Getting regular, high-quality sleep is critical to brain health and optimal well-being. Restorative sleep enables the brain to repair cells, grow cells, regulate hormones, balance the immune system, and protect nerves and tissues. When coupled with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, consistently healthy sleep habits are a cornerstone of a healthy brain.
If you’re struggling to consistently get high-quality rest, it could have a negative effect on your brain’s functioning. Researchers have found that sleep issues can lead to a decline in brain performance, which can affect your thinking performance, attention, emotion and memory. If you’re struggling to consistently get great rest, read on for science-backed tips for better sleep.
1. Be consistent
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends sticking to a consistent schedule for both bedtimes and waking up, even on the weekends or days off work.
2. Be aware of what you’re putting in your body
If you think a heavy meal contributes to great sleep, you may be mistaken. The Mayo Clinic recommends a healthy diet and avoiding going to bed “hungry or stuffed.” Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can also disrupt resting patterns.
3. Evaluate your pillow
Believe it or not, scientists have found that an aged or worn-out pillow can be a major problem. If your pillow doesn’t hold its shape, it’s due for replacement.
4. Power down electronic screens
Reading e-books on your phone probably isn’t the best way to unwind. Researchers recommend putting away your phone an hour before bed to avoid disrupting your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
5. Improve your bedroom lighting
Consider installing gentle lighting in your bedroom to remind your body it’s time to rest. According to Harvard Medical School researchers, bright artificial light can trick your body into staying awake.
6. Address noise
The sounds of the surroundings can disrupt some people who are light sleepers. Ambient noise, calming music, or earplugs can mitigate distractions.
7. Get outside
During the day, exposure to natural light and bright light sources can help regulate your sleep patterns. Make a point of going for a walk and catching some daylight when possible.
8. Don’t stress out
If you’re struggling to get shut-eye, the experts at the National Institute of Health suggest reading or listening to calm music until you feel tired.
9. Manage sources of stress
Day-to-day concerns that are on your mind can prevent great sleep. If you’re lying awake due to stress, consider writing down your thoughts in a journal before bed or pursuing counseling with a qualified professional.
10. Don’t spend time in bed
While some people like to watch TV or eat in bed, these tendencies can disrupt your rest. Sleep experts recommend reserving your bed for sleep only.
11. Talk to your doctor
If you’ve covered the basics and you’re still struggling to get high-quality shut-eye, the NSF recommends having a conversation with your physician. You may need to consult with a sleep specialist to protect your brain’s health, immune system and other critical functions of your body.
Don’t neglect sleep — it’s crucial!
Researchers believe that getting high-quality rest regularly is just as important to your overall health as a good diet and regular physical exercise. Without rest, your brain is likely unable to function at peak levels, and you may struggle to regulate emotions, reactions and other important aspects of your well-being.
By understanding the science of sleep, you can make high-quality shut-eye a habit to protect your brain’s ability to function optimally.