When most of us think of sleep problems, insomnia is the first thing that comes to mind. But some people who aren't insomniacs, and think that they're getting plenty of sleep, still find themselves experiencing a lot of the same symptoms as those who can't get any shut-eye — including exhaustion during the day, irritability and trouble focusing. There's a name for what these people are experiencing, although it's not yet a clinical term: semi-somnia. Characterized by sleep patterns that aren't restful, semi-somnia is a sleep condition that causes suffers to be unable to achieve a deep or peaceful slumber — because their brains remain highly active during the hours when they should be resting.
If you spend eight hours a night in bed, technically "sleeping," but still feel like a walking zombie the next morning, it may very well be because you're not getting quality sleep. This could be due to semi-somnia, or environmental factors like living in a noisy apartment building where the bright streetlights shine through your windows all night. Either way, missing out on deep sleep will make you feel physically lousy the next day — and probably pretty grouchy, as well.
So if you seem to have trouble making your eight hours count, check out these seven ways to ensure you're getting the deepest, most restful sleep possible. And these tips can apply to the insomniacs out there, too —we know that sleep can be extremely hard to come by, so when we do manage to fall asleep, we need to make every precious hour count. I mean, four hours of restful shut-eye is better than four hours of tossing and turning, right?
1. Avoid Big Meals And Alcohol Right Before Bed
Get your carb and wine fixes in at dinner time — not right before bed. Levels of your hunger hormone need to be high in order for you to sleep deeply, and carbohydrates will lower it, and thus affect the quality of your sleep. As long as you cut off carbs two hours before bedtime, you should be fine. If you do get hungry again before bed, don't worry — certain foods can aid sleep. Tuna, almonds, eggs, bananas and avocados are all good options when you get snacky right before bed.
Make sure to cut off alcohol several hours before bedtime, as well. Yes, drinking right before you go to bed can help you fall asleep faster, but the quality of your sleep is poor after consuming alcohol — consuming alcohol directly before bed can mess with your brain activity, keeping you from achieving the ideal brain wave conditions needed for restful sleep. You'll also be more likely to wake up multiple times during the night.
2. Exercise Earlier In The Day
Regular exercise is a great way to make sure that you fall asleep more quickly and sleep soundly. But make sure you finish your workout at least three hours before bed — otherwise, you may have a tough time falling asleep due to the hormones secreted during exercise, which can make you feel wide awake.
3. Turn Off Your Electronics
About thirty minutes before bed, unplug entirely — that means your computer, phone, and even e-reader should all be turned off. Many experts suggest keeping technology out of your bedroom entirely. But if you do have devices in your room, make sure to turn off your computer and phone before it's time to get ready for bed — the glow they emit can disrupt the depth and quality of your sleep.
4. Don't Get Into Bed Until You're Truly Tired
If you don't feel tired, don't force yourself to get into bed in hopes that it will make you sleepy — you'll end up tossing and turning in frustration. "Every minute you spend awake — and out of your bed — increases your need for deep sleep, also known as your sleep drive," Dr. Colleen Carney explained on Oprah.com. Speed the process along by engaging in a relaxing activity like reading, taking a bath, meditating or journaling. Once you're drowsy, hit the sack and enjoy some deep, restful shut-eye.
5. Keep The Temperature At Around 65 Degrees
According to research conducted by sleep experts, a cool room is the most conducive to deep sleep. Since your body's temperature naturally drops while you're asleep, a room that's too hot will interfere with this natural cycle and make you a restless sleeper. Setting your thermostat at around 65 degrees is generally your best bet, although this varies slightly depending on the person. If you're prone to getting cold, still try to avoid cranking your thermostat before bed. Instead, use a heavy blanket and sleep in cozy PJs.
6. Invest In A High Quality Mattress, Sheets And Pillows
The quality of your mattress, sheets, and pillows affects how well you sleep. When it comes to your mattress, it doesn't matter if it's firm, soft, or somewhere in between — just make sure it's the most comfortable one for you and your body. Mattresses can be pricey, so don't be afraid to shop around and test out a bunch of different ones before making your final decision.
And, although you don't need to go crazy and buy the most luxurious sheets out there, a comfortable set of sheets that don't scratch or irritate your skin are probably worth splurging a little on. Pay attention to things like fabric and thread count when shopping for a set, and remember that discount stores often have high-quality sheets marked down to affordable prices. The comfier you are at night, the more likely you are to sleep soundly — so arrange your bed in a way that will let you get the most restful sleep possible (yup, that may mean sweeping all cool ornamental pillows and cherished stuffed animals onto the floor — sorry).
7. Keep Your Room Dark And Quiet
Keeping your room as dark as possible will allow you to sleep more soundly. In addition to turning off electronics, consider getting blackout curtains or using a sleep-mask if your bedroom is near streetlights. If you're dealing with noise from roommates or neighbors, use earplugs or a white noise machine. Even if you can fall asleep in an environment that's not dark and quiet, the quality of your sleep can be compromised by a noisy, light-filled sleep environment and you won't wake up feeling as well-rested and refreshed as you should. So take these steps, get some solid rest and rejoin the land of the living.