Are you one of the 35% of American males who are not getting enough sleep? According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.2% of American adults are getting less than seven hours of sleep. The prevalence of short sleep duration is higher among men at 35.5%, although the difference is not that big with 34.8% of American women not getting enough sleep.
The problem with this is that sleep deficiency can lead to various health problems such as depression, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic medical conditions. On the other hand, sleeping for seven hours or more every day can lower your risks of these medical conditions. It can also help improve your concentration, mental focus, and productivity. For athletes, sleeping well can help boost athletic performance. So, how can you sleep better at night?
#1 Consumer Sleep Technologies
Have you ever tried downloading Sleep Cycle, Relax Melodies, or other similar apps for your mobile device? These apps are actually considered examples of consumer sleep technologies, products that are computer-based and accessible to the public without need of prescription or clinical guidance.
Consumer sleep technologies are used for assessing one’s sleep patterns, to induce sleep, for wake induction, and sometimes, even just for entertainment. Nevertheless, many of these apps are downloaded and used by millions of people worldwide.
Mobile device apps for facilitating or monitoring sleep use various media such as visual graphics that help you relax and calm down, white noise, and soothing music. These apps have gained popularity not only because they are free and accessible but also because more and more consumers are looking for ways to sleep better.
Aside from mobile apps, another way to monitor sleep patterns and biometric information is to use a wearable device. Since these devices are directly in contact with the body, these may often be more accurate as compared to mobile apps. However, wearable devices also have limitations such as battery life, sensor damage, and some people may find them uncomfortable to wear while sleeping.
Although there is a dearth of validation studies to determine whether these consumer sleep technologies actually work, there’s still value in using them. For one, consumer sleep technologies help raise awareness about the importance of sleep. Secondly, these apps and wearable devices can provide users with insightful information about their sleep patterns. At the very least, these sleep technologies provide entertainment value aside from being educational and helpful for sleep self-assessment.
#2 Natural Methods For Better Sleep
If you’re someone who prefers natural means instead of technology-based sleep induction, here are some tips to naturally help you sleep better.
- Sleep Environment. Your sleep environment is as important as your sleep schedule. Different people have different sleep preferences but, in general, a sleep environment that’s dark, quiet, and cool can help you sleep faster and better. You don’t necessarily have to sound-proof your room, sometimes earplugs can do the trick.
- Sleep Schedule. When you set a schedule for sleeping, it helps set your body clock. The most basic signals for our body’s circadian rhythms are light and dark – when it’s light, our body tells us to wake up and when it’s dark, our body tells us to snooze already. Adhering to a fixed schedule for sleeping helps to reinforce our body’s sleep and wake cycle.
- Relaxation Techniques. Meditation is one of the most popular relaxation techniques used to calm the mind and body for better sleep. You don’t need a magic mantra to meditate, simply being aware of and listening to your own breathing can help you clear your mind and relax your body. For other people, taking a hot bath or listening to soothing music right before sleeping helps them relax, while for others, light exercise or yoga works best. The key here is to find out which activity you’re comfortable with and which actually helps you relax.
- Comfortable Bedding. There are times when no matter how hard you try to relax, the moment you actually lie down on your bed, you start tossing and turning. Your bed or mattress, pillow, duvet or comforter, or even your sheets may be the reason why you’re having difficulties falling asleep, especially when you often wake up with a painful back. If this is the case, it would be wise to invest in a new mattress or bedding.
#3 Foods To Help You Sleep Better
It’s not recommended to eat a heavy meal right before going to bed as this can prevent you from being able to sleep right away. Food and drinks that promote alertness like coffee should also be avoided. But there are many types of food that you can eat for a light snack even just before bedtime.
- Walnuts. These healthy nuts contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps your body produce serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and it is produced by the body when it is dark. Increasing your melatonin production by snacking on foods that contain melatonin or tryptophan can help you sleep better.
- Almonds. Eating almonds before going to bed can boost your magnesium levels. Magnesium promotes sleep by reducing cortisol which is the body’s stress hormone. The mineral also helps your muscles relax and helps calm your nerves.
- Milk and Dairy Products. The reason why drinking milk before sleeping is recommended is that milk and dairy products contain tryptophan and calcium. Aside from regulating muscle movements, calcium also helps the brain to process tryptophan and trigger the body to produce melatonin.
- Chamomile Tea. In general, drinks that contain caffeine are not recommended before bedtime. Chamomile tea, however, is caffeine-free. But it does contain apigenin, which is an antioxidant that helps reduce anxiety and promotes sleepiness. Moreover, drinking chamomile tea is associated with lesser symptoms of depression.
- Tart Cherry Juice. Having a glass of this red juice before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster. That’s because tart cherries help the body produce more melatonin which your body needs to induce sleep. Aside from the sleep benefits you get from tart cherry juice, it also provides you with a lot of healthy nutrients like vitamins A and C, manganese, and antioxidants like anthocyanins and flavonols.