Do you sometimes wish you could trade places with Sleeping Beauty and enjoy totally undisturbed and blissful sleep? You aren't alone. As many as 70 million Americans struggle with chronic sleep problems. And that's just in the U.S.! According to weforum.org, as many as 62% of adults worldwide believe they need more quality sleep. If you belong to this sleep-deprived crowd, this article on how to improve sleep quality may help you catch those elusive Zzzs. So, read away and finally achieve better and longer slumber.
The importance of a good night's sleep
So why do you have to know what it is and how to improve sleep? The significance of this complex biological process can greatly impact your health and overall quality of life. One example is how sleep affects the brain. A good night's sleep enables the amygdala, the brain's emotional control center, to respond better to stress or fear. This keeps you more emotionally stable and mentally healthier.
Just like how machines need regular maintenance, your brain can work more optimally when it takes restorative breaks. A good night's sleep regenerates your neurons or nerve cells so they can communicate more efficiently with each other. This process facilitates the brain's cognitive abilities, including learning, memory, and decision-making.
How sleep affects the brain is just one of the ways that slumber can impact you. Your Zzzs also play an essential role in many other critical functions, such as cellular repair, energy replenishment, and immune system restoration.
Four essentials to sleeping well
Knowing how to improve sleep isn't something you just dream about. There are two building blocks to good quality sleep: sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythms. Sleep homeostasis or your sleep drive regulates sleep intensity based on the body's requirements for sleepiness or wakefulness. This is balanced out by circadian rhythms, internal clocks that control the sleep-wake cycle in response to light and darkness within 24 hours. Influencing these two processes can help determine how to improve sleep quality. Here are the top four keys to maintaining sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythms:
1. Sleep hygiene
Keep good sleeping habits, including:
- Having consistent bedtimes and waking up at the same hour every day to establish your sleep-wakefulness pattern.
- Protect your health from sleep disruptors that can keep you from falling asleep. For example, quit your electronic devices, such as smartphones and TVs, an hour or two before bedtime (or the time it takes for your body and brain to wind down).
- Make your bedroom favorable to sleep by keeping it quiet and cool.
2. A healthful and timely diet
Avoid consuming high-calorie and high-fat meals within an hour of sleeping. Research indicates that these can trigger prolonged sleep onset latency or SOL, the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. This eating habit can also influence sleep efficiency (how much actual sleeping time you have while in bed) and increase WASO. This refers to "wake after sleep onset" or the number of minutes you stay awake after initially falling asleep).
Drinking coffee or alcohol close to bedtime can also cause sleep problems. Alcohol, a depressant, may knock you out but prolong WASO. Caffeine in coffee can also disrupt the timing of your internal body clock, making it harder for you to fall asleep and decreasing your total hours of sleep.
3. Stress management
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, known as the HPA axis, is a major part of the homeostatic response. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands regulate your body's reaction to stressors. Stressful events can activate this HPA axis, releasing glucocorticoids or steroid hormones, such as cortisol. These are produced by the adrenal glands to provide energy for the fight-or-flight response. Consequently, you become more alert, increasing the time you spend awake.
To get stress relief, you need to be more intentional and, yes, strategic about it. For example, you likely know that watching or reading highly distressing or disturbing content (such as horror or crime movies, videos, or books) can make your mind too active for sleep. Likewise, going to bed with resentment, anger, or other negative emotions can also lead to sleeplessness.
4. Light exposure
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that regulates many functions, including the sleep-wake process. For example, it controls the circadian rhythm through a master clock called the SCN or suprachiasmatic nucleus. This is a group of cells in the hypothalamus that act on the stimuli of light and darkness. This helps keep you alert during the day and induces sleep when darkness sets in.
To help maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, venture out in the daytime for at least half an hour every day to "rewind" your brain clock. To help shorten your SOL, reduce your exposure to bright indoor lights (including from your electronic gadgets) about two to three hours before bedtime. Deepen your sleep with blackout curtains to block out any external light.
More than your usual dose with HigherDOSE
The keys we've shared can help you secure a good night's sleep. But what if there's a way to obtain even more glorious sleep? You absolutely can—through photobiomodulation or the use of red or infrared light on body tissues.
Infrared light is a kind of radiant energy that we don't see but instead feel through heat. It works by firing up the mitochondria, our cells' power generators that generate the chemical energy needed by the body to function, self-repair, and rejuvenate. Alternatively, red light is located at the more visible end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Red light stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone the brain produces when it gets dark. This substance helps stabilize your sleep drive and reinforces circadian rhythms.
Take your sleep to a deeper level of bliss with HigherDOSE. Our collection of infrared technologies can provide the kind of rest you so need and long for. The HigherDOSE Infrared Sauna Blanket has far infrared rays that may help deliver an intensely detoxifying sweat, improving circulation and enhancing deep relaxation. The Red Light Face Mask sends red and near-infrared light to the face or any other body part to deliver rejuvenating wavelengths similar to the sun's but without the harmful effects of UV rays. Each infrared or red light therapy session can help ensure a robust sleep drive and healthy circadian rhythms. So get the sleep you deserve—check out HigherDOSE today.