How to Sleep Better

Sleep is critical to healthy functioning of human bodies. Sleep deprivation leads to many various conditions, and ultimately death in chronic cases.

In addition to its well-recognised benefits for memory consolidation, repair and growth, sleep – or the lack of it – has a host of other effects. Not having enough sleep messes with your emotions and your ability to make sound decisions. It affects your immune system, makes you eat more, and has been linked to metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep is implicated in mental health problems including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, sleeping at the wrong time plays havoc with your body clocks, adding to the negative effect.

Sufficient sleep duration vary across the lifespan, and from person to person. As a guideline for healthy individuals:

Age Daily sleep duration
Newborn 0-3 months 14-17 hrs
Infant 4-11 months 12-15 hrs
Toddler 1-2 years 11-14 hrs
Preschool 3-5 years 10-13 hrs
School 6-13 years 9-11 hrs
Teen 14-17 years 8-10 hrs
Adult 18-64 years 7-9 hrs
Older adults 65+ years 7-8 hrs

Sleep Bestpractices

Regular schedule

Keep a regular sleeping schedule, including weekends. That is, try to always wake up and go to bed at the same time, every day. Your body isn’t different during weekends.

Ideally, match your awakening with sunrise. However, some people simply function better at different times, so listen to your body.

The natural human body clock is 24.2 hours, rather than 24 hours, which is why it’s easy to stay up too late.

Avoid alarms

It’s important to get enough sleep every night. Alarms interrupt that. Lost sleep is lost. There’s no “catch up during weekend”.

There’s no need to spend money on gadgets waking you up without breaking the cyrcadian rhythms.

Instead, set an alarm as a backup at the latest possible time that you can afford. Always go to bed early enough, so that you naturally wake up 30-60 minutes before the alarm.

Keep it cool

In bed, body temperature decreases to initiate sleep. The optimum room temperature for sleep is around 18.5ºC / 65ºF.

Keep beds away from windows or fans.

Keep lightning low

Avoid strong lights ~1hr before going to bed. Without strong lights, your body will naturally start producing melotonin, which induces sleep. Sleep in a completely dark, quiet room.

Avoid gadgets

Gadget screens, from TV to phone, emit blue light, which affects levels of melatonin more than any other wavelength. If you must use gadgets until late, setup red-shifting applications.

eInk/Paperwhite tablets for ebooks are fine.

Avoid exercise and caffeinated drinks during evening

These energize you.

Avoid alcohool

Although alcohool helps induce sleep, it disrupts slow-wave sleep, particularly in the second half of the night. It also blocks REM sleep, so you’re likely to wake up feeling groggy and unfocused.

Relax

  • Take a walk (alone or with family)
  • Put worries on hold. If you already start thinking about the next day, write on paper all tasks that come to mind, then forget about them. They’ll be there for you in the morning, no need to carry TODOs with you in bed.
  • Practice gratitude. Write 3 things for which you’re grateful today.
  • Read books, but avoid suspense

Improve sharing a bed

If your partner is disrupting your sleep from any reason (usually by movement or snoring), talk about it and work out solutions. Compensate a possible lack of hugged sleep with more affection while awake.

Power nap

If you can fall asleep quickly, a 20 minute nap during the day helps with concentration. To keep it short, you could drink a cup of coffee immediately beforehand – the caffeine kicks in after about 20 minutes, wiping away the sleep inertia.