8 Tips for a Good Night's Sleep, According to Science
With the tips for a good night’s sleep that we have for you, you’ll be able to honestly answer a common question you often get asked in the morning: how did you sleep today? Many times, out of simple courtesy, you tell them “very good, thanks”. However, the truth is that, if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, others will soon know that you have lied.
Sleep has very specific and fundamental functions to enable your body to function correctly. In addition, its quality depends on the proper functioning of other physiological processes such as the restoration of energy, the regulation and restoration of cortical electrical activity, thermal regulation, and the consolidation of memory, among others.
However, studies have shown that people often have a strong tendency to reduce their sleep time, which can influence the appearance of a number of sleep disorders.
Although many think that sleeping is the same as turning off the body, the fact of the matter is that when you close your eyes, biological processes related to sleep are set in motion.
Typically, during this stage, there are two sleep phases: non-REM sleep or slow-wave sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During each of these phases, different processes take place.
Non-REM sleep phase
During the non-REM phase, the brain has slow waves and we’re not completely asleep. This is a stage of transition towards sleep in which we’re still able to hear sounds from our environment. This stage is estimated to last about 15 minutes and has four sub-phases:
- Phase I or numbness: This lasts about 10 minutes during which the body relaxes and eye movements slow.
- Phase II or light sleep: The physiological mechanisms that prevent the body from waking up are activated, and the heart and respiratory rates are decreased. Although this stage of sleep is somewhat restorative and eye movements disappear, it’s still necessary to reach deep sleep.
- Phase III or transition to deep sleep: During this stage, the sensory block increases and sleep is deep, but no dreams occur. Those who wake up in this phase experience a sense of confusion.
- Phase IV or delta sleep: In this phase, there are no dreams, but rest is restorative. It’s very rare for a person to wake up in the middle of this stage.
REM sleep phase
In the REM phase, the brain remains active, while motor neurons are blocked. As a result, there is no physical movement during this stage. This is the reason why this phase is also known as paradoxical sleep, because there’s a contrast between brain activity and physical relaxation.
Due to brain activity, it’s at this stage that dreams occur. It’s likely that, upon waking up at this stage, we’ll remember what we dreamt. The phases of sleep can be analyzed through medical studies such as an EEG.
When a person can’t reach these two stages during sleep, it’s normal for symptoms of tiredness and fatigue to appear during the day, giving way to the presence of different sleep disorders. Why is this? Because successful sleep cycles maintain our physical and mental balance, and a lack of them has the opposite effect.
8 tips for a good night’s sleep, according to science
Ideally, all people should go through the two main sleep phases of sleep, which are restorative. However, different internal and external factors can mean that this isn’t achieved. Here are some tips that will be very useful to ensure that you do achieve them.
1. Establish a sleep routine
The first of our tips for getting a good night’s sleep has to do with establishing a routine. Research has shown that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule helps us to sleep better.
Following this advice can be easy during the week, because our work demands it of us. However, things often change at the weekend! And, obviously, if you get up late and go to bed late on Sundays, then that will make you very tired on Mondays at work.
2. Listen to music
Studies have shown that listening to music stimulates the secretion of certain hormones that favor your body’s functioning and also the stability of the heart rhythm. Because of this, it helps you to fall asleep and allows it to be more restorative.
Such is the impact of music that other research has indicated that listening to it can be a treatment to improve sleep disorders in patients with mental illness, as it helps them to relax.
When exercising, energy is expended and some hormones that increase relaxation are secreted. Because of this, doing physical activity or training helps to have a more restful sleep. However, it isn’t a good idea to carry out the exercise just a few hours before sleeping, as its effects may take a little time to kick in.
Studies have reported that older adults with a diagnosis of chronic insomnia have reported an improvement in their disorder, as well as in their mood and quality of life after carrying out physical activity. Ideally, exercise should also become part of your daily routine, and you’ll see the benefits in no time.
4. Take a shower before going to bed
Taking a hot shower or a pediluvio (foot bath) is one of the more traditional tips for getting a good night’s sleep. Studies have revealed that, especially in winter, the drop in body temperature that occurs after showering is taken by the brain as a signal which comes just before falling asleep.
So, if you have a lot of difficulty sleeping, it would be good for you to take a hot shower before you go to bed.
5. Beware of distractions
Are you someone who takes your work to bed? If your sleep routine includes the computer, television, or cell phone, then “rest assured” that your sleep won’t be very restful. This is because the light from the screens keeps us active and inhibits melatonin, as several scientific studies have explained.
6. Avoid coffee, alcohol, and energy drinks
The consumption of certain beverages such as coffee or alcohol alter the central nervous system, which can lead us to wake up and keep the brain active at night. Caffeine in particular increases alertness and reduces drowsiness, which is why students or professionals who need to be alert during the night commonly take it.
It’s for this reason that (as different studies have confirmed) consuming coffee, particularly around bedtime, can prevent people from having a restful sleep. The same goes for alcohol, tea, chocolate, and other strong drinks.
7. Dinner two hours before bed
To achieve a restful sleep it’s recommended to avoid eating a few hours before you go to bed. Ideally, you should eat at least two to three hours before you turn in for the night.
In contrast, you can have a cup of hot milk before going to sleep, as this liquid has a high content of calcium and tryptophan, an essential amino acid capable of increasing the production of melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone.
8. Be careful with naps
For many people, taking a nap provides the rest that sometimes they can’t get at night. Just a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon can be beneficial. Some studies have shown that planned rest periods in the middle of operating environments contribute to improved performance and alertness.
However, the habit of taking long naps beyond 30 to 40 minutes can affect your night’s rest. Added to this we find an incidence in morbidity and mortality among the elderly, according to some research.
So, if you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you should be careful about the type of naps you take during the day and how long they are.
These tips to have a restful sleep have been proven by science; they have been tested in different ways to show that it really does have a positive effect.
So, if you are one of the many insomniacs who are always longing for the night to come in order to get some rest, only to find you can’t seem to get any, then we recommend that you try some of these tips.
On the other hand, if after trying different ways to have a restful sleep, you don’t get any results, then it’s important to see a doctor. Sleep disorders are a condition that affects many people and often in serious ways, and so you need to treat them when they occur.