How to Sleep Comfortably?

Sleep is commonly considered as a type of brain activity that helps to recover and reenergize the mind and body. Sleep researchers generally state that humans spend one third of their lives sleeping. A good night sleep is characterized by the absence of voluntary movements, synced with biological clock of the body, specific postures that minimizes sensory stimulation and regulated by internal mechanisms of body with respect to its surroundings.1 A comfortable sleep at night contributes to multiple positive health outcomes in a healthy individual. The quality, quantity, timing and duration of sleep are considered as the critical determinants of health. Sleep plays a vital role in metabolic and emotional regulation, performance, memory consolidation with restoring mental, physical health and general well-being. Insufficient or disturbed sleep patterns has major health consequences in adults, adolescents and elderly on immune system dysfunction, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders and impaired cognitive performance. A wide range of literature on sleep and sleeping habits suggests various lifestyle modifications to improve the quantity and quality of sleep and overall quality of life.2

Implementing all the changes at once can be overwhelming for most of the people. One should try to start with small changes at home and work to carve a way towards the healthier sleep and lifestyle. This article mainly focuses on the ways to get a comfortable sleep with various internal and environmental factors.

Here are our top 10 tips to get a super comfy sleep:

1. Optimize your sleep schedule

Try to sleep and get up around same time everyday: Over the years, it has been studied that some behavioral activities can cause insufficient and poor quality sleep at night. Sleep is mainly regulated by the circadian rhythm and the daily behaviors to entrain the body to maintain the cycles of sleep and wakefulness. It has been How to sleep comfortably 2020 suggested that having a regular bedtime schedule can help in early onset and achieving a good quality sleep. Even an alteration of one night in the sleeping schedule can induce difficulties with sleep initiation and maintenance. Kang JH and Chen SC (2009)3 studied the effects of irregular bedtime schedule on sleep quality, fatigue and daytime sleepiness. They observed a significant decrease in average sleep time per day with irregular sleeping behaviors in young adults. In another case study the relation of consistent bedtime schedule i.e. going to bed and getting up everyday at the same time, reported a shorter time between the onset of bedtime and initiation of sleep. Choosing a bedtime when you normally feel tired and sleepy helps in getting enough sleep and set your body to wake up naturally without an alarm.4

Optimize time between dinner and bed: In case you feel sleepy after dinner way before bedtime, its promising to get up and do some activity wash dishes, go for a walk, make a call or prepare clothes for the next morning. Sleeping immediately after dinner way before bedtime can cause interruptions in sleep later at night and trouble going back to sleep.

Avoid sleeping in even on weekends: Many individuals tend to delay bed time and sleep in later on weekends to catch up the accumulated sleep loss from the hectic working week. It has been associated with resulted misalignment in the circadian rhythm, fatigue and poor cognitive performance in the following week. In concurrence with the above observations, a study investigated the effect of delaying of wake up time for two weekend morning as compared to habitual weekday waking up time and found a significant variations in onset of sleep, greater fatigue and sleepiness on Monday and Tuesday of the following week. Hence, it is important not to sleep in late on weekends to prevent the so called Monday morning blues.5

2. Create an ambient environment for sleep

A peaceful ambient environment sends a powerful signal to the brain to lay down, relax, release the stress and slowly dive into the sleep. Even small c How to sleep comfortably 2020 hanges in the room environment can make big difference to the quality and duration of sleep.

Keep it cool in the room: Thermal environment along with other factors such as health status, dietary habits, timing of sleep, emotional states are primary causes for the sleep disturbance.6,7 The circadian rhythm is closely related to the core temperature of the body, it has been suggested that a rapid decline in the core temperature has been documented to increase the likelihood of sleep initiation and facilitating an entry into the deeper stages of sleep. The core temperature of the body is highly influenced by the environmental changes in the room. A mean temperature range between 18 to 26° C in the living spaces is recommended for the good quality and sound sleep.6

Keep the noises to minimum: Noise is one factor that can seriously affect the sleep pattern. In healthy sleepers, room acoustics highly influence the microstructure of sleep. Reduction in noise levels and maintaining an ambient noise levels during night sleep helps to increase the amount of deep sleep and reduce the events of night time arousals.8

3. Manage your light exposure during day and night

Light is considered How to sleep comfortably 2020 as one of the key factor in maintaining the daily rhythm of sleep patterns. For optimal sleep duration, the timing of sleep must synchronize with the circadian rhythm of the body. Daylight is considered as one of the prime factor in regulating the daily rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. In humans, exposure to sunlight during the day helps in production of sleep inducing hormone, melatonin at night. Insufficient day time exposure or exposure to artificial light at night alters body’s normal functioning, misalignment of circadian rhythm and disturbed quality of sleep.9

  • During day

Get some sunlight in the morning: Exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning helps in early production of melatonin at night and facilitates the entry into sleep more easily at night. Serotonin, the precursor of melatonin hormone is also affected by the daylight exposure, normally produced during the day; serotonin is converted into melatonin at night. High levels of serotonin also help in more positive, calm and focused outlook.10

Let some natural light inside the room: As discussed, there are benefits of natural light on improved quality and quantity of sleep. It is beneficial to keep the curtains and blinds open during the daytime. Let as much as natural light into your home and work space. Another method to soak some sun during the day is to take a break outside or walk your dog during the daytime instead of night.

  • During night

Reduce the exposure to artificial light: The exposure to artificial light at night increases the physiological and subjective levels of alertness, which influences the onset and quality of sleep. High intensity, prolonged duration and exposures later in the evening have greater effects on the sleep architecture. Reducing the exposure to bright How to sleep comfortably 2020 light in the late evening and use of heavy curtains or shades to block light or using a sleep mask could help getting a quality sleep.11

Minimize the screen time: In the modern era, the use of light emitting electronic devices for reading, writing, communication and entertainment has increased significantly. The use of light emitting devices immediately before sleep prolongs the time to fall asleep, decreases the production of sleep inducing melatonin hormone, delays the circadian rhythm, reduces the amount of sleep and impairs the alertness in the following morning.9 It is beneficial to minimize the use of light emitting screens 1-2 hours before the bedtime. Reading from a conventional book is always a better idea than reading from a backlit electronic device.12

4. Workout your way to sleep

Regular and moderate exercise helps to improve the sleep at night and performance during the day. For a better sleep, the right time of exercise is as important as the regularity of the exercise. Exercise enhances the metabolism, elevates body temperature and stimulates the anabolic hormones such as cortisol in body. Exercise during the morning timings or afternoon helps in improving sleep but exercising close to bed time can interfere with the sleep pattern.13

5. Eat and drink the smart way

With the recent developments on proposed relation between the sleep and obesity, there is an emerging interest in the impact of d How to sleep comfortably 2020 ietary habits, type of food, meal timing and energy intakes on quality of sleep.14

Limit heavy meals before bed: Avoiding meals just before bedtime is a common practice but meal timing is considered as a risk factor in the disruption of sleep. Studies have reported that consuming heavy meals just before bed can lead to indigestion, acid reflux and disturbed sleep at night. It is advisable to keep a gap of at least 2-3 hours between the last meal and the bedtime.14

Cut back on sugar and high glycemic index foods: In relation to sleep, the composition of meals is also as important as the timing of the meal. Studies have reported that consumption of high glycemic meals in the evening are generally associated with long sleep onset, decreased sleep efficiency and increased waking episodes after the sleep onset.15

Avoid alcohol before bed-time: Studies have reported that in low to moderate doses, alcohol initially facilitate sleep. However, chronic use of alcohol near bedtime can ultimately disrupt the quality of sleep.16

Limit caffeine near the bedtime: caffeine is one of the most commonly consumed stimulant and has profound effects on sleep quality. Caffeine reaches its peak in 30-75 mins in plasma.17 Studies have reported that large intakes of caffeine are associated with disrupted sleep and daytime sleepiness on the following day. Caffeine in regulated manner helps in restoring low levels of energy during the daytime performance. However, the consumption of caffeine should be reduced to minimal at night or near the bedtime.18

6. Don’t lay awake in bed

How to sleep comfortably 2020

If you are not able to fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of lying down, it is advisable to get up and start doing some activity. This is called as stimulus control. Move to a comfortable place, try to relax, listen to calming music or engage in some relaxing activities. Avoid engaging in stimulating activities like using a phone or compute or watching tv or instead try to read the old fashioned way.19

7. Unclutter your mind and relax

Sleep disturbances at night are one of the most common health problem in the modern era. We often find it difficult to sleep or regulate sleeping-waking cycles. Residual stress and tension from your day makes it difficult to sleep well at night. The over stimulated brain during the day, is harder to calm down and difficult to sleep. Practicing mindful meditation or listening to calming music or performing some light breathing exercises can actually help in unwinding the stressed mind and eases a way to fall asleep.20

8. Use a premium mattress and a comfortable pillow

How to sleep comfortably 2020

The effect of sleeping system i.e. the optimum mattress, bed and pillow is as important as maintaining an ambient environment in the room to improve the quality of sleep. Studies have reported the role of a comfortable mattress and a bed in maintaining the natural curvature of spine and proper distribution of body pressure, which helps in improving the quality of sleep.21 Night time sleeping posture and stability of neck is strongly related to a good quality sleep. A poor cervical support increases the mechanical stresses on cervical spine structure and can cause pain and stiffness in the neck resulting in deprivation in sleep quality. An optimum and comfortable pillow under the neck helps the spine and neck to be in a neutral position. Thus minimizing the risk of pain and stiffness in the muscles and promoting a high quality sleep.22

9. Schedule the power naps

A nap is commonly known as a short daytime sleep or power nap. Several studies have documented the benefits of napping in improving performance, reducing fatigue, enhancing the mood and as a counter mechanism for the sleep debt. Taking a nap too late in the evening or for too long can have adverse effect on the quality of night sleep. It is very important to schedule the napping post- lunch around 2-3 pm for about 20- 30 minutes.23

10. Shower, comfort clothing and a good night’s sleep

The importance of core bod How to sleep comfortably 2020 y temperature and thermoregulation in achieving good quality sleep is well known. A slight increase in the distal skin temperature (~1°C) helps in improving the sleep latency and promoting deeper stages of sleep.24 Similar sleep promoting effects were observed by passive heating of whole body or foot bathing effects at 40°C before bedtime.25 Another factor that influences the thermal comfort in health individuals is the type and fabric of sleepwear. Different fabrics allow varying rates of heat and moisture transfer. As each fabric has its inherent thermal insulation, sleepwear made from different fibers have differential thermal effects on body and can potentially alter the sleep quality. Natural fabrics such as cotton for summers and wool for winters have significant effect on the quality of sleep. Thus, it is safe to say that lukewarm shower, comfortable clothing before bedtime helps in improving onset and quality of sleep.26


How to sleep comfortably 2020

Sleep is a brain activity that helps brain and body recover and energize. Getting enough good quality sleep at right times and in ambient conditions not only reduces the physical fatigue but also refreshes the mind and improves the cognitive performance. Quality and quantity of sleep is influenced by multiple factors varying from internal and behavioral to environmental. To conclude, sleep is a multi-factorial activity induced by the internal and external factors. Training the body and mind to the small changes in behavioral and environmental aspects can highly influence the duration and quality of sleep.


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