One of the most important things for our growing bodies is sleep. The average teenager gets barely 7 hours of sleep per night when The Sleep Foundation recommends 8–10 hours. Getting enough sleep will help you feel rested and perform better in school, meaning better grades and happier social life. Sleeping enough decreases your risk for many health issues! Think about it, how much sleep do you get? How often do you wake up at night? How long does it take for you to fall asleep? Would you like to improve your sleep? These are all questions that I was asking myself every night.
Everyone understands the importance of sleep and how difficult it can be to get enough. Here are some tips I found that work to sleep better for longer.
Make A Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day -- even on weekends -- is one of the most important things you can do for your sleep. My recommendation to help keep your sleep cycle consistent is to find times that complement your weekday and weekend schedules. For example, if you usually sleep in until 8:00 on weekends and get up early at 6:00 on school days, try waking up at 6:30 or 7:00 every day of the week. The most important factor is consistency. It is not horrible if you miss your bedtime or hit snooze once. Try not to vary your sleep schedule by more than 15 minutes.
Turn Down the Lights
The bright blue lights from our phones, computers, tablets, and TVs reduce the production of a hormone called melatonin which is essential in regulating our sleep.
According to The Sleep Foundation, "While most people intuitively know that it is easier to sleep when it is dark, the link between light and sleep goes much deeper. Light plays an important role in regulating circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that signals if we should be alert or resting. Light also disrupts the production of melatonin, an essential sleep-promoting hormone."
Turn on Night Mode
Turing night mode on for your electronic devices is an easy way to decrease light exposure. Night mode reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your devices by tinting the display red-orange reducing the disruptive effects on melatonin.
Turn Down the Heat
Studies show that decreasing the temperature of your room makes it easier to fall asleep. Our body temperature naturally drops at night, so if your room is colder, it will be easier to sleep. Keep your bedroom around 65 degrees (18 degrees Celsius) for optimal sleep.
A common disruptor of sleep is noise. Some noises can be controlled in our own sleeping spaces by turning down fans or shutting windows.
Unfortunately, many noises are out of our control, like family members, traffic, and appliances. Investing in quality earplugs can be very beneficial for your sleep if you have noise you cannot control. The ones that work best for me are the kind that does not fall out of my ears at night, although at first, I did try regular earplugs with little luck. If you still have trouble sleeping due to sound, try playing white noise or sounds such as rain, ocean, or wind, if possible.
The notifications on your electronics can keep you up at night! All of the sounds and vibrations can severely disrupt your sleep. Many modern phones have a built-in feature that automatically silences unimportant notifications at a time of day. In this case, you would set the time to the night hours. You can use this feature at school, church, or any other time you need to eliminate unwanted distractions.
A prominent factor in insomnia and other sleep-related problems is stress. A common sign of it is the release of adrenaline and cortisol, both hormones that keep us awake. While there is no way to avoid stress, a very effective way to reduce it is to practice meditation or mindfulness.
Meditation can be yoga, guided breathing, or journaling. For example, if you want to try guided breathing, find a calm and quiet place to sit, take a deep breath for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. This pattern of breathing is called the 4-7-8 technique. There are also many apps available that you can use for free to learn meditation. Some apps may require a subscription for full access to all features.
Time Your Meals Correctly
Eating is another factor that affects your sleep and circadian rhythm. Try to wait three hours before bed to finish eating your last meal. If this is not possible for you, as it is not for me, try to eat your meals at similar times every day so that your body knows when to start winding down.
A Note About Sleep Aids:
While sleep aids sometimes seem like the only option, be cautious about what you take. Many medicines and herbal remedies might seem benign but may do more harm than good.