I have struggled with poor sleep for a long time. Growing up, it was normal for nearly everyone in our household to have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently during the night, or feel unrested in the morning. I have always been a morning lark–waking up at 6AM or earlier from a young age (what fun for my parents ;). After starting college, I started to wake up more and more often during the night. While I might have slept for 8+ hours, that sleep was interrupted at least 2-3 times.
After my own issues staying asleep, I began looking into techniques and tools to improve my sleep quality. There are a few common practices suggested by the CDC, National Sleep Foundation, and a number of other reputable sources out there:
1. Consistency is key: Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s tempting to stay up late on weekends and sleep in, it can throw off your body’s rhythm. This is a tough one when you’re in your 20s, but I try to limit to late nights of partying to 1-2 times a month so my body isn’t thrown out of whack as often.
2. Ambiance: Very little light, a colder temperature, and white noise. These little tweaks go a long way! I always scoffed at white noise machines until I tried one myself six years ago and have been using it ever since. Whether you live in a loud dorm or a bustling city, noise machines (or a white noise song on repeat) can be a real life saver.
3. Screen Shutdown: This one is tough. I was much better about this during college, but set a time that you shut off your screens every night. I used to turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” at 10pm and wouldn’t check it again until I woke up the next morning. My life is much less structured now and I definitely don’t follow this rule anymore, although I do try to stay aware. I highly recommend the computer app called f.lux — it’s a free tool that customizes your screen’s blue light to the time of day and when you go to bed. It decreases the blue light as you approach bedtime so you can use your screen a little later with less negative effects.
4. Caffeine: Stop drinking caffeine early in the afternoon. My cut off time is 3pm; I’ve played around and learned that this is the time that works for me. Drinking caffeinated beverages any later has a noticeable effect, but it’s likely different for everyone! I’ve read that holding off on caffeine starting anytime between 1pm and 5pm is best.
5. Melatonin: Melatonin is the hormone your body naturally produces when it’s time to go to sleep; it is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. My dad has been using melatonin for over a decade! I started using it in college when my sleep issues started and I’ve only found a few brands/types that actually work for me. I’ve recently been trying out Quality of Life Supplements Melatonin-SR. The melatonin has micronized, sustained-release, which means that it is made to release over time to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Research suggests that you should take melatonin about two hours before you want to fall asleep. I find that if I take it much later than that, I have trouble getting up in the morning. I’ve been taking QOL Melatonin-SR for the past 2-3 weeks and can really feel it helping–it makes it easier for me to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. I will definitely continue taking it!
Use code HANNAH10 for 10% off your order at Quality of Life Supplements! Stay tuned for my review of their digestive health products.