SLEEP BETTER

41  TIPS  TO  SLEEP  BETTER

A good night’s rest is very important. People who sleep too little have a higher risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and accelerated aging (RR).
 
This risk increases from less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day.
 
Sleep ensures that your body can recover and stay healthy. Sufficient sleep is important in order to stay young and fit for longer and to be more productive.
 
Below you’ll first find tips to easier fall asleep and tackle insomnia.
 
Then we discuss tips to improve your sleeping habits.
 
Finally, some tips to reduce your (worrying) thoughts.
 
TIPS TO FALL ASLEEP FASTER
  
1. Chamomile tea
Scientific studies show that chamomile tea contains substances that relax your mind (RR). Camomile tea also contains compounds that bring about various healthy effects and can extend lifespan (RR). Put two bags of chamomile tea in a cup with some lemon – the lemon ensures that the healthy substances in the tea are absorbed even better.

2. Valerian 
Valerian can promote sleep (R). This plant-based product contains substances that raise GABA in your brain, a messenger substance that has a calming effect.
 
3. Valerian and passion flower
This mixture is more powerful than valerian alone. Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), like valerian, is a plant-based product. You can buy this combination in pill form at the pharmacist or (online) drugstore in order to fall asleep faster.
 
4. Melatonin
This is a natural substance that your brain produces to fall asleep. Melatonin is also healthy for the body: it restores and protects cells and can slow aging (RR). The older we become, the less melatonin the body produces (usually a decrease begins when people are in their forties). The dose of melatonin can vary substantially from person to person. Some people already have an effect of 0.1 mg of melatonin, others only of 1 or 2 mg. Start with as low a dose as possible with 0.1 mg and gradually increase the dose. Usually 0.3 to 1 mg suffices. If you are drowsy during the day, you have taken too much melatonin. Also take the slow-release variant. These pills release melatonin slowly throughout the night and do not cause a fast, high melatonin peak as with the regular pills. If you take the regular pills, you have a high melatonin peak, which drops quickly so that you can suddenly wake up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.

5. Magnesium
Magnesium calms the mind and can help you fall asleep better (R). It is a very healthy substance. Many people have too little magnesium because they eat little vegetables, nuts and legumes; these are foods rich in magnesium. Do not take magnesium oxide as a supplement: most of it is not absorbed by the gut. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements consist of magnesium oxide. Use magnesium in the form of magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate. Take 200 to 400 mg before bedtime.

6. Calcium
Calcium is a mineral that has a calming effect. Calcium can inhibit the activity of nerve cells and promote sleep (R). Take 300 to 400 mg of calcium at bedtime.
 
7. Glycine
Glycine is a natural amino acid that helps to relax – and also makes you think sharper. It can promote sleep (R). Take 1 to 3 grams just before you go to bed.
 
8. Theanine (do not confuse with theine)
This natural substance is found in green tea. It can promote both concentration and sleep (R).
 
9. Daylight
Make sure you have been outside during the day. Exposure to daylight adjusts your body clock. This clock needs daylight to function properly. People who were sufficiently exposed to bright light during the day significantly improved their sleep efficiency according to a variety of studies. Older people who were exposed to daylight for two hours a day, were on average almost two hours less awake at night (R).
 
10. Avoid blue light in the evening
Blue light is light with a high frequency that makes your brain think it is still day. That is a good thing during the day, but not in the evening. You stay awake a lot more and alert. Electronic devices such as cell phones, computer screens and tablets emit lots of blue light. This suppresses the production of melatonin, a substance that makes you tired and sleepy. You can reduce the amount of blue light by doing the following:

11. Use special sunglasses that do not let blue light through
Wear these glasses for one hour to 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This makes your brain produce more melatonin, so you get tired faster and fall asleep. Some examples of not too expensive blue-light-filter-sunglassses can be found here (this is a non-sponsored link).

12. Download f.lux 
f.lux is a little program that automatically changes the colors of your computer screen every night, so that your screen emits far less blue light.

13. Activate your blue light filter
Activate or download a ‘blue light filter’ on your smartphone, tablet and computer (most devices have a blue light filter option).
However, in our opinion, blue-light-blocking-glasses work much better than screen filters!

14. Turn off all electronics at night
Do not use electronic devices more than one hour before you go to sleep, or after 10 pm. Choose a definite time when you won’t use electronics anymore and stick with it.

15. Absolute darkness
It is important that your bedroom is pitch dark. A little bit of light, even the letters of your alarm clock, make that your brain produce less melatonin, a substance you need to fall asleep.
 
16. Avoid caffeine or smoking 
Caffeine in coffee and tea and nicotine in cigarettes are stimulants. Do not drink coffee after 3 pm given it takes many hours for your body to break down all caffeine. And you should not smoke: not only does it make you sleep less well, it is also of course very unhealthy. 

17. Avoid alcohol 
No alcohol before bedtime. Some people think that alcohol can make you fall asleep faster. However, studies show that alcohol makes your sleep much less deep and invigorating.
 
18. Do not exercise before you go to sleep
Through exercise many substances are released (such as adrenaline) that prevent you from falling asleep easily. Keep at least three hours of time between exercising and sleeping. However, exercising during the day is ideal for falling faster asleep at night.
 
19. Keep your body cool
To fall asleep, your body needs to cool down. Make sure you do not have too many blankets. Some people even put one leg out of bed: in this way they cool down faster, so that they can fall asleep faster.
 
20. Absolute silence
Use earplugs (whether or not custom-made for an even better effect). In a very noisy environment, such as a hotel or plane, you can use ‘white noise‘: this is a repetitive sound that overrides other sounds, so that you are not distracted by sudden disturbing sounds. You can download apps on your smartphone that continuously generate white noise.
 
21. Use scents
Some scents, such as lavender and chamomile, activate alpha brain waves that calm you down and make you fall asleep faster (RR). These odor molecules are inhaled and enter the bloodstream through the lungs and reach the brain, where they can exert their soothing effect. Mix some drops of essential oil with water and sprinkle on your pillow or put on your bedside table.
 
22. Slow and deep breathing 
By breathing slowly, nerves in your chest and lungs send signals to the brain, which thereby calm down your mind (via, among other things, the parasympathetic nervous system). Breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds. A bit more complex is the 4-7-8 technique, which is explained in this video. In summary: inhale 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale 8 seconds. All this slow breathing will calm your mind. Just try it!
 
23. Avoid a heavy meal in the evening
This is often a meal with lots of proteins (e.g. meat) and fats, which is all heavy on the stomach and can disturb a good night’s sleep.
  
24. Routines
This is very important: try to go to bed and get up at a fixed time as much as possible. Your body likes regularity: it has an elaborate circadian rhythm that regulates when and which substances are secreted in your body; substances that the body needs to recover, to keep healthy, to relax. It is especially important to always go to bed at a fixed time – that is even more important than always getting up at a fixed time.
 
25. A warm bath
Take a warm bath, or a foot bath, before you go to sleep. A warm, relaxing bath can help you fall asleep faster (R). A foot bath can also have a similar effect (R). The warmth of the bath calms you down, and the fact that you cool down after your  warm bath makes you fall asleep faster (see tip no 19).

26. Turn around your sleep clock
That way you can’t worry about what time it is exactly. And there is also no light from the digital letters that lower your melatonin production, which is an important substance to fall asleep.

27. No naps during the day
Naps disrupt your biorhythm. If you really do need a nap, keep it short (less than 30 minutes) and not after 17h. People are often tired after lunch, so they take a nap. However, this fatigue usually arises because they have eaten a too heavy meal, with too many carbohydrates (sugars, but also potatoes, pasta, bread and rice), whether or not in combination with too much protein (meat). Such meals cause high insulin and IGF peaks in the body, which make you very tired after lunch or dinner. High insulin and IGF peaks are also unhealthy and accelerate aging.

 28. Rule out medical causes
There can be medical afflictions that keep one from having a good night’s sleep. One may suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which the muscles in the throat weaken during sleep, so they are deprived of sufficient oxygen, making people to wake up  unconsciously dozens of times a night. The next day people wake up feeling very tired, and do not remember anything about their many nightly awakenings. Losing weight and eating healthier is the most important remedy for sleep apnea. One can also suffer from restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which are disorders in which one moves the legs, consciously, so if you are awake, as in restless legs syndrome, or unconsciously, as in PLMD. Iron, magnesium, B vitamins like folic acid, and other micronutrients can help, as does adhering to a healthy food pattern, which contains all these micronutrients. Consult your doctor for more information.
 
29. Buy a wake-up light alarm clock
Unlike a standard alarm clock that makes a glaring noise every morning, you wake up in a gentle way with a light that slowly but continuously shines stronger and stronger . The light also suppresses your melatonine production, helping you to wake up better.
 
30. Find a psychologist to help you
Is sleeping well still not possible? Contact a psychologist who can teach you relaxation exercises (see below), or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a scientifically proven method for learning to sleep better.

 BETTER HABITS TO SLEEP BETTER

Some people have sleep problems because they have bad sleeping habits. There are various solutions for this.
 
31. Keep a sleep diary
This is a useful tool. Keeping a diary helps you to map your (bad) sleep habits and helps you to motivate you to go to bed earlier and at a fixed time. You can download an example of a sleep diary here. You can also use an app such as SleepBot or HabitBull. Keeping a paper diary that is on your bedside table and that you always have to color in often works better than an app.

32. Set an evening alarm
Your evening alarm is at least as important as your morning alarm. Set an alarm on your smartphone at 10:30 pm example, telling you that you have to go to sleep. Or set an alarm at 10 pm, warning you that from now on you can no longer use electronics that distract you, prevent you from going to bed early and send out blue light that suppresses your melatonin production (your sleep hormone).
 
33. Create your own sleeping ritual
That way you prepare your body for falling asleep. Try to find a set of regular, tranquil rituals. For example, before you go to bed, prepare your breakfast or work lunch for the next day, or put your bag and clothes ready. Then spend 10 minutes on personal hygiene (flossing and brushing teeth, washing your face, taking a hot (foot) bath, …). Then do 15 minutes of meditation (in bed). Everyone has their own set of habits and rituals before bedtime. What is your sleep ritual?
 
34. Put all electronics under the spell
Television, the internet, tablets, your smartphone and computer games: they are inexhaustible sources of entertainment and distraction, and they prevent you from going to sleep in time. Promise yourself that after 10 pm (or earlier) you can no longer use electronics. Determine for yourself what you will do at that time: reading a book or magazine, taking a bath, doing household chores, having a conversation, meditating, listening to music or an audiobook, … Download a program like PC Sleep that automatically shuts down your computer at a certain hour. You con also use InternetOff, to shut down the internet on your pc at a specific time in the evening. 
HOW TO STOP WORRYING TO SLEEP BETTER
 
Many people have difficulties to fall asleep because they cannot switch off their never-ending stream of thoughts, or because they keep worrying, or are too excited. Here are some solutions.

35. Meditation
Meditation is an ideal way to stop your (worrying) thoughts and fall asleep faster. And to become happier. Meditation not only promotes sleep, but also health, both mentally and physically. People who meditate have less risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, have a stronger immune system and even delay aging (RRR). Download meditation music or a meditation app on your smartphone. Buy meditation CDs. Listen to these meditation exercises, with or without (wireless) headphones, while lying in bed.
 
36. Visualization
By thinking about certain scenery you can settle down and distract your (worrying) thoughts (R). Many visualizations are possible, such as:
  • A beautiful, relaxing landscape. This is a place where you feel completely calm and safe, such as a white sand beach, a waterfall in a jungle, a vast, beautiful landscape covered with sunlight under a bright blue sky. Or think of a nice place that you have ever visited. Keep thinking about this place, this way you are distracted from your (worrying) thoughts. Think how calm and safe you feel at this place.
  • Sleeping dome. Imagine being surrounded by a dome that protects you from the outside world. Imagine the color of the dome, the pattern, how much light it radiates. All worries and problems remain outside this dome. Nothing can penetrate this dome. You are completely safe inside this dome.
  • A ball of yarn. Imagine a ball of yarn that rolls on a floor and slowly but surely relaxes. The string that remains on the floor is calm and motionless. Imagine the starting point of the thread, and how it becomes longer and longer. The ball of yarn represents stress which slowly unfurls. The ball keeps on rolling, because it contains endless yarn.
  • Dimming. Imagine that the light behind your eyelids, in your head, slowly but surely darkens. Dim the sound in your head too: the voices, thoughts in your head, slowly but surely dim until only silence remains. Try to keep this silence.
  • River. Imagine yourself floating on a river like a leaf on the water. This river takes you away, always further away…

37. Breathing
Distract your thoughts by focusing on your breathing. Breath in 5 counts, and 5 counts out. Try to do this as long as possible. Slow, deep breathing also stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms your body (R).
 
38. Count to 300 and start over again
A very simple, but very effective tip. Count to 300. And then start over again… And again. Counting ensures that you are distracted from thinking worrying thoughts.
 
39. Affirmation
Repeat the same sentence all the time, like for example “I am so tired. I am so tired. I am so tired, … ” You do not think about other things, and if you repeat it enough times your brain does start to believe that you are very tired indeed.
 
40. Listen to a bedtime story
Calm and relaxed listening to a bedtime story leads your thoughts, preventing you from thinking worrying thoughts, so that you can slowly fall asleep. You can listen to stories in bed through (meditation) apps like Calm on your smartphone.
 
41. Make lists
Before you go to sleep, make a list of things you need to do the next day(s). That way you can take these thoughts off during your sleep. And you can start to be productive immediately the next day. Or write all your worries on a sheet of paper before you go to sleep. Fold this sheet up and put it away. This deliberate “worrying time” ensures that you are released from your worrying thoughts and can go to bed with an empty head.

 42. Safe this web page 
Save this page in your favorites or via a shortcut on your desktop or on your smartphone, so that you can consult this page every time you want to (improve your) sleep. But please use a blue-light blocker on your smartphone if you read this page at night 😉
 
Sleep well!

 

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