Top 25 Sleep Hacks for Better Rest

How to get the deep sleep
you crave - and fast!

Some nights, getting a good, deep night’s sleep, can feel like an impossible feat. Maybe you are about to start a new job and are already feeling those first day jitters. If you’re a new parent, you may be wondering why you ever took your blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep for granted. Or maybe you’re the one lying awake wondering why you thought it would be a good idea for that third cup of coffee at 4 in the afternoon.

However you struggle with sleep, the benefits of catching those quality zzz’s are undeniable. When we get a full 7 or 8 hours our days seem easier, stress levels lowered, and our energy levels increased so we are able to summon the strength and motivation to accomplish whatever challenges our day may bring.

But what about those nights when we are on our mattresses for those 7, 8, or 9 hours and still feel like we are about to fall asleep as our boss drones and we can’t peel our eyes off of the clock? At Nectar, we’ve done our homework and found that not all sleep is created equally. In fact, more important than the quantity of sleep you are getting each night is the quality of those hours, with deep sleep being one of the most important phases to consider in terms of overall health and energy.

Let’s break it down:

Deep sleep is like the frosting on top of a cupcake: it’s not the entire cupcake, but it’s the part that makes it especially delicious. If you are not getting enough deep sleep in the night, you will not be experiencing the most delicious parts of a night of sleep, even if you slept for a full 8 hours. In deep sleep, your body does a sort of “clean sweep” reset. It is part of what helps you to feel more awake and refreshed during the day.

For a good night of sleep that helps to prep your body for a new day, deep sleep is where it’s at. In deep sleep, brain waves are at their lowest frequency called the delta wave phase. 90-120 minutes in the phase per night is a typical amount to aim for per night. Sound Sleep Health, the website for a practice of neurologists, sleep medicine specialists, and insomnia experts, explain that this phase of sleep is the most “psychologically profound stage”. This is because you body goes through an immense amount of recovery during the deep sleep when is releases human growth hormone. This hormone plays a vital role in repairing cells, clearing away built up waste, and strengthening the immune system. The deep sleep phase is important because according to the experts at Sound Sleep Health, it refreshes and restores the body, while it “erases the cumulative sleepiness collected during a normal day of waking activities”.

When you are getting enough sleep you can feel it in your entire body and when you’re not, well, you can also really feel it. Waking up on the “wrong side of the bed” can really put a damper on your entire day, week, or if you really struggle, it can be damaging on your life and health in the long term. A Harvard Health article on the relationship between sleep and mental health explains that, though correlation between sleep and mental states are complicated, it is clear that “sleep disruption…wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. In this way, insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa.” When we are not allowing our bodies to rest and recover fully we are opening ourselves up to potential harm for our mental and emotional wellbeing. Having a good sleep life “enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health.” Simply put, better sleep means better mental and emotional agility, and who doesn’t want that?

Though the true reason behind our need for sleep is still uncertain, the correlations between getting a good night’s sleep and healthy body function are undeniable. There are multiple theories that suggest why we spend a third of our lives sleeping and there are two that stand out with their empirical evidence and strong correlations.

The first of these theories also posed by Harvard scientists is a Restorative Theory that suggests that “many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.” Additionally, scientists have found that while we are awake, neurons in the brain produce adenosine, which a byproduct of cellular activity. Scientists believe that it is the buildup of adenosine during our waking hours is what contributes to a feeling of sleepiness. It is during sleep that our bodies have the chance to clear away adenosine build up, which leads to a feeling of refreshed wakefulness in the morning.

Getting a proper amount of deep sleep is essential to healthy functioning of our minds and bodies, but unfortunately our time in this low brain wave stage decreases the older we get. It turns out that “the amount of deep sleep you get starts decreasing when you’re in your late 20s, and by the time your reach 50, you’re only getting half as much deep sleep as you once did, even if you’re sleeping just as long,” according to Sound Sleep Health. This decline is unfortunate because less deep sleep appears to at least partially cause some of the negative characteristics of old age such as weakness, decreased mental acuity and not feeling as good when you wake up.

If you are above the age of 50, chances are that you’ve noticed some changes in your sleep life compared to 20, 15, or even just 10 years ago. This is because the amount of deep sleep you get each night dramatically decreases the older you get. Older adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. However, this amount of sleep does not always mean you are getting the most out of your time spent slumbering. An article on www.sleepfoundation.org a poll from the 2005 National Sleep Foundation explain that “there are certain biological changes that make sleep more difficult as we age” including “a shift in circadian rhythm that causes [older adults] to become sleepy in the early evening and to wake up too early in the morning.”

Though we are not suggesting that you sleep until 10am everyday, it is important to understand the role that getting those hours of deep sleep each night are crucial to overall wellness. Below we’ve outlined 25 tips to help increase deep sleep, how to sleep better and fall asleep faster, as well as tips to kick insomnia to the curb.

How To Increase Deep Sleep: 25 Tips

Set a sleep schedule—and stick with it.

An article from Harvard Health explains that “according to sleep experts, a regular schedule not only tends to increase the amount of sleep people get each night, it can also improve the quality of sleep.” Sticking to a regular schedule of sleeping, even on the weekends, can be one of the biggest factors in determining a person’s overall sleep health.

Go to bed earlier.

Getting to bed a bit earlier can make all of the difference when it comes to getting quality sleep during the night. Fitness and nutrition expert and host of one of the leading health podcasts on iTunes, Shawn Stevenson, writes about the importance of going to bed at the correct time. On his website, Shawn writes that you can get “amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours.” He explains that sleeping during the hours of 10pm and 2am is when we get “the most rejuvenating effects” of sleep because of the significant amount of hormone secretion and recovery happening within our bodies during this point in our circadian rhythms.

Exercise regularly, but not within 4 hours of bedtime.

Of course it is important to eat well and exercise regularly, but exercising too close to bedtime can raise your internal temperature, release endorphines, and make sleeping difficult. To ensure maximum sleep quality try to have your work out end at least 4 hours before bedtime.

Avoid caffeine after 2pm.

Try starting with a caffeine curfew of 2pm and if you’re still having trouble getting that restful sleep, make the curfew earlier or even cutting out your cup of joe all together. Drinking a glass of water or tea in the morning can sustain energy much longer because of the hydration, won’t make you crash in a few hours, and won’t keep you up at night. It’s a win-win.

Eat a banana before bed.

Eating a healthy snack, such as a banana, is a great choice an hour or half an hour before you hit the hay. A Forbes article explains that “potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.”

Fix your gut.

Microbiome has become a bit of a buzz word in the health and wellness fields as of late because it describes the vastly important environment of our guts. Proper gut health is absolutely vital to the overall health of our bodies, and this is especially true when it comes to getting a good night of rest and helping beat your insomnia.

Fix your metabolism.

Fixing your metabolism is a way to get your body back into a rhythm. Ensure that you are eating well, exercising often, and overall making good choices towards wellness, and sleep should come much more easily.

Stop smoking.

Smoking negatively affects your sleep for a variety of reasons, but mainly because nicotine is a potent stimulant that may keep you wide awake into the wee hours.

Review your medications.

Medication can be a sneaky thing that negatively impacts our sleep. If you are aware of a medication you take that may act as a stimulant, fixing your insomnia may be as simple as a conversation with you doctor.

Sip milk.

Similar to bananas, milk contains the amino acid that makes you sleepy: tryptophan. Even better? Warm it up a little and add some honey as a night time treat.

If you are going through menopause it is likely that the change of hormones in your body could be negatively impacting your sleeping habits. In a 30-year study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences and Harvard University, results show that drinking milk has the potential to decrease the risk of early menopause.

Eliminate sneaky light sources.

Health guru Shawn Stevenson talks about the importance of keeping your room completely dark at night, even buying blackout curtains. He explains that it’s not just our eyes that have light receptors, but our skin as well. He says that “if there’s light in your bedroom, your body is picking it up and sending messages to your brain and organs that can interfere with your sleep.”

Check your pillow position.

Correctly using your pillow to match up with your preferred sleep position can be a huge factor that increases your quality of sleep. If you are a stomach sleeper, choose a very flat pillow, or no pillow at all. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to relieve pressure and have a fluffier pillow for under your head to help support the natural curvature of your spine. For back sleepers, choose a pillow that lays a little flatter, because less fluff is needed to support your natural curvature. A memory foam pillow can provide the perfect amount of contouring support.

Breathe deeply.

There is a reason that in yoga class your instructor has you focus on your breath. Breathing deeply helps to calm our nervous system by allowing more oxygen into our bloodstream.

Sleep on a comfortable mattress.

Sleeping on a comfortable mattress may be all it takes to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Out with the old and in with the new.

Choose the right pillow.

If you’re still sleeping on a lumpy pillow from your college days it may be time to upgrade. Choose a pillow that is supportive yet comfortable and use it in a position that cradles your head and neck.

Regulate bedroom temperature.

It’s next to impossible to fall asleep when you’re too hot. Sleep experts agree that the ideal bedroom temperature for optimal sleep is 60-67 degrees for most people. While it might seem a little on the cool side, having this cooler temperature can help you sleep by lowering the body temperature which happens at the onset of sleep. Not to mention for those of you that sleep hot, you will rest easier.

Eliminate technology distractions.

Turn your cell phone on airplane mode, put your laptop and television in another room. Do whatever you can to ensure that your brain associates the bedroom with sleep.

Use a blue-blocking app.

The blue light that your phone emits – which is as bright as daylight – discourages sleep. But if you can filter out that blue light, you can eliminate one roadblock to sound sleep. Try a blue-blocking app, like Twilight (for Android) or Unblue (for Apple). Apple phones also have a Night Shift setting to make nighttime viewing more bedroom-friendly. And make sure you turn your phone off at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep and charge it in another room so you aren’t disturbed.

Give yourself a therapeutic pressure point massage.

Another way to maximize relaxation is to give yourself a massage. A good way to self massage is by taking a tennis ball and rolling it around on the bottoms of your feet or by putting the tennis ball between your back and a wall and moving around in a massaging pattern.

Cool your bed.

Air conditioning is a huge plus for hot nights but if you aren’t lucky enough to have central air or you just like having a natural breeze with the windows open, ensuring that you have a mattress that maintains a neutral temperature is key. The Nectar mattress has a tencel cooling cover that helps to circulate air and wick away moisture as you sleep.

sleepy cat

Kick your dog or cat out of your bedroom.

When we are waking up because of our furry friends it can be difficult to fall back to sleep. Though it’s nice to have a furry cuddle buddy while you sleep, your pet may be the reason that you’re feeling grumpy or groggy the next day.

Drink Kava.

Kava is a natural beverage made from a plant native to the western Pacific islands. It’s known to calm anxiety, stress, and even help insomnia.

Yes, it’s ok to have sex.

Having a big O releases natural hormones that help induce a better night of sleep. When you have an orgasm, the after effect is like a full-on sedative for many people. Your body produces relaxing hormones and endorphins which can help set you up for a great night’s sleep.

Address sleep apnea.

Consult with your doctor if you suspect that you are struggling with sleep apnea. If you are just snoring throughout the night, Men’s Health writes that snoreplasty is an option. It is a short procedure where “a doctor will stiffen your soft palate.” This procedure only costs about $35 and results last for a year.

Stress Less.

Easier said than done, right? But if you can control your stress through diet, exercise, and maybe even mental exercise such as meditation, it will do wonders for your sleep.

Increase
Your Deep
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Tonight

However you struggle with sleep, as you can see there are so many ways to help you get better rest. And the benefits of a better night’s sleep will impact your daily life and overall wellness. Try incorporating 1-2 of the tips into your sleep routine, so you can see what works best for you. Remember, sleep is personal, but it’s possible your best night of rest is right around the corner.

Get Better Sleep

FAQ:

The average amount of deep sleep you should be getting a night is between 90 and 120 minutes a night.

Having a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important factors in your ability to fall asleep quickly. By training your body to sleep at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning, you are much more likely to fall asleep sooner rather than later.

Breathing exercises, meditation, chamomile tea, and melatonin in moderation are all excellent ways to fall asleep quickly.

Consistency is key. Practice good sleep hygiene by having a nightly wind down routine.

Often times when we have trouble falling asleep it’s because we are having trouble turning off our mind. Reading something to take your mind off the day or doing some night time stretches to relax your body may be exactly what you need to nod off.

The deep sleep stage is the deepest stage where it is extremely difficult to be roused by external stimuli.

The first two or three hours of sleep are known as the golden hour of sleep because of the “clean sweep” processes that happen within your body during this time.

Chamomile or Valerian root are the best natural sleep aids. Melatonin is a hormone that, if used too often, could interrupt your body’s natural ability to produce it.

If you cannot sleep it is always a good idea to see your doctor. It may be a simple lifestyle change you need to make or it may be something more serious.

No. Dreaming happens in the REM phase of the sleep cycle.

Deep sleep helps to rejuvenate and restore your body. This is the stage where human growth hormone is secreted that helps to clear away waste from cells that build up throughout the day.

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