Have you ever woken up from sleep not feeling well-rested at all? It’s possible you have what’s known as ‘short sleep duration’, often due to your genetics. If you wake up in the morning and your eyes feel heavy, you feel low energy, and your body feels sore and heavy, you’re not the only one. Statistics from a global sleep survey indicate that 62% of adults feel that they don’t sleep well.
For some people, this short sleep duration is a genetic condition. Your DNA test results from CircleDNA include genetic sleep reports that reveal whether or not it’s in your DNA to have trouble sleeping for longer than 6 hours, trouble falling asleep, or trouble staying asleep. You could have a genetic condition called ‘short sleeper syndrome’, which makes it nearly impossible for you to sleep for more than 5 or 6 hours per night.
Anyone who’s sleep-deprived knows how horrible it feels, especially in the morning when you have no choice but to get up and perform your family duties or work obligations.
The primary culprit for feeling groggy in the morning is due to poor sleep quality or short sleep duration. You could have a short sleep cycle or a sleep disorder such as insomnia or restless leg syndrome. When this happens, you don’t achieve a state of long, deep sleep. You could also end up waking several times through the night. As a result, your slumber doesn’t feel restorative at all, and you don’t feel well-rested. You end up lacking focus in the morning and your energy levels take a hit all throughout your day.
Scientific studies have shown us that a lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalances, mood disorders, long-term brain dysfunction, and decrease your overall quality of life. On top of that, short sleep duration or poor sleep can trigger the onset of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. The best solution is to increase your sleep duration and improve the overall quality of your sleep. Below are 10 ways you can improve your sleep quality and possibly increase your sleep duration without the use of sleeping pills:
1. Turn Off Your Electronic Devices Well Before Bed
Research proves that exposure to blue light, especially at night time can be detrimental to your sleep schedule and overall health. Using your electronic devices and gadgets while in bed can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm, or its natural sleep cycle. Your body actually knows when to sleep. Morning and daytime light gives it the cue that it is time to be productive. At night, the body releases melatonin which gets you into a relaxed state perfect for getting deep sleep. Using your gadgets at night tricks your body into thinking it is daytime, and therefore reduces your melatonin production and causes neurophysiological arousal or excitability.
To improve your sleep quality and duration, and to have an easier time hitting the sack, one thing you can do is to stop using all gadgets and have lights for an hour before you intend to go to bed. This way, you prime your body and set the most optimal conditions for melatonin production. If you find this difficult to do because you lack a bit of self-control (and let’s face it, smartphone habits that have gone for so long are hard to kick), you can download phone lockers and usage blocking apps.
If you work, there will naturally be days wherein you have to stay up a little later than usual to beat a deadline or for any other reason. In this case, it is helpful to wear glasses that block out blue light. Using a blue light radiation shield for your computer may also help.
Reducing your exposure to screens before bed is part of healthy sleep hygiene practices. When you have good sleep hygiene, you may find your sleep duration increases.
2. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Many adults have a habit of having a 2nd cup of coffee in the afternoon or evening for that extra push and motivation to keep going. However, consuming caffeine in the afternoon or later in the day can over-excite your nervous system, making it more difficult to go to bed at night. If you have noticed, caffeine could also cause you to palpitate, mimicking the feeling of anxiousness. To get better sleep, it is best to stop consuming caffeine, whether it be coffee, coke, tea, energy drinks, matcha, and chocolate (Yes! Chocolate has caffeine!), after 3 or 4 pm.
The reason for this is caffeine can stay in your body for 6 to 8 hours. Taking it so late into the night will definitely mess up your sleep cycle, especially if you have sleeping problems like short sleep syndrome. If you have trouble kicking the caffeine craving or need a placebo alternative, consume decaffeinated versions of coffee, tea, chocolate, and other usually caffeinated products instead.
3. Drink Calming Tea or Natural Sleep Aids
If you’re a tea drinker who wants better and improved sleep duration, stick to nighttime time tea variants like chamomile, lavender, or Ginkgo Biloba which help calm you down and induce sleep. These natural sleep aids contain a relaxant, helping you achieve a state of zen and deep REM sleep. You might also try a cup of Kava Kava (a plant-based natural sleep aid) or try a couple drops of CBD in your tea.
However, take note not to drink excessively. A cup before bed should help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Drinking more will probably wake you up as it will activate your bladder, forcing you to get up to urinate.
4. Relieve Yourself Before Bed
Speaking of urinating at night, many people actually wake up from deep sleep because they have the urge to empty their bladder. Although the body slows down kidney function and decreases urine production while a person is asleep, drinking excessively and failing to urinate before sleeping will interrupt sleep. If you want to make sure you sleep straight into the morning, make it a habit to relieve yourself before sleeping.
5. Reduce Your Nap Time to 15 – 20 Minutes
Those with short sleep duration issues may be tempted to nap during the day. Power naps that last 15 to 20 minutes can do wonders for your body and can greatly help boost productivity. However, any nap longer than that or done irregularly can wreak havoc on your body clock and sleeping schedule. Sleeping during the day can make it harder for you to go to bed at night. One research report had found that participants who took naps in the daytime ended up sleepier during the day because of sleep inertia, which means your brain wants to keep on sleeping to continue the full sleep cycle.
However, do note that the effects of napping also depend largely on the individual. A contrasting study demonstrated that individuals who took regular daytime naps had no trouble falling asleep at night. If you’re stuck in a quandary, the best thing to do would be to stay attuned to your body and listen to its cues. You can often tell what times are optimal for you to get some rest.
6. Find Relief with Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has been proven to work wonders on improving sleep. It is no wonder spas and massage places use aromatherapy to improve the overall experience. Scents like lavender, jasmine, and cinnamon can help get you into a relaxed state right before bed.
In addition, these natural scents also calm any anxious feelings, which can be very disruptive to your sleep quality, duration, and cycle. Besides, even if you wake up at night, having these relaxing scents permeating your bedroom will help lull you back to sleep.
7. Change Your Environment
Your external surroundings play a very key role in improving your sleep quality. Have you noticed that whenever your surroundings are messy it affects your sleep? That’s because the mind takes these as visual cues for your current situation. Chances are, if you have a messy bedroom with a lot going on, your mind might feel overwhelmed and excited, making it difficult to go to bed.
In contrast, a clean and quiet space set at the right temperature can help relax and calm your mind. If it is possible, consider installing proper temperature control systems in your room. Additionally, if you have the resources, separating your office from your sleeping space can do wonders as it signals to your mind the separation of sleeping space from a workspace. Kick things up a notch by investing in a good mattress, fluffy pillows, and cozy beddings.
8. Avoid Late-Night Snacking
Your body needs energy to digest food, which is why late-night snacking can cause issues when you’re trying to fall asleep. Eating very late at night could also impact your ability to fall asleep, because you may feel uncomfortable indigestion and heartburn. Furthermore, the stomach acids are busy churning, and digesting your food can keep you awake. As a result, reflux can happen especially when you lie down.
Additionally, eating late at night or having a midnight snack can inhibit the release of HGH and melatonin, the hormones needed for sleep. As much as possible, eat dinner no later than 8 pm, or at least a couple of hours before you plan on going to bed. It also helps to set a consistent time for your last meal.
9. Think About Using a White Noise Device
If you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, consider investing in a white noise machine. There are different models that offer calming sounds like ocean waves, humming wind, or a whirring fan. This device can help you sleep by blocking outdoor sounds and masking loud sounds. This can contribute to a deeper, longer sleep.
Moreover, the soothing white noise can help you fall asleep as it conditions your brain to relax by focusing on one constant sound instead of being distracted by a cacophony of noise including stressful thoughts whirring in your head. More importantly, it helps you stay asleep by filtering out loud noises and disturbances that wake you up. This innovative gadget is especially useful for those who live in the city.
10. Do Your Best to Keep Sleep and Wake Times Consistent
Sleeping and waking up at the same time helps your system establish a proper circadian rhythm or body clock. Moreover, this habit ensures that you get consistent sleep and the right amount of rest every day. Having a regular sleep schedule also does wonders for your body. Having a well-timed internal body clock can help you sleep better and wake up feeling rejuvenated.
Contrary to this, sleeping and waking up at different times daily can actually be very harmful as it throws your entire day’s schedule out of whack. Moreover, it can leave you more susceptible to getting sick because poor sleep means you lower your immunity. For best results, consider taking a genetic test like Circle DNA. This will help determine what chronotype you have, whether you’re an early bird or night owl. On top of that, the test result will also recommend lifestyle habits, exercise regimens, and nutrition plans that go well with your unique chronotype.