It’s no secret that sleep quality impacts our health and daily functioning. Good quality sleep is important for supporting a healthy immune system and metabolism. It also gives our bodies time to repair and regenerate brain cells, to name just a few of its physical functions. Sleep also has a major effect on our emotional and mental well-being as it helps our brains process the events of the previous day and pave new neural pathways. However, good sleep has proven itself to be elusive in our modern society, with high percentages of adults reporting sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea, falling asleep unintentionally during the day or drowsy driving. Poor sleep can contribute to the development of serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression and inflammation. It can also reduce work productivity and the ability to function socially. Fortunately, there are simple steps we can take to help us improve the quality of our sleep.
Light Quality Affects Sleep Quality
When it comes to quality sleep, darkness matters. Artificial light given off by our phones, alarm clocks, TVs and nightlights disrupts our circadian rhythm patterns, which regulate our bodies’ natural cues that tell us when to go to sleep and wake up. The disruption of these important patterns can have serious consequences for our health, including an increased risk of depression, possible increased breast cancer risk and suppression of melatonin, a hormone that is essential for inducing sleep. To avoid these risks and enjoy a better night’s sleep, limit or eliminate screen time before bed and rid your bedroom of all excess light at night.
Establishing a Nighttime Routine
Sleep hygiene, which means following a consistent and effective nighttime routine, can help signal to your body that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. Your routine can include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, limiting your intake of stimulants such as caffeine, making your bedroom comfortable and welcoming, and showering or bathing at night, which has been shown to encourage the onset of sleep.
Position Yourself for Better Rest
Believe it or not, your sleep position can affect the quality of your sleep. Sleeping on your side or in the fetal position can allow the spine to rest aligned in its natural position, thereby allowing for more comfortable sleep. However, sleeping on your back or stomach can cause issues such as snoring or back and neck pain.
Herbal Teas for Sleep
Several types of herbal teas have been used since ancient times as natural sleep aids, and they remain good options in this day and age to help the body relax and fall asleep. Look for teas lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, passion flower and/or valerian root tea to drink before bedtime.
Marijuana as a Sleep Aid
Cannabis has risen in popularity as a sleep aid, with one study showing that 14% of Americans use it to help them go to sleep. While still controversial due to its newly legal status in many states, the cannabinoids found in different strains of cannabis can be very effective at inducing sleep by helping restore the body’s natural sleep cycle for people affected by insomnia.