9 Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep
Picture this: You get into bed on a cozy evening and fall asleep quickly, without so much as counting one sheep. You awake feeling restored and rejuvenated after a restful nights sleep, night after night, month after month. This may sound impossible, but it turns out that we have more control than we think when it comes to our sleep time. Enter: Leesa, the leading mattress brand that is redefining the sleep experience layer by layer of high-quality Avena foam (just a quick glance at the reviews reveals testimonials of folks no longer having to see the chiropractor thanks to their Leesa mattress).
We spoke with Professor Paul Gringras, MD, Leesa’s scientific advisor and a leading sleep specialist in the United Kingdom, who has also published many medical research papers, peer reviewed journals, and contributed to several books, to find out the most surefire way to ensure a no tossing-and-turning, restorative’s night sleep. So sit back, relax, and pull down the shades for your very own sleep toolbox.
“Two ‘scents’ seem particularly effective in aiding relaxation and promoting sleep. Studies have shown that both Lavender and lesser-known Bergamot (the Earl Grey Tea flavor) can promote sleep. These amazing scents actually give off molecules that we smell, and are absorbed through the nose and can act on the brain! It’s likely that a chemical in the brain called adenosine is involved in the sleep they can help to promote,” says Gringras.
“We advise people buy a small bottle of the pure essential oils. Some people are sensitive to direct contact with the oils-we don’t recommend putting them on clothes, pillows or in the bath. We suggest putting a few drops on cotton wool, and placing the wool in a glass that can be safely kept in the corner of the bedroom. Make sure you can smell the scent before you start settling to bed for the night.”
2. Copy cavemen, and keep a cool head
“Try and aim for a bedroom that is thermally neutral so that your body doesn’t have to sweat or shiver to keep warm or cool down — [65 to 68 degrees fareneheit] is ideal. The ‘cave’ principle is to keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark,” offers Gringras. Finding the perfect bedtime temperature can be tricky though as it depends on which part of the body we’re taking about. Around three hours after falling asleep our core body temperature falls a few degrees, but this is not the same as saying that we need a cold room to fall asleep. In fact, it’s worth thinking about head and feet separately. Good blood flow contributes to warm hands and feet, which helps our sleep. Thermal socks, underwear and a hat are a great simple solution to this in winter,” advises Gringras.
“On the other hand, a cool head can help you to fall asleep — as can a slightly cooler body. People have tried different methods of keeping pillows cool including using some specially made devices such as the Chillow to help with this,” he adds.
3. Switch electronics off at night (and let the light in during the day)
“If you are lucky to live in a warm climate expose yourself to sunlight in the morning — without sunglasses. It’s important to spend time outside during daylight and try to let as much natural light into your home or work as possible-indoor lights do not have the same benefits on your body clock, alertness and wellbeing. The bright vivid screens of modern TV, tablets and smart phones are a technological wonder and allow vital contrast in bright daylight. But at night these bright and often quite blue light sources switch off your brain’s production of melatonin, hormone of darkness, and it will take you longer to fall asleep. Best advice – leave electronics outside the bedroom, or turn off at least an hour before your desired bed-time,” explains Gringras.
“If you can’t follow the advice above, then you need to try and reduce the impact this light will have late at night. Wearing ‘blue blocker’ orange tinted glasses can help. The plastic filters that stick over the screens, are not so effective. Perhaps more convenient are the great apps such as blue light and flux that carefully alter the colors emitted by your devices in the evenings.”
4. Try a new mattress
Have you upgraded since post-college? C’mon bro. “Your 10-year-old mattress now weighs significantly more than when you bought it after sucking in your dead skin, colonies of dust mites (which feed on the dead skin ), oil, and moisture. (If you have an electric blanket think about putting it on ‘high’ once a month when you are not in bed. It will reduce the humidity in your mattress and this reduces the numbers of bedbugs that can worsen allergies.),” shares Gringras.
“You may also be suffering back and other joint pain which can affect your sleep, and might be improved by a new mattress,” Gringras says. “Be careful about rushing out to choose a really firm orthopedic style mattress. Whilst these were initially thought to be the best for back pain a study published in the Lancet showed medium firm was better than firm. Another study suggested that people sleeping in new beds had significantly less pain and were more comfortable than when they were sleeping on their older mattresses. A more recent study showed that replacing patients’ beds with new medium-firm mattresses, layered with memory foam and latex, provided significant improvement in both back and shoulder pain.
“So if you are comfortable and sleeping well, by all means stick with your current mattress — there is no scientific evidence to say when you ‘must’ change your mattress. But if not, a change in mattress could be another ingredient towards the perfect night’s restful sleep.”
5. Eat the right foods
“Melatonin is also known as the ‘hormone of darkness’ and can help open the gates for sleep in the evening. But rather than taking melatonin supplements, that are often mixed with other subjects, did you know that tropical fruit in the evening can also increase your levels of this natural hormone? Pineapples win, Bananas come second, and last but not least oranges,” says Gringras. “And let’s not forget cherries — Montmorency cherries, also contain melatonin, but also some amazing chemicals that stop the body breaking down one of the precursors of melatonin called tryptophan — if you are OK with a glass of tart cherry juice at night.”
“Exercise is one of the best ‘sleep-medicines’ around, but like all medicines, there is a right and wrong way to use it. Exercise can improve sleep quantity, sleep quality, mood, and general daytime wellness. Given it’s free to obtain, without negative side-effects when used sensibly, and has other health benefits, it has to be worth exploring further,” says Gringras.
“It seems both the timing and the intensity of exercise make a big difference. Exercise in the morning is unlikely to be effective at night, and exercise too close to bedtime is likely to cause problems in falling asleep. But a walk in the park is unlikely to be enough for many people. In one study sleep was enhanced only after 30 minutes of the slightly more vigorous exercise. In keeping with personalized medicine try taking 20-30 minutes, of exercise that is moderate for you, between 4 and 7 p.m.,” shares Gringras. Wanna sleep like a baby? Try this yoga move.
7. Winding down
“Bedtime is often exactly when those intrusive worries and work concerns come flooding in. Yet telling yourself to stop thinking about them is not going to work. There are two proven methods that are effective. They both need practice and it’s possible that only one will suit you,” explains Gringras.
“The first is the use of relaxation techniques. There are a huge number of great books, websites and apps to help with these. The one we recommend perhaps the most is progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head,” Gringras describes. “The second is called mindfulness. There are also many written and app based resources to help you with this old and powerful technique. The general principle is training your mind to focus better on the ‘here and now,’ (often the ‘in’ and ‘out’ of your breathing), whilst noticing, but not worrying about the intrusive thoughts that pop in from time to time-you will learn to notice them, but be able to draw your mind and attention back to the ‘here and now’ and be calmer as a result.”
8. Filter out light
Yes, you may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating, so we’re reminding you for good measure: “Blackout blinds or good curtains with a decent lining will prevent you from being woken up too early in summer months. Light can often come in round the edges of the blinds so make sure they are well fitted-or experiment with simple black plastic sheeting down the sides,” suggests Gringras.
9. Background Pink Noise
It might sound counterintutive, but if you have trouble falling asleep, listen up: “Noise at night is a good thing. Really. We did not evolve to need absolute quiet and earplugs. A constant background noise that we feel is ‘safe’ is great at masking other noises (creaky floorboard, heating system) and helps the positive sleep habits we need to build up to associate our bed (and a predictable constant noise) with sleep,” shares Gringras.
“For some it’s a talk radio show, and others classical music. Anything that is calming, predictable, and monotonous works. But there are more modern targeted noises as well. There is a computer generated noise called ‘pink-noise’ (less irritating than white noise and more like running water in a stream) that seems to really help promote sleep. Some of the research has very cleverly linked the timing of the pink noise to a type of brain wave produced during deep sleep-this is more sophisticated than simply playing pink noise from an app, but may work the best of all,” he continues.