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How To Get Better Sleep: A Comprehensive Guide To Help You Sleep Well

How To Get Better Sleep: A Comprehensive Guide To Help You Sleep Well

When you think about sleep, what comes to mind first? You might think of how many hours you sleep or how you feel when you wake-up in the morning. But there is more to it than this. The question of how to get better sleep is fascinating.

On the one hand, we know that sleep is an individual action. But to sleep well and live better depends on a vast range of internal and external factors working in synergy.

Sleep is an interconnected function of the mind and body. Your physical health, mental health, diet, attitude routine, and sleep environment all play a unique role in contributing to your sleep cycle.

To sleep well, you have to find the right balance. Read on to discover how to improve your sleep and explore the life-changing benefits that will follow.

Understand your sleep cycle

how to sleep better, sleep cycle

Sleep isn’t as simple as most people think. The action is simple enough: you lay down, close your eyes and drift off into dreamland. However, the physiological process of sleep is intricate. We sleep in five stages, and each stage of sleep is dynamic. To sleep well and wake-up feeling completely rested, you need to experience each stage of sleep at least four times each night.

The five sleep stages are divided into two distinct categories: non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Stages one, two, three, and four of sleep are NREM stages. Stage five of sleep is the only REM stage - this is where the brain is most active.

Here’s a breakdown of what happens during each stage of sleep, how long it goes for, and the benefits you experience.

Stage 1: Wakefulness

Duration: 5 - 10 minutes

What happens?
  • Drowsiness
  • Heart rate slows
  • Muscles relax

The first stage of sleep is called wakefulness. You’re not completely asleep, but you are getting close. During this stage of sleep, the body starts winding down. You start taking slow and long breaths, and the heart rate begins to slow down as well. While this stage doesn’t last for too long, the sleep cycle plays a significant role in setting up the consequent stages for success.

It can be easy to wake-up during this stage of sleep so keep distractions to a minimum. It helps to keep devices out of sight and to sleep in a dark and quiet space.

Stage 2: Light sleep

Duration: 20 minutes

What happens?
  • Heart rate and breathing slow
  • Body temperature drops
  • Brain produces sleep spindles

Critical milestones of this stage of sleep include a decrease in body temperature and sleep spindles production. Sleep spindles are sudden bursts of brainwave activity that contribute to memory consolidation. If you’re more forgetful than usual, you might be skimping out on stage 2 sleep.

Stage 3 & 4: Deep sleep

Duration: 20 - 40 minutes

What happens?
  • Deepest sleep
  • Blood pressure and breathing rate drop
  • Muscles relax completely
  • Delta waves begin

These are the longest stages of sleep. If you wake-up during this stage, you are likely to feel very disoriented. Stages 3 and 4 are also critical stages for immunity, cell regeneration, and healing.

REM Sleep

Duration: 10 - 30 minutes (last longer after each cycle)

What happens?
  • Eyes move rapidly
  • The brain is highly active
  • Heart rate quickens
  • Body immobilizes
  • Dreams occur

Breathing increases, heart rate increases, and brain activity spikes during the REM sleep stage. It’s the stage of sleep where dreams occur, and areas of the brain are most stimulated, making it the essential sleep stage for learning.

Summary

You’re not exactly consciously awake as you transition between the stages of sleep, but knowing they exist is critical if you want to sleep well. Troubled sleepers usually have issues with one or more of the sleep stages; therefore, understanding the stages of sleep will help you troubleshoot solutions.

Make sure you have the best mattress

Want to know how to get better sleep, fast? Take a peek under your sheets. Investing in a good sleeping surface is a good idea, but if you have aches and pains or trouble sleeping, it’s a must. It can be close to impossible to have a healthy sleep cycle and sleep well when you have an old and lumpy bed that creates soreness each morning.

Ask yourself this: Does my mattress improve my sleep? If the answer is no, you’re in dire need of an upgrade.

Finding the right size and type of mattress can help even the most troubled sleepers reinvigorate their entire sleep experience. The fact is, not everyone sleeps the same - and your mattress needs to cater to your unique needs. The following information will make finding the most comfortable bed a breeze.

Types of mattresses - The best thing about mattress shopping today is that you are spoilt for choice. But that doesn’t mean comparing mattresses should be hard - you need to know how to pick a mattress that works for your sleeping style, not against it. There are two standout mattress types that can help just about anyone to sleep well: memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses.

  • Memory foam mattress - a memory foam mattress is highly popular because it conforms to the body. Some describe memory foam's feeling as a gentle hug, the viscoelastic foam cradles muscles, and joints, relieving pressure points. It’s an excellent choice for all types of sleepers, even stomach sleepers who tend to put extra pressure on arms and shoulders.
  • Hybrid mattress - if you like the traditional feel of spring but still want to experience all the modern benefits of memory foam comfort layers - a hybrid mattress offers the best of both worlds. Hybrids produce exceptional stability, premium airflow.

When you invest in the best mattress, you’re bound to sleep well and have more energy throughout the day.

Best bedding for sleep - Your bedding matters too, especially if you are a hot sleeper or are sensitive to allergens. Not only will quality bedding help you sleep well and fast, but you will also find that the right set of bed sheets, or the perfect comforter, will also help regulate the temperature so you don’t wake-up in sweats.

  • Cooling bedding - if you sleep hot, opt for naturally cooling material such as bamboo. Bamboo bed sheets are eco-friendly and highly breathable. The best thing is they actually get softer the more you wash them!
  • Hypoallergenic bedding - hypoallergenic materials repel dust and protect your bed against dust mites and other nasty allergens that are notorious for interrupting sleep. Sensitive sleepers should always invest in hypoallergenic comforters and bedsheets to avoid bouts of sneezing that wake the entire house!
  • Adjustable pillows - As well as bedding, pay close attention to your pillow. Sleepers who tend to wake-up with a strain in the neck and shoulders are usually sleeping on a pillow that’s either too dense or too soft. That’s where an adjustable pillow comes in handy. Adjustable pillows allow you to tailor the height of the pillow so you can sleep well without a sharp pain in your neck.

When you combine the best mattress with bedding and pillows that suit your body temperature and sleeping style, you’re in good stead to get the sleep you’ve always wanted.

Ensure your bedroom is designed to sleep well

How to get better sleep, sleep well

The bedroom can be a highly distracting place if it’s not designed for sleep. Televisions, computers, large bookshelves, and general clutter is never a good idea in the bedroom, especially if you have a small bedroom.

Reevaluating your bedroom layout can help you sleep well, even as the seasons change. When you audit your bedroom, some of the key elements to assess are temperature, air quality, and clutter.

  • Temperature - Your core body temperature fluctuates about 2 degrees Fahrenheit throughout your sleep cycle. The best-recommended temperature for a bedroom is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting the thermostat between this range will stabilize your body temperature and help you sleep well, even if it slightly fluctuates. Other factors can also leave you feeling hot. If you have an old heat-trapping mattress - you may experience night sweats. In this case, a cooling mattress will really help you sleep better. Humidity also impacts sleep quality and bedroom temperature. Excess moisture can result from the design of the bedroom, insulation, and the climate you live in. One of the easiest ways to control humidity in the bedroom is to buy a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers reduce moisture from the air and promote better airflow.
  • Air quality - According to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the level of air pollutants in a room can be two to five times higher than in the outdoors. Studies have found that low air quality can increase the risks of sleep conditions such as sleep apnea. To avoid the adverse effects of poor quality sleep, reduce items in your room that accumulate dust. Also, consider having indoor plants in the bedroom - release oxygen and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale in our sleep. When you protect your airways against dust, you can sleep well without irritating your airways.
  • Sound - A noisy sleep environment can be draining and damaging to your sleep schedule. Whether it’s your neighbors blaring engine or general foot traffic on a bustling Friday night keeping you up - you’re not alone. Most people find it difficult to sleep well when there is noise. The great thing is, no matter how big or small your house is, there are some ingenious ways to soundproof your bedroom without an expensive redesign. To minimize outside noise from infiltrating your bedroom, use blackout curtains. Blackout curtains can help muffle disruptive sounds so you can sleep well without waking up every 5 minutes. If it’s your own family and friends who are the culprits, lay a thick area rug in the high-traffic areas of your home. The best rugs, or even rug pads, absorb sound vibrations with ease.
  • Limit distractions and mess - Less is more in the bedroom, for more reasons than one. When you fill your room with clutter, it can create dust and also cause unnecessary distraction. An exceptional guide for amateur decor enthusiasts who want to design a bedroom to sleep well is to follow the simple yet effective principles of feng shui.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

sleep well, healthy lifestyle

Now that you understand the dynamics of how sleep works and how to design the best sleep environment in your bedroom, let’s explore external factors that are directly linked to the quality of your sleep.

It’s not just what you do at night that counts towards sleeping well. Peripheral factors such as diet, fitness, and stress all contribute to higher quality sleep.

Habits to avoid

A perfect lifestyle doesn’t exist, but it’s more than possible to limit bad habits if you want to sleep well. Here are some of the most common bad habits to avoid if you want to sleep well:

  • Too much coffee - it’s an obvious one, but many can’t resist an afternoon coffee. When you find it hard to fall asleep, you should avoid caffeine after 3 pm. Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks adenosine receptors to keep you from feeling sleepy. Replace your afternoon coffee with a tea - tea can help induce a state of relaxation.
  • Long naps - if you nap for longer than 20 minutes, you risk getting too far into the sleep cycle. Waking up in stages 3 & 4, or during REM sleep will crease grogginess and can drain your energy levels rather than replenish it. It’s best to save long periods of comfortable sleep for bedtime.
  • Rich and fatty foods - as tempting as it may be to indulge in unhealthy late-night snacks - it's pretty much all bad news. Before bed, rich foods increase weight gain, slow the metabolism, and instigates issues such as heartburn and acid reflux.
  • Smoking - not only does smoking impact the airways and increase the risk of sleep apnea - but nicotine can also stimulate the mind, similar to caffeine giving you the impression that you're alert, even if you feel bone tired.
  • Excessive drinking - While you may feel that alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, studies show the long-term impact of frequent alcohol on the sleep cycle is highly detrimental. Excessive drinking won’t help you sleep well. Alcohol reduces the quality of REM sleep, which is essential for learning. Not getting enough REM significantly impacts mood and increases irritability and fatigue.

The relationship between sleeping well and lifestyle is intertwined. Unhealthy choices can negatively impact good sleep; however, a few small lifestyle tweaks can lead to some very positive changes. It’s all about balance.

Create a flexible routine

The best way to make any improvement is to take it slow. We all have examples of monumental fails. For most people, too much change all at once rarely ever works.

It’s not different when you want to sleep well. 61% of Americans we surveyed in the Puffy Sleep Survey revealed they are getting the worst sleep ever. Like them, if you want to improve your sleeping habits, it’s best to take it slow and create a flexible routine.

Life often throws many unexpected events our way that can prevent quality sleep. But that doesn't mean you can’t sleep well most of the time. The trick to mastering your mornings is to create a flexible bedtime routine.

As a rule, it’s crucial to have a strict sleep and wake-up time and adhere to it even on weekends. Creating pockets of consistency helps prepare the mind and body for a change of schedule. After all, some late nights are inevitable. Life will always throw curveballs at your routine, but if you stick to it most of the time, you are less likely to experience prolonged bouts of fatigue and sleep deprivation.

For example, if you’re able to clock 7 - 8 hours of sleep for the majority of the week, your late Friday night won’t make too much of a dent in your routine. It will be comfortable to sleep well, even after a late night here and there.

The flip side isn’t so easy. If you spend the majority of the week in a state of sleep deprivation, then one night of good sleep won’t do much for you - you’ll need at least two weeks to start shaping your sleep cycle so you can sleep well again.

Having a good bedtime and morning routine creates room for flexibility, so you never have to feel like you are in a sleep deficit.

Have a positive attitude towards rest

hybrid mattress, memory foam mattress

While hustle culture has particular merits, it’s not a sustainable long-term strategy. Many people think they can cope with 4 hours of sleep forever, but the fact is, it creeps up on you.

A 2018 study into sleep duration found that 4 hours of sleep per night was equivalent to aging 8 years. Reduced sleeping duration also showed problems with memory, learning, immune function, and increased risk of depression and sleep apnea.

Life can be a balancing act between work, family, getting in shape, goals, and endless lists of things you need to get done. And while sacrificing sleep may give you the illusion that you get more time in the day, you put your health at risk when you don’t sleep well.

Your body depends on your sleep cycle to function correctly. To get more done, change your attitude towards rest. Sleeping well and relaxing is proven to deliver more energy, better cognition, increased productivity, so you can reach your goals faster.

The benefits of sleeping well

Isn’t it funny that the most remarkable thing we can do for our health and well-being is actually free of charge and incredibly comfy? But for some, the question of how to get better sleep makes them nervous. They don’t know where to start. It merely comes down to changing habits and learning new sleep tips.

Don’t send that last email. Don’t watch that next episode close to bedtime. Wait until the morning to catch up on social media feeds. It can be effortless to make an excuse for not sleeping well, yet just a few changes can deliver a host of benefits that will help you get more done.

To round up this comprehensive guide about how to get better sleep, here are some of the extraordinary benefits that you will experience when you sleep well.

  • Increased focus and memory: an essential function of sleep is to consolidate memory. This process makes it easier to acquire and recall new and existing information. When you sleep well, you can make fast and wise decisions.
  • Better recovery and weight loss: sleep supports weight loss and muscle recovery. When you sleep well, your body produces less ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Sleep reduces cravings and helps keep a healthy metabolism.
  • Boost in mood and happiness: when you are rested, you are less likely to feel irritated, frustrated, and sad. Sleeping well is also proven to help support positive mental health.
  • Healthy immunity: consistent sleep strengthens the immune system and supports the regeneration of cells so that the body has multiple lines of defense against illness.

To sleep well isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. From tonight, try and make even the slightest improvement to your sleep. Small changes like investing in the best mattress, going to sleep just 10 minutes earlier, or putting an end to late-night scrolling, can uplift your health and wellness, bringing you closer to your best self.



Your Turn...

How do you plan on improving your sleep routine? Let us know in the comments below.


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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.


Certified Sleep Science Coach

Written by Monica Chinsami, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Monica is a writer who is passionate about the connection between wellness and sleep. She believes sleep has the power to unlock our greatest potential for health and happiness. Topics she's covered range from well-being, to the latest trends in sleep health and bedroom aesthetics. Monica holds a BA in Journalism from Monash University and is a Certified Sleep Science Coach.


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