4 Scientifically-Proven Ways To Get Quality Sleep
Several months back, we discussed 4 Scientifically-Proven Ways To Wake Up Feeling Refreshed based on The Stanford Method for Ultimate Sound Sleep by Dr. Seiji Nishino, the head of the Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology Lab at Stanford University. Aside from helpful tips on how to feel fresh and energized in the morning, Dr. Nishino shares with us how to train our bodies and minds to achieve quality sleep amidst tight deadlines and busy schedules.
1. Take a bath before bed.
Just to recap: the difference between sleep and wakefulness can be attributed to shifts in your internal body temperature. Generally speaking, when you are asleep, your internal temperature is low due to low organ activity. When you are awake, your internal body temperature is high due to high organ activity.
A good way to facilitate quality sleep is to increase your external temperature, or skin temperature. Why? Because your body, craving homeostasis, tries to balance this out by decreasing its internal body temperature, inducing sleep. Though there are many ways we can trigger our skin temperature to rise, Dr. Nishino suggests we do this by taking a hot bath for about 15 minutes. Steeping in a 40°C bath for this amount of time causes our internal body temperature to rise about 0.5°C on average. It takes about 90 minutes for our internal body temperature to recover from a 0.5°C increase, which coincides with our first circadian cycle. Though exercising is also a good way to trigger an internal body temperature increase, the resulting brain stimulation can inhibit quality sleep.
2. Wear breathable pajamas.
As mentioned above, quality sleep is induced by a gradual decrease in internal body temperature. Though some of us may be inclined to bundle up in heavy blankets or wear thick pajamas to bed especially during the cold winter months, the dense fabric in both prevents our bodies from cooling off as needed throughout the night. Alas, the residual heat trapped in our bodies leads to low quality sleep. Instead of wrapping yourself in layers of fleece, invest in a breathable pajama set and adjust the room temperature to a comfortable but slightly cooler temperature. Whatever you do, do not wear socks to bed!
3. Maintain a consistent sleep environment.
Have you ever slept in an an unfamiliar place – say, a friend's house or a hostel in a foreign country – and woken up feeling groggy and sleep-deprived? When placed in an unfamiliar sleep environment, the brain tends to maintain a certain level of wakefulness to protect us from predators and other unforeseen circumstances. This logic can be carried over to your home as well. Make sure your sleep environment at home is devoid of variables like different pillows or an ever-changing stack of items on your nightstand. The brain is much more at ease when it registers a familiar bed – made up, ideally! – in a familiar corner with familiar furnishings.
4. Embrace monotony.
Interestingly, Dr. Nishino states that the "blue light" emitted from LCD screens doesn't have as far-reaching implications as many studies suggest. In fact, one must stare very hard with the screen right up to their face for the "blue light" alone to have any effect on sleep. What does inhibit sleep, however, is the brain stimulation that occurs when many of us consume whatever is on said screen. Much like the effects of an inconsistent sleep environment, the brain maintains a certain level of wakefulness after it has been triggered or stimulated in any way.
In other words, one must embrace monotony to get quality sleep. Have you ever felt sleepy while driving on the highway or doing laundry? Introduce the same level of monotony to your nighttime rituals. Instead of falling asleep to Netflix, take a moment to prep your clothes for tomorrow morning or indulge in some skincare. Instead of scrolling through Instagram, pick up a book. Do make sure, however, that the book isn't a mystery novel, thriller or otherwise too engaging. When it comes to achieving quality sleep, a slightly boring book is actually your best friend.