Write down your problems… and possible solutions

We all know the feeling of anxiety creeping in to keep us from sleeping. Many a sleepless night results from playing problem scenarios on mental repeat, with no solution in mind.

Well, it might actually be a good idea to take the time to do a little two-part writing exercise before bed.

Step 1: Write down a list of your worries and/or perceived problems.

Step 2: Write down a possible solution for each problem.
A sleep science study published in the Journal of Behavioral Sleep Medicine tested two groups – one that wrote down their problems before bed and one that wrote down both their problems and possible solutions. The study found that the constructive worry group (the ones with solution ideas) had “decreased pre-sleep cognitive arousal relative to the worry group.”

And after you fall asleep, worry-free, your dreams might just give you even more answers!

Image credits: Kenrik Mills, Unsplash

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