Many of us focus on the quantity of sleep we get. We aim for at least 7 hours of sleep (hopefully!) every night. But, do we stop and think about the quality of sleep we get? Only maintaining sleep quantity but not quality is like saying 'I will exercise every day for 30 mins,' but without specifying the intensity of your movement! In 30 mins you could take a slow walk or you could run 5 kms. Many of us today approach sleep in the same way, and it limits our ability to rest deeply and feel fresh for the next day. Not to mention the importance of sleep for immune function, especially important during this pandemic!
There are many simple techniques that you can use to improve your sleep quality. Some things you just have to do once and then you can enjoy a permanently-upgraded quality of sleep. Others are short and crisp daily habits.
This article covers the one-time changes you can make to improve your sleep quality. The following one will go into some habits you can form that will further improve your rest. In fact, I have made all of these following changes to my environment in order to achieve deeper sleep, and you should too!
Changes to Light
Light is likely the most important stimulus to our body when it comes to sleep and our day-night rhythm. Artifical light at night severly hampers our sleep quality and leaves us tired, unproductive, and with hampered performance the next morning.
Not only that, but artificial light at night affects our body temperature regulation, blood pressure, and glucose levels, too.
The artifical light emitted by our screens is especially damaging during the nighttime unless adressed.
Few changes you can make to reduce the negative affect of light at night on your sleep:
Filter blue light on your devices
How to filter blue light on iOS:
'Twilight' app on Android.
Desktop computer - 'F.lux' software
Tape over any lights in your room
Nowadays, we might have small blinking lights in our room, whether it's from our AC or our devices. Taping over any small lights simply reduces the light burden that we are exposed to during the night, and it is a simple one-time change!
Use a sleep mask
Invest in a high-quality sleep mask This is especially important when your room doesn't get dark enough. How do you know your room is dark enough? If you can see your palm when your arm is stretched, it is too bright - use a sleep mask.
Changes to Sound
Use white noise
Especially if you live and sleep in a noisy environment, using a white noise app on your phone reduces the noise stress during the night.
I use the app https://sleepspace.com/
Change to a gradual alarm
Using a gradual alarm reduces the stress we experience in the morning and reduces the grogginess we experience when we're jolted awake by our alarms. There is a gradual alarm feature in SleepSpace app that I recommend and use.
Schedule 'Do Not Disturb' on your devices
This will limit pesky notifications during a time period (eg. 10pm to 6am) so you can sleep undisturbed. Don't worry - you can enable the option to allow calls, repeated calls, favourites calls, etc.
How to schedule DND? Click
Changes to Temperature
It is well known that sleeping in a cooler room improves sleep quality. We've all experienced that it is more difficult to sleep in a hot environment. Sleeping in a cool room is crucial for deep and restful sleep.
One thing you can do is lower the AC temperature to between 18 and 22 degrees celsius, which is the sweet spot for good sleep.
Another thing you can do is opt for a thinner blanket allowing better air circulation around your body and thus more comfortable sleep - and definitely less night sweats.
Get a mouth guard
Using a mouth guard is especially useful for those who grind their teeth, snore, or have jaw or airway issues or discomfort. It prevents stress on your jaws and can help people with TMJ too. A mouth guard is basically like retainers - a cover for your teeth that prevents tooth-on-tooth friction and contact during the night. A life saver!
Charge your phone on the other side of the room
You must have heard this before, but it may be a good idea to shift your phone charger away from your bed-side table and instead to a study table or other shelf in the room. This serves two purposes: it makes you walk across the room to turn off the alarm, and significantly reduces the radiation from your phone that you are exposed to throughout the night.
I know, this sounds weird - but bear with me! Mouth taping is a popular practice used by many dentists, orthodontists, and doctors. It prevents someone from breathing through the mouth during the night and instead they simply breathe through the nose - the correct way. Mouth taping is especially important for those who wake up with a dry mouth, snore, or have any sort of airway problem during sleep. That said I think this will help everyone - just buy any pack of surgical tape (don't use duct tape or something like that - ouch!) and tape that over your entire mouth nightly. I use the tape alongside.
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