Tips on how to sleep better: 10 ways backed with science

by | May 24, 2021

Need some tips on how to sleep better? We know why.

Picture this:

Nothing beats going home after a long day of school and just plump into your bed, close your eyes and fall into a deep sleep.

But wait!

Didn’t your teacher give you that assignment just a few hours ago to complete? And the deadline is tomorrow?!

But you’re feeling exhausted. You can’t picture yourself staying up the rest of the day completing your assignment. The fatigue is starting to get to your head.

You think back to all those long sleepless nights you’ve had. All those nights when you woke up still feeling lethargic. You feel helpless.

But you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll share 10 tips on how to sleep better that are backed with science to help you attain the perfect sleep.

But first, we need to know what sleep means.

What is sleep?

Tips on how to sleep better: A girl trying to sleep

Sleep is a recurring state of mind and body, in which your consciousness is altered and your senses are inhibited temporarily.

Throughout the day, as your brain receives multifold information through all 5 senses of your body, your mind will naturally wear out. That is when you start to get sleepy.

Contrary to popular belief, sleep is actually a very good thing. While most of society perceives it as laziness or idleness, sleep is definitely most beneficial to our everyday lives.

Without it, our daily functions are affected and we start to lose the sense of ourselves.

Why can’t I sleep through the night?

So you’re having troubles sleeping through the night and you’re on this article hoping for answers to the question:

“Why can’t I sleep even though I’m tired?”

A Japanese study conducted among 366 Japanese students wanted to find out the physical and mental factors related to falling asleep.

Their study found that people who had difficulty falling asleep experienced:

“higher awareness of the smell and noises in the bedroom, body sensations such as a heavy stomach feeling and frequent rolling over, mental agitation and excitement, unstable mental state, negative state, and strain.”

Anxiety also played a part in delaying sleep.

These factors influenced whether an individual would have difficulty falling asleep regardless of how tired they are feeling. As such, it puts many tertiary level students at risk of insomnia.

Many JC graduates report their JC years as one of the few stressful years of their lives. If you’re a current JC student who’s struggling, here’s 10 ways to better manage stress and cope better.

So then how does one attain good sleep? Here are 10 tips on how to sleep better!

10 tips on how to sleep better

1.) Restrict consumption of caffeine to sleep better

3 coffee cups filled with coffee

One of the ways on how to sleep better is to restrict your consumption of caffeine.

This doesn’t mean to stop drinking coffee entirely for the rest of our life. Sometimes, to sleep better at night, we have to plan for the day.

And that means to reduce or (better yet) stop the consumption of our very well-liked and notorious cup of joe.

Because caffeine is proven to enhance focus and energy, consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bed actually significantly worsens sleep quality.

Try decaffeinated coffee instead!

2.) Exercise regularly for better sleep

A deal in itself. Not only does it help maintain your fitness level, but it also causes your body to release endorphins and raise your body core temperature.

These chemicals wake your body up at first, before slowly dissipating and allowing your brain to shut off.

Raising your body temperature allows your temperature to slowly decrease after exercising, thereby making you feel sleepy.

Make sure you exercise moderately, with medium intensity, preferably in the evening because research has shown that evening exercise does help to promote better sleep.

However, it has also shown that vigorous exercise just one hour before bedtime will completely disrupt your sleep time and quality.

3.) Take a hot shower before sleep

This might seem very abstract, but it one of the tips on how to sleep better that works wonders and is yet extremely simple.

A study made by The University of Texas found that bathing 90 minutes before you sleep in hot water can help you fall asleep an average of 10 minutes quicker than normal.

A bath in hot water naturally helps the body to relax and causes body temperature to lower afterwards, which in turn will make you feel even more sleepy and signal to you that it is bedtime.

4.) Drink less before you sleep

A cup of water

This is not related to Tip 2 by any means. Drinking less essentially means reducing your fluid intake. Fluid here can range from your simple drinking water to hard liquor or soda pop.

Drinking large amounts of water before you sleep causes nocturia, a medical term for excessive urination at night.

While this might seem trivial at first, excessive urination at night completely disrupts your sleep pattern and your REM cycles.

This, in turn, will result in a domino effect on your life. Reduced quality of life, mood disorders, cognitive and memory performance deficits are all just the tip of the iceberg.

5.) Take power naps

This tip for better sleep is especially relevant for students living here in Singapore.

Given the hectic lifestyle, some of us are easily overwhelmed by deadlines, essays, assignments and group projects.

How can one sustain and tank through all these commitments without feeling even a slight sense of tiredness or fatigue?

The answer: short power naps!

However, you have to be careful to not overindulge yourself and take a 3-4 hours long nap as this will negatively affect your sleep quality at night.

This is because sleeping for long hours in the day confuses your internal body clock. With all that being said, short power naps in the day are still good to go!

The key to napping is to keep naps short. A study suggests a nap time of 10 to 20 mins to wake up refreshed, so you don’t go too far into the sleep cycle.

6.) Ideal bedroom environment

When we are trying to sleep, everything around us, the honking of cars, the sound of trees swaying in the wind, the sound of possible laughter from kids nearby, are all amplified.

It’s almost as if our senses are heightened the moment we close our eyes. That is why it is so important to ensure that your bedroom is in ideal condition.

Slightly open your windows. Pull down the blinds. Close your doors. Do not let any exterior light and external sounds come in. If you could, a white noise machine can be purchased to cancel out external noise. If it is too expensive, however, earplugs are also a good substitute.

Your bedroom temperature should also be comfortable, somewhere between 24-25 degrees Celsius according to Panasonic Singapore.

Sometimes, when the weather is extra humid, turn on the AC. Conversely, after a rainy season, refrain from using the AC. Use the fan instead.

7.) Aromatherapy

Essential oil diffuser

Aromatherapy is one of the most effective tips on how to sleep better.

It’s the use of fragrance to enhance health and promote feelings of well-being. Aromatherapy is often used as a natural remedy to relieve anxiety and stress.

This “aroma” usually comes from essential oils or concentrated aromatic liquids.

You can look at purchasing reed diffusers, essential oil diffusers, scented candles and/or essential oil rollers.

These bottles of goodness might seem trivial at first, but they sure are a lifesaver when it comes to relaxing the body before it goes to sleep.

For example, a 2005 study assessed how lavender essential oil affected 31 young, healthy sleepers.

Researchers found that lavender increased the amount of slow- and deep-wave sleep in participants. All participants reported feeling “higher vigor” the next morning.

Furthermore, this is a great tool for people with anxiety to sleep better.

If you’re not sure which aroma to get, a Forbes article suggests that the best ones to foster relaxation are Lavender, Chamomile and Bergamot.

8.) Plan your schedule before going to bed

The time when our minds are most plagued and ravaged by thoughts, memories and assumptions is at night, right as we are trying to sleep.

That is why it is so crucial to make sure our assignments or group projects are properly managed or scheduled to reduce bedtime worry.

One study had young adults assigned to write up their to-do list with either things they wanted to complete or things that were already completed right before their bedtime.

It turns out participants who wrote the to-do list section fell asleep significantly faster as compared to those who wrote in the completed section.

This shows that writing a to-do list to plan for the day ahead can help facilitate faster sleep.

9.) Good body posture

If you are sleeping on your side, try it on your left. Not only does it reduce snoring, which is a killer for optimal sleep, but it helps to facilitate digestion and reduce heartburn.

Lying on your stomach or your back is a no-go as it causes sleep apnea and unnecessary back and joint pains in your body.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that repeatedly stops your breathing as you sleep. You might awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time trying to sleep or staying asleep.

In the long run, frequent run-ins with sleep apnea can lead to several complications that include daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Remember: a good body posture is crucial for sleep.

10.) Don’t eat late at night

Seafood cup noodle

Sourced from Flickr

This is for all you night owls. We all love to eat a few munchies or even the occasional instant noodles while binge-watching our favourite Netflix shows at night. However, this is not ideal.

A 2017 study was conducted on 296 individuals with sleep apnea. Its aim was to identify the relationship between meal timing and sleep patterns.

Their dietary pattern was obtained by a food frequency questionnaire and meal timing of the participants. 

It found that “Late meal timing was associated with worse sleep pattern and quality and apnea severity than early meal timing”. In other words, individuals who have late meals presented worse sleep pattern and apnea severity in addition to higher risk of fatigue and poor sleep quality than individuals who are earlier eaters.

The reason behind this is unclear. The study mentioned that Ghrelin levels, which is a hormone present in people with sleep apnea, could have increased after meals and that would have affected the quality of sleep. 

Whatever it is, stay away from meals late at night if you want to sleep better!

Final thoughts on sleep

We are deeply humbled that you’ve read up to this point, thanks a lot!

It’s certainly annoying to get through the night with barely any sleep. For readers with sleep insomnia, we hope these 10 tips on how to sleep better have been informative.

It takes discipline to follow through with these tips but if done correctly, will definitely have a positive effect on sleep!

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