I have had some trouble sleeping lately. I always try to convince myself that I’m too busy to get enough sleep but actually the reason is that I just keep playing games, watching television or looking at my computer screen past midnight. I usually shut down all the electronic devices before 1am but it still takes quite a while until I actually fall asleep.
Now, 1am or 2am might not sound so bad to some of you but in my opinion, it is way too late. I have only studied psychology in High school and as a minor in University but I know the basics, and because of that I sure know that not getting enough sleep is not good for your brain. You should get both deep sleep and REM sleep about 2-3 hours a night and only these two phases already total to more than 5 hours – and they’re not the only phases of sleep you will go through every night.
Psychological facts aside, not getting enough sleep is just tiring. Period. And because I have spent countless of nights up googling on how to fall asleep, I’m now going to share some tips that have worked for me. They are already equal to common sense for me (which doesn’t mean I always live up to them though).
1. Pay attention to the room temperature.
The optimal room temperature is apparently around 18-20℃ and it has worked for me so far. Your body temperature will drop when sleeping but don’t try to compensate it by wearing heavy clothing. However, I suggest keeping your feet warm: apparently keeping your head cool and feet warm while sleeping helps your body to adjust the temperature for sleeping. By the way, by keeping your head cool, I don’t mean that you should sleep a window open in the middle of cold winter – I accidentally tried that a few months ago, and you don’t even want to know how horrible I felt when I woke up.
2. Turn off the light early.
One word: melatonin. An extremely important hormone generated by your very own brain, helping you fall asleep. Light affects how much melatonin is generated which means that if you keep the lightning level high until you go to bed, you probably won’t be able to fall asleep as fast as you would if you had dimmed the lights down earlier. I personally love dimmable desk lamps, especially those where you can also the lighting to warm shade of light. The one I’m using right now is very similar to this one here, take a look if you’re interested.
3. Try not to use your smartphone, iPad or other handheld devices with screen before sleeping.
Using applications like Twilight for Android or changing your iPhone to night mode does apparently have some kind of effect but the best thing you can do is not watch any screen at all. This probably depends on a person but I have noticed that even though watching tv doesn’t really affect my sleeping, when it comes to playing DS or scrolling down FB feed with my iPhone, I can almost feel my melatonin levels dropping. Of course I don’t recommend watching tv either but I guess it would be safe to say that the farther the screen is from your face, the better.
4. Don’t eat a heavy meal just before sleeping.
They say you should eat the last big meal of a day at least 4 hours before sleeping so your body can concentrate in relaxing. In my home country, I usually eat dinner around 5-6pm but in Japan most people seem to eat at 7-9pm so that’s what I’m doing too. However, in my experience, eating late directly affects sleep quality. I always see bad dreams and wake up tired if I eat late so I’m trying to not to do that. However… Sometimes I just want to to go izakaya or yakiniku restaurant. That just can’t be done during daylight time, right?
5. Exercise during the day.
As we all probably know and are already tired of being reminded of, exercising during the day is very important in order to get a good night’s sleep. However, in this case too, timing is crucial. Exercising will rise body temperature and activate your body so you should stop exercising at least 2 hours before the time you wish go to sleep. This might not apply to everyone though – if you always exercise one hour before sleeping and still sleep well, good for you. As for me, I will never ever again do a HIIT training at 9pm nor will I go to gym at night just because I’m paying for 24h membership. However, I actually do some stretching and yoga for 15-30 minutes everyday right before sleeping and I feel like it’s working.
+ Bonus tips for relaxing that might not have much scientific evidence but that have worked for me:
- Take a bath before sleeping. I never had a bathtub in my home country but in Japan, I have had a possibility to take a hot bath everyday. It really makes me sleepy so I guess I can say there’s a relaxing effect.
- Drink hot cocoa, hot milk or herb tea before sleeping. There are some tea brands in the market with the names like bedtime tea or nighttime tea but I think pretty much any herb tea goes. Just make sure it doesn’t have caffeine in it! If you don’t like tea, I’d recommend trying hot honey water with a little bit of milk.
- Listen to relaxing music. It actually works – at least for me. Try searching Spotify for playlists. Personally, I love playlists with instrumental piano songs.
- Keep a notebook and a pen near your bed. I always remember all the things I have to do the next day exactly the moment I have covered myself under the blanket. That’s when I reach for my phone to write up those things in my memo pad. Yeah great, just when I had got sleepy while not looking at that screen. Keeping a notebook near your bed can be surprisingly effective in these kind of situations.
That’s all I can think of right now. If you have something to add, please drop a comment! Also, if you’d happen to know a way to forget all your worries before sleeping, I’d absolutely love to know that. That’s something I never manage to do well…