How to Sleep Better at Night - Feature
3 Jul 2017

Can’t Fall Asleep? Here’s How to Sleep Better at Night

Why is it that university students are always plagued by unhealthy sleeping habits? And why do so many students (yes, we’re looking at you) place little emphasis on such a basic, essential human activity?

The truth is, sleep brings about numerous far-reaching benefits, including improved productivity, stronger immune system and better mood.

Given that sleep is strongly related to your college performance and grades, it’s about time you view sleep as more than just an activity to recharge yourself. This list of essential sleep hygiene can be a place for you to start getting better sleep at night.

#1. Get moving!

How to Sleep Better at Night - 1 Get moving!

First on the list – establish a solid workout routine.

Although it may take a couple of months of regular exercise before you can experience any noticeable improvements in your sleeping patterns, studies have shown that regular workouts have lasting effects in helping you get better quality sleep.

It’s easier to fall into a satisfying slumber due to the physical stress that you’ve incurred and the drop in body temperature post workout. Exercising outdoors will also help as the bright light exposure can regulate your natural circadian rhythm, which makes it easier for you to fall asleep.

Consistent exercise is not just a solid natural remedy for getting a good slumber, it is also great in combating cardiovascular diseases, depression and weight gain! That’s akin to killing a few birds (not just two) with one stone!

Pro Tip: It’s best to carry out your workout routines during the day or earlier in the evening so that your sleep at night is not disrupted by a sudden spike in metabolism, increased body temperature and cortisol production.

#2. Embark on a journey of Zen

How to Sleep Better at Night - 2 Embark on a journey of Zen

For those who prefer a less sweaty approach, you can consider performing mindfulness meditation, a widely known approach to curb insomnia and improve sleep quality.

For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress. Meditation can help evoke a profound relaxation response to combat stress, which in turn makes it easier for you to fall asleep and remain in deep slumber longer.

Two key points to remember when you start meditation:

  1. Focus on your breathing. Breathe naturally and feel the flow of the air entering your body from your nose, passing through your lungs and out.
  2. Don’t be trapped by thoughts. There will be thoughts flooding your mind but don’t let these thoughts overwhelm you. Let these thoughts come and dissipate on their own. Every time you notice your mind wandering, bring your focus back to your breathing.

Start with just 3 minutes of meditation daily. Gradually increase the length of your session as you go. You will inevitably notice improvements in your sleeping patterns (and a greater focus on studies too!) with regular meditation.

#3. Create an ideal sleep environment

How to Sleep Better at Night - 3 Create an ideal sleep environment

Use your bed primarily for sleeping only. This helps your brain to associate your bed with sleep and make it much easier for you to wind down at night.

Keep your bed off-limits to other activities too, because it’s fairly easy to doze off midway through your activities. With unnecessary distractions (e.g. your study materials, phone, laptop, etc.) sharing the bed, your sleep will likely be disturbed and you’ll wake up feeling grumpy with an aching neck. #trustusweknow

Also, a quiet, dark and cool environment can help promote a sound slumber. Keep your room well ventilated and minimise external lights and sounds. Ideally, you want to avoid bright screens (blue light) within 1-2 hours before you tuck in.

If you have this unshakeable tendency of checking your smartphones right before sleeping, here is something to motivate you to break that habit.

#4. Manage what you drink and eat

How to Sleep Better at Night - 4 Manage what you drink and eat

Unbeknown to many, eating habits can also play a profound role in how well you sleep, especially in those few hours before bedtime.

Needless to say, avoid consuming caffeine and nicotine excessively as they can impede healthy sleeping patterns. Ideally, stay away from coffee or any food that contains caffeine such as tea, soda and protein bars at least 6 hours before hitting the sack. As for nicotine, here are 60 reasons not to smoke.

On top of that, go light on your meals at night or have your dinner earlier in the evening (e.g. 6pm). Having heavy meals late at night will not only affect your sleep, it will also cause hormone disruption and worst of all, weight issues.

If you really can’t fight your sudden hunger pangs late at night, these stress-busting superfoods can be your ideal munchies.

#5. Set a regular sleeping time

How to Sleep Better at Night - 5 Set a regular sleeping time

Two body systems naturally regulate sleep: the sleep / wake homoeostasis and the circadian rhythm (also known as the biological clock).

While the sleep / wake homoeostasis acts as an hourglass to remind us that we need to reset the hourglass (read: sleep) after a period of being awake, the circadian rhythm regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.

It is very important to note that irregular sleeping hours can alter your natural biological clock, resulting in you being oddly active at night and snoozing during the day.

That is why it is pivotal to go to bed at regular hours so that your body can optimise the quality of your sleep. You’ll feel more refreshed and energised sleeping at regular hours compared to sleeping for the same number of hours at different times. Eventually, you may find no need for an annoying alarm clock too!

Pro Tip: Generally, try to avoid taking afternoon naps. If you’re already facing issues sleeping at night, napping during the day can make it worse. If you really need to snooze, limit your daytime shut-eye to just 20 minutes.

#Bonus: Get professional help

If you’ve tried everything within your capacity (including counting sheep) and you’re still unable to get sufficient shut-eye, then it’s high time for you to seek professional help. Never take chronic insomnia lightly as it can pose nasty health issues and risks if left unchecked. Better safe than sorry, peeps!

Yes, your hectic college schedule plus the mounting assignments and projects can easily be made as excuses to succumb to irregular sleeping hours. But with better management of time and stress, maintaining healthy sleeping hygiene is not impossible. So take charge of your newfound independence at college and drill yourself to get better quality sleep – starting tonight!

If you think sleep is for the weak, check out how pulling all-nighters can actually cost you your grades in exams!

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