Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night? Does your body feel uncomfortable when trying to sleep? Here are key tips to follow, including suggested products to improve sleep.
Tik tok on the clock − “Wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy.” While Kesha boasts about how to get a good night’s sleep, achieving a blissful awakening may seem like a distant dream. When tired, proper nutrition and fitness choices can feel like an uphill battle, especially without a personal chef and trainer.
As a dietitian offering nutrition and lifestyle counseling, sleep is always a discussion with my clients. Not only does it have a positive impact on healthy eating, mental health, and exercise, but it’s also essential for brain health. So I’m going to share key tips to help you improve your sleep.
This post was sponsored by Neuriva, a holistic brain-health company with a range of dietary supplements and a brain gym app to support. I was compensated by Reckitt for my time spent; however, all thoughts and opinions presented here are my own.
The First Step in Tackling Poor Sleep
The battle with feeling restless at night affects more than short-term physical and mental well-being. It can also impact long-term brain health.
Here’s the catch; a lack of sleep often leads to over-eating and sedentary behaviors. Sleep is a crucial player in taking care of your brain. If you’re like many of my clients, you want to get more restorative sleep and secure more hours of precious slumber!
The first step in unlocking a restorative night’s sleep involves taking a closer look at and adjusting your daily routines and choices. So, let’s dive into the complex world of sleep and discover how it’s the ultimate DJ for our body and brain health. After all, your brain deserves the very best.
We’ll start with why sleep deprivation is important to solve. Then it’s time for essential strategies to make this month the time you finally unlock the secrets to stop tossing and turning at night.
Sleep Deprivation and Overall Health
First, it’s important to understand how sleep deprivation impacts the brain and overall health. Consistent sleep is more vital than many people think. It isn’t time to play the game of “I’ll catch up on sleep later” if you constantly find yourself experiencing restless sleep.
Your Brain, Sleep Deprivation, Mood, and Memory
Your brain is the most complex part of the human body. How you care for it with your sleep routine, food choices, social connections, learning, and supplementing when necessary, all influence your health.
Animal studies have shown that poor sleep can increase oxidative stress and inflammation, worsening neurodegeneration. (1) Neurons are the working units of your brain, and protecting them is essential!
A study done in 2022 analyzed the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain in a group of experiments conducted on animals.
- They found that the animals had irreversible damage to certain parts of the brain caused by high levels of oxidative stress and periods of inflammation.
- In particular, the neurons essential for secreting norepinephrine were negatively affected. (1,2)
Why does this matter? Norepinephrine is a compound that helps increase alertness and attention and affects your sleep-wake cycle, mood, and memory. (3)
Sleep Deprivation and Chronic Disease Risks
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of Americans consistently fall short of adequate sleep. (4) A persistent sleep deficit is associated with (5,6)
- weight gain
- coronary heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- type 2 diabetes
Additionally, in older Americans, sleep disturbances (initiating and maintaining sleep) can make you more prone to breaking a bone and accidents in general. This is due to decreases in coordination and cognition! (7)
Sleep Deprivation and Food Cravings
In addition to the myriad of detrimental consequences, restless sleep can significantly disrupt eating patterns. One study investigated the relationship between sleep deprivation and hunger. Study participants went one night without sleeping and found that they were more prone to snacking, and their hunger increased more than normal. (8)
Often, poor sleep isn’t limited to an isolated event; rather it can span over days, weeks, months, or a regular pattern of disruptive sleep. A continued cycle of poor sleep can eventually lead to weight gain. Many of my clients share that they reach for food when tired and could benefit from going to bed earlier or taking a brief power nap.
So, What is Good Sleep?
Now that we’ve covered that poor sleep, or the lack of sleep in general, can impact your brain and overall health, what even constitutes good sleep?
A good night’s sleep is when:
- You do not have trouble falling asleep
- You don’t find yourself tossing and turning at night
- You can sleep through the night
- You wake up feeling energized and ready to start the day
Specifically, four factors influence sleep quality, and these include:
- Sleep efficiency – the percentage of time a sleep while in bed
- Sleep duration – the amount of time you were asleep
- Sleep latency – the time it takes for you to fall asleep
- Wake after sleep onset – and the amount of time spent being awake (for example, how long are you awake before falling back asleep after using the bathroom). (9)
15 Strategies to Improve Sleep Quality
Improving sleep quality for overall well-being and brain health may require trying different strategies to find what works best for you. Here are multiple approaches you can take to experiment with sleep-improvement techniques with the goal of finding yourself tossing and turning less over time.
1. Keep a Sleep Journal
If you have been grappling with restless sleep at night, consider keeping a sleep journal. Take note of instances when you experience poor sleep. Record details such as preceding day’s events, your thoughts and emotions, or any noteworthy occurrences. Simple perception and journaling about it could improve your mood! (10)
Gradually, you may start to discern recurring patterns, behaviors, or circumstances contributing to your sleep difficulties. (9, 11)
2. Examine Your Eating Patterns
Your nutrition choices could be contributing to your restless sleep. For example, a high-quality diet with a rich intake of nuts, legumes, fruits, and unsaturated fat, and a lower intake of added sugar is associated with better sleep quality. This includes a higher percentage of time asleep while in bed, and less time to fall asleep. (12, 13)
Additionally, research shows following a Mediterranean diet pattern is associated with several indicators of better sleep quality and overall brain health. (14, 15) So, choosing a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, olives, and nuts, along with fish, may do more than only improve your sleep. (16)
On the flip side, your sleep patterns can also affect the food you choose to eat. Poor sleep often leads to grabbing quick, convenient, but often unhealthy options. Quality sleep provides the energy necessary for better planning of a healthy lifestyle. (12)
3. Be Aware of the Timing of your Beverage Intake
Caffeine, alcohol, and evening hydration can all impact your quality of sleep. Here are key things to be aware of.
Coffee and Sleep
Coffee is the most widely consumed nootropic (a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning). However, caffeine can prolong sleep latency, reduce total sleep time and sleep efficiency, and worsen perceived sleep quality. (17) Learning how caffeine influences your sleep can help you know your limit and what time of day to stop.
If you’re using coffee to enhance your focus and concentration but find that it’s hindering you from catching your zzz’s, consider incorporating the brain health supplement Neuriva into your routine. Neuriva Original contains Neurofactor®, which is a decaffeinated whole coffee cherry extract that has been shown to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a neuroprotein crucial for strengthening neuronal connections.
Additionally, it includes phosphatidylserine sourced from plants, which is a key phospholipid in the brain that has been demonstrated to support memory and learning.
Fluid Intake and Restless Sleep
Although staying hydrated throughout the day is essential for your body and brain health, watch your timing. In general, ease up on the liquids a few hours before bed.
Even if you don’t get up to use the restroom, you may not sleep well because of that feeling you have to go. Nocturia (getting up to pee) can disrupt sleep cycles, leading to daytime tiredness and lowered quality of life. (18)
Alcohol Intake and sleep
Alcohol may land you in bed earlier, falling asleep quicker. But then there’s an increase in sleep disruption in the second half of sleep. REM sleep is most likely reduced. REM sleep stimulates areas of the brain essential to learning and consolidates emotional memory. (19)
If you’ve missed out on sleep, the odds of reaching for caffeine or alcohol can increase, furthering the cycle of restless sleep. (9)
4. Embrace Sunlight
The brain has an internal “master-clock” that regulates our circadian rhythms, also known as our sleep cycles. (20) It maintains balance and sleep patterns through environmental cues, such as light. This is why people get tired after sundown and wake up with the sunshine. (21)
Research shows that daytime exposure to high-intensity natural light increases sleep duration and improves overall sleep quality. So, spending more time with sunshine is best for your sleep! (22,23)
5. Be A Nature-Lover
An adventurous way to get a good night’s sleep is to grab your tent and sleeping bag and head to the great outdoors! By sleeping under the stars, you can help correct your sleep cycle, which often gets disrupted by artificial lighting in work and home environments. (24)
Meanwhile, other research has shown that exposure to trees can have a calming effect, which could translate into better sleep if you find your mind racing.
In fact, the Japanese did a study on the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku, which means making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest. (25) When surrounded by nature, people tend to be less stressed, have a more relaxed pulse, and even have better blood pressure. (26) Camping trip, anyone?
6. Limit Artificial Light in the Evening
It’s a tech timeout! Unlike natural light, chronic exposure to artificial light can disrupt our precious sleep cycles: Television. Laptops. Smartphones. Kindles. Nooks. While we may adore having our beloved technology in the bedroom, it can ultimately delay our ability to fall asleep.
Put your devices to bed an hour before you do. Even as you begin to turn through those last pages or watch the last few minutes of an episode, dim down the digital to signal to your brain it’s getting darker and closer to bedtime.
How to Block out Artificial Light for Restorative Sleep
There is almost nothing more satisfying than a great night’s sleep. To keep your master clock working at its best, use these tips to reduce light in the bedroom!
- Close the door entirely. Turn out the hallway light! For some of us, a small amount of light seeping through the tiny space is enough to keep us from restful sleep – even when our eyes are shut! If a family member insists on hallway lighting, try using a motion detector hallway nightlight as a compromise.
- Try blackout shades. These help limit any light from street lamps, a neighbor’s home, or passing cars.
- Apply dark post-it notes. Black paper or tape works well on small light sources like outlets, smoke alarms, or alarm clocks.
- Set the mood and dim the lights. About 30 minutes before you begin to wind down, create a sleep-inducing ambiance. Dim the lights, make your room cozy, and find that perfect pillow-to-head ratio. Alert your internal clock to start winding down by dimming the lights!
If you’re concerned about the importance of kids’ sleep quality, check out Getting Enough Sleep May Help Prevent Weight Gain. For more inspiration for brain health, see How to Minimize Aging and Boost Brain Health.
7. Get Your Sleep Grove Going with Your Favorite Tunes
Listen to soothing music before bed, to start the calming and relaxing mood (nature sounds, acoustic covers, etc.). A systematic review and meta-analysis found that music can be a great way to improve sleep. (27)
The Neuriva Brain Gym App has a great “soothing soundscapes” feature that can make you feel zen as you get comfortable for the night. Download via the App Store and Google Play. It’s free for those who have purchased Neuriva.
8. Invest in Your Sleep Environment
Consider investing in a good-quality mattress. After all, you’ll be using it daily! Studies have found that purchasing a medium-firm mattress promotes the best sleep quality and decreases the risk of back pain. (28)
If your mattress is too firm, try a mattress topper that can conform and support your body helping you to stop tossing and turning at night. (29) If you run hot, look for a cooling mattress topper.
The right pillow can also help improve sleep quality. (30) A foam pillow with neck support is a must for me! Find what works for you and stick with it.
Sleep masks are an inexpensive method to block out light and distractions and may help improve sleep structure (on-rapid eye-movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep and timing. (31) Just get one that isn’t too tight and minimizes circulation. It could be your solution to stopping restless sleep.
The Right PJs
Ensure those PJs are comfy and keep your body at the right temperature – not too hot or cold! Clothing items that are too tight, have a rough material, or are too thick/thin could be getting in the way of you getting a good night’s rest.
9. Have Fun Creating a New Pre-Sleep Routine
Establish a bedtime ritual – whether reading a book, taking a warm bath, practicing yoga, or counting sheep. Your pre-sleep routine signals your body that it’s time to wind down and get ready for restful sleep. (32)
A warm bath at least an hour before bed also improves sleep quality and helps people sleep more deeply. The warmth of the water will heat your body and cool down once you get out, creating feelings of relaxation and tiredness. (33)
Adding some light lavender oil to your pillow or enjoying the aroma from the container can have a calming scent that relaxes your mind and body. Studies have shown that it can make you feel less stressed and anxious, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. (34)
Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read? A little light reading could help you fall asleep and give you something else to do before bed instead of going on your phone. To fall asleep faster, read in a room with dimmed lighting. (35)
10. Exercise Your Brain and Body
Being physically and mentally active may help combat restless sleep. An intellectually challenging or physically demanding day signals your body it needs rest. Most Americans are living a sedentary lifestyle and exercise can help improve sleep. (36,37)
Challenging Your Brain for Better Sleep (h3)
The Neuriva Brain Gym, has 14 Brain Gym games that help improve different areas of cognition with its five training programs. The app also includes insights and analysis on your brain scores and you can tracking your personal progression with the Brain Gym regimen.
Learn additional ways to keep your mind sharp.
Challenging Your Muscles for Better Sleep (h3)
You may have heard to avoid high-intensity exercise a couple of hours before sleeping. However, a recent study showed that this type of exercise done two to four hours before sleeping did not result in poor quality sleep or reduced sleep time. In fact, it did the opposite. (38) So, exercising before sleeping could be a great option for you!
Relax your muscles and your body with yoga before bedtime. (39) Research has shown that it can be an effective method to help people sleep. (40)
11. Take a Deep Breath
Breathing exercises are also a simple way to relax and wind down before bedtime—practice slow and meditative breaths. (41) See what works best for you. Many of my clients find it helpful to take a deep breath in for 5-6 seconds and exhale slowly for 6-7 seconds, then repeat a few times.
The Neuriva Brain Gym App also has a controlled breathing feature with calming music that can help you relax as you wind down for bed.
12. Apps and Wearable Sleep Trackers
A variety of mobile apps and wearables are created for keeping track of sleep, tips to get better sleep, and more. Smart rings, watches, or wearable trackers can help you keep track of your health, fitness, and sleep!
Some wearables include heart rate variability, temperature, and detailed sleep data, like REM, DEEP, sleep latency, and more—many of my clients like the app CALM and the wearables Oura, Whoop, and Apple watch.
Just don’t fall into the trap of obsessing about achieving perfect sleep. (42)
13. Invest in Sleep Gadgets
Red light therapy could be your new friend. Studies have shown that it can help people fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and increase sleep time. When used consistently and as recommended by a doctor, exposure to this red light may help reset your circadian rhythm and treat insomnia. (43)
Sound machines or white noise apps also help drown out any nocturnal noise. This tool is a sleep saver when traveling and staying with kids or in a hotel room next to late-night parties. Some of my clients like white noise apps because they can choose from an array of sounds to foster a quiet and relaxing environment perfect for sleep.
14. Reduce Noise Pollution
A snoring partner or a neighbor’s loud phone call may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Noise pollution negatively affects your sleep quality; deep sleep is how the body recuperates from its day. (44)
Earplugs are an inexpensive solution to minimizing noise pollution but won’t drown out noise entirely. Also, you need the right fit, especially if you’re a side sleeper, so a jabbing in your ear won’t disrupt your sleep.
15. Consider an Air Purifier
Air purifiers can serve a dual purpose. They can create white noise and decrease allergens, so you can breathe more easily. This may lead to less tossing and turning at night. Air purifiers are part of my recipe for a good night’s sleep.
Final Thoughts to Stop Tossing and Turning at Night
If you try all these techniques and are still having issues figuring out causes of restless sleep, talk with your doctor to rule out any medical causes.
Heartburn, diabetes, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain prescription medications may all disrupt sleep quality, so it’s important to rule these out.
So, there you have it, the ultimate sleep guide! Say goodbye to a poor night’s sleep, and hello to the land of sweet slumber. Now, let’s dim those lights, hit the pillow, and get ready for a night of deep, and restorative sleep.
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