10 tips on how to REALLY get a good nights sleepadmin
Too little sleep makes us stupid, fat and sick, says science. Ten strategies to take countermeasures.
The results of the online survey “How does Austria sleep?”, which has been running since World Sleep Day 2018, speak for themselves: 46 percent of those surveyed said they had problems with their sleep, i.e. they were either unable to fall asleep or stayed asleep. Fears about the future and worries about our health are currently making the problem even bigger. In any case, the effects are manifold: If you don’t sleep enough, you are not only less efficient, you remember things less well, have ravenous appetites and therefore live unhealthily, but you also damage your immune system and shorten your life with this chain reaction. That sounds dramatic – and it is, because our body urgently needs sleep to survive.
Every living thing sleeps. During sleep our body can recover, the brain processes the information of the day and our immune system can run undisturbed. Manuel Schabus is a leading sleep researcher in Austria and in his laboratory for sleep, cognition and consciousness research ( sleepscience.at ) deals with all topics related to the complex mechanism of sleep. “Sleep is absolutely vital. Studies show that our immune system works less well after just one night of disturbed sleep. It has even been shown that people with disturbed sleep produce fewer antibodies after vaccinations,” says Schabus.
A real sleep disorder can therefore become a health problem – but not every bad sleeper actually has a disorder. So when should you start getting help in a sleep lab? Schabus: “If I have a problem falling asleep or staying asleep at least three times a week for a month and above all experience limitations in my everyday life, then that is the definition of insomnia. But that’s really purely subjective. That’s enough for the diagnosis Feeling of the individual. It’s not unusual if you occasionally have a bad night’s sleep because you’re experiencing a stressful situation at work or in your private life.” Nevertheless, everyone can and should do something to improve their own sleep hygiene and quality. And some of it isn’t that difficult.
1. Turn down the heating
“In a cool room, our brain can relax more easily, it’s easier to fall asleep,” says Schabus. There is also a natural mechanism of the body: “If we’re too cold while sleeping, we can automatically cover ourselves without waking up. But if it’s too hot and you sweat, there’s nothing you can do but push the blanket away. It’s still there hot, we wake up automatically.” This is another reason why it is so difficult to fall asleep on tropical nights with temperatures above 20 °C outdoors. Even in winter, the ideal would be a room temperature of no more than 16 to 18 °C and no unnecessary sources of light or noise in the room.
2. Not late dinner
Eating a lot before bed and drinking alcohol is about the worst thing you can do to get a good night’s sleep. No heavy meals two to four hours before bedtime and above all, little sugar! help you fall asleep and, above all, stay asleep.
3. Light off
Our body is very sensitive to light – even the smallest light source can disrupt our natural sleep rhythm. “We’re very sensitive to light because it disrupts our natural circadian rhythm. Light regulates the body’s release of hormones like melatonin. When it hits our eyelids, it signals our body that it’s day and wakes it from the deepest sleep phase A dark bedroom can be the first step to good sleep,” says Schabus. Getting up would also be easier for us with natural light. You can do that e.g. This can also be achieved, for example, with a light alarm clock: This emits increasing amounts of light before it rings and wakes us up much more gently, since it does not wake us directly from a deep sleep phase. This can be especially true for people
4. Cell phone, tablet and TV out of the bedroom!
Easier said than done, but almost any technique in the bedroom is counterproductive. Devices such as computers, tablets and mobile phones suggest activity to the body, and the content of videos or social media keeps our brain busy. So if you already have problems falling asleep anyway, you should read analog or find a different kind of evening routine. The small technical exception are humidifiers and cooling devices: “Basically, we sweat a lot at night, so the air in the bedroom is actually not too dry. But if you have the feeling that you wake up with a dry throat, or if it’s very hot in summer, speak up nothing against humidifiers and temperature regulation – as long as the devices don’t make too much noise,” says Schabus.
5. Establish healthy sleep hygiene
“Going to bed at regular times, sleeping seven to nine hours a night, not going to bed excited and avoiding nonsensical, counterproductive behavior”: According to Manuel Schabus, these are the key points of healthy sleep hygiene. During sleep, information and memory processing takes place in the brain – if you learn or read new things shortly before going to bed, the head continues to work during sleep. If the last thing you saw was murder and manslaughter on television, that also puts a strain on your sleep. Coffee and nicotine are also counterproductive to falling asleep. Dimmed light signals to the body that night is falling. Rituals and a beautiful environment can also help – see point 6.
6. Create a relaxed atmosphere
Milk with honey, herbal sleeping pills, sleeping tea or a lavender spray for the upholstery? Scientifically, this has no effect. Big but: It still works. “In sleep medicine there is hardly any reliable data on this, but from experience in the treatment of sleep disorders we know that these classic remedies sometimes help well because they make people feel good. The majority of these effects are at least partly a placebo – but the placebo effect is also a real effect and effective on a biological level,” says the sleep researcher. Finding a ritual for yourself can therefore be part of healthy sleep hygiene. By using a lavender upholstery spray daily, conditioning yourself to the scent of lavender being associated with sleep,
7. Find out if exercise is good for you
In general, it is often recommended not to do any sport before going to bed because that activates the body too much – but this also differs from person to person: “Some people feel exhausted after sport, can reduce stress and thus sleep better; others still have heart palpitations hours later,” says Schabus. According to him, you have to find out individually whether sport excites or calms you down. In principle, nothing speaks against sport in the evening.
8. No naps
Yes, they exist: people who can simply sleep anywhere and anytime. This is very healthy, but can become a problem at night. If you can’t fall asleep in the evening or wake up more often at night, you should skip the nap. Incidentally, waking up at night has nothing to do with the often-cited internal organ clock: There are no times during the night that you can explicitly assign to organ functions, because fortunately organs work all the way through. What changes above all is the time which hormones are released, for example more melatonin or more cortisol. However, this is part of healthy sleep and should not wake up a normal sleeper,” says the sleep researcher.
9. Don’t let it stress you out
Individual sleep needs change over time. This is perfectly normal. If you wake up often during the night but still feel good the next day or get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep thanks to an afternoon nap, you shouldnt worry. Manuel Schabus: “The nap is part of the sleep I get. Of course, if I take a nap in the evening I have less pressure to sleep and I wake up more often and maybe earlier. That’s quite normal as long as you feel good during the day.” Many people need less sleep as they get older: “For many people, the physical and mental stress decreases with age. You have fewer cognitive tasks and less stress in everyday life – this is one of the reasons why you need less sleep.”
10. Accept help
“People should pay attention to their sleep and not skimp on it because they think that’s the easiest way. That’s a fallacy,” warns sleep researcher Schabus. Anyone who regularly sleeps poorly and is not productive during the day or has the feeling of not being able to concentrate should definitely seek help. A lack of sleep not only damages the immune system, but also other people: It has been proven that lack of sleep causes more accidents on the road or at work, one becomes emotionally unstable and irritable.