Sleep imrovement

What to do to sleep better? Ways to improve sleep

Good sleep is undeniably one of the pillars of good health. It affects both physical and mental health – it is impossible to feel good when our sleep is too shallow or too short. Therefore, it is in our interest to ensure the best quality of sleep. And we know how to do it!

We hear a lot of talk about the length of sleep and that the optimal length of sleep should last about 8 hours. As much as this is true, the length of sleep is not the only parameter that should be considered. You should also pay attention to the length of time needed to fall asleep, whether you wake up at night and with what frequency, whether your well-being in the morning is satisfying, or not, and, instead, you still feel terribly tired on the following morning. Read the tips and activities presented below, which I think may help you to improve the above-mentioned parameters.

Ways to improve sleep

  1. Appropriate sleeping hours – the cycle of sleep and wakefulness should inherently coincide with the day’s cycle because sunlight (or its lack) affects our hormonal activity. It is important not to go to bed too late, as to be able to get up soon after sunrise. 10pm is considered the optimal bedtime.
  2. Light management – alluding to the above point, light affects some biochemical aspects related to the cycle of sleep and wakefulness. The most important is the inhibitory effect of sunlight on the secretion of melatonin, which is called a sleep hormone. This is specifically about the blue light, which is unfortunately common to both the sun and screens that we often like to watch in the evenings – telephone, computer and TV. While the TV is not yet a serious threat, because it is often placed at a considerable distance from us and that is enough to sufficiently protect us, computers and phones pose a greater threat due to the fact that their screens are much closer to the eyes. However, there are some applications that change the color spectrum of the emitted light after dark, blocking the blue light, which allows for maintaining a more natural pattern of melatonin production and not to disturb sleep that much. An example of such an application for computers with Windows is flux, whereas for Android phones – Twilight.
  3. Evening unwinding – our lifestyle often provides many emotional experiences, both positive and negative, and getting excited about each of them stimulates the nervous system and makes it difficult to fall asleep. Therefore, it is worth to spend the last hour before bedtime for more relaxing activities, which will allow you to relax and stop your thoughts instead of working until the last moment. An example is a relaxing, long bath or reading a good book, a feature book and not a specialized one.
  4. Aromatherapy – some fragrances quite intensively affects our nervous system. They not only create a pleasant atmosphere in the room but also have an actual effect on neurotransmitters or certain receptors. A good example is a lavender, which acts on the serotonin system and has a documented anti-anxiety and relaxing effect [1]. Other examples are the scents of jasmine and chamomile [2], which help to calm down thanks to the interaction with GABA receptors.
  5. Supplementation – sometimes there are also various types of supplements that can help you to relax in the evening and fall asleep faster or affect the quality of sleep, making it more restorative and effective in improving well-being and increasing energy levels in the morning. Below are some examples:
    1. Melatonin – as previously mentioned, it is a substance that earned the nickname “a sleep hormone”. Certain factors, such as exposure to blue light, consumption of caffeine in the evening, or even aging, may reduce the amount of melatonin or delay the moment in which it begins to be produced. Melatonin supplementation is a way to support sleep in intensive periods, to reduce the so-called jet lag, whereas in seniors it is sometimes used in daily supplementation to compensate for natural deficiencies. Effective doses start from 300-500 mcg daily, taken before bedtime.
    2. Ashwagandha – one of the most popular adaptogens with effective silencing and stress-reducing properties. It has a documented action to reduce the intensity of depressive symptoms and to lower stress and anxiety. It allows to efficiently slow down the flow of thoughts in the evening and fall asleep faster. This effect is due to, among others, the interaction with benzodiazepine receptors [3].
    3. Magnesium – a very important element within the biochemistry of the system, but unfortunately, its deficiencies are very common. It affects the nerve conduction and inhibits the action of the main brain stimulant – glutamate. It is also known as a remedy for excessive stress. Supplementing magnesium deficiency helps to reduce nervous tension.
    4. Glycine – an amino acid that functions as the second inhibitory neurotransmitter after GABA and even has its own receptors in the brain. According to research, the use of 3 grams of glycine in the evening results in a higher level of vigor and better cognitive functions on the following day [4].
    5. Theanine – another amino acid that exerts a calming effect, but in a less specific way. It stimlates brain waves that are associated with meditation and a state of deep relaxation. It accelerates falling asleep and favors the improvement of the quality of sleep.

These are just a few options of the whole package of possibilities we might want to implement to improve the quality of sleep. Anyone can choose some really cool and effective ways that will improve the quality of sleep, and thus the quality of the day and overall health.

[1] SeyedAbedin Hosseini et al. „Effect of lavender essence inhalation on the level of anxiety and blood cortisol in candidates for open-heart surgery” Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2016 Jul-Aug; 21(4): 397–401.
[2] Ashraf Ghiasi et al. „A Systematic Review on the Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy during the First Stage of Labor” J Caring Sci. 2019 Mar; 8(1): 51–60.
[3] Kumar A, Kalonia H „Effect of Withania somnifera on Sleep-Wake Cycle in Sleep-Disturbed Rats: Possible GABAergic Mechanism.” Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008 Nov;70(6):806-10.
[4] Wataru YAMADERA et al. „Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes” Sleep and Biological Rhythms 2007

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