Fitting in everything you want to do each day is a struggle that often leads to less-than-optimal sleep. It’s easy to disregard sleep’s necessity when you aren’t awake for it, but it’s more important than you’d think. And the type of sleep you get is paramount — even if it’s enough, it may not be the proper kind. Look no further for some improvements you can make to get more of that precious REM sleep.
1. Get Checked for Sleep Disorders
Not everything that interrupts the body’s rest is in our control — especially sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and sleepwalking. And the frustrating part is that they can be impossible to discover, especially if you don’t recognize the signs while awake. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, you can use an app to monitor your patterns and surroundings at night. Just turn one on and go to sleep, and you’ll be closer to an answer in the morning.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning to your doctor and possibly getting a referral for a sleep specialist. A doctor can test you thoroughly, diagnose you, and prescribe medications or recommend devices, if needed. If you get a sleep apnea diagnosis, for instance, your doctor can prescribe the best CPAP mask for your needs.
2. Throw Out Your Old Pillow
Don’t underestimate the role your pillow plays in sleep quality and even more so in the health of your neck. Maybe you’re using an old, flat pillow that you never got around to replacing. You could be causing yourself pain without knowing it. The ideal pillow is one that stays fluffy for longer while also molding to your position. Do some research to find the best material pillow to support your sleep, starting with how you lay in bed.
A stiffer pillow material is better for side sleepers due to their neck location in comparison to their shoulders. Any pillow that maintains your proper spinal alignment is good for back sleepers as well. Some materials, like memory foam, are easily adaptable to any position at any time, but they may simply not be comfortable. It might take a while to test, but once you find the best pillow, it’ll be worth it.
3. Update Your Mattress
Mattresses are expensive but are even more important than pillows in providing a comfortable, healthy night’s sleep. You can use the same one for years, but it will lessen in quality after a while. The upside to this is, the next one you invest in will more than rectify that cost in sleep quality. The more research you do and the more confident you are in your purchase, the longer it’ll last.
Every mattress you own will eventually need to be replaced. It may become less firm, develop uncomfortable indentations, or sag — all of which can cause more pain in the future. You could perhaps find a high-density foam that keeps its shape for longer to ensure long-lasting support.
4. Reduce Disruptive Sound & Light
Even if sound or light haven’t noticeably affected your sleep, they are scientifically proven to disrupt your circadian rhythm. You typically won’t get the same level of sleep if there are any distractions no matter how minuscule. The optimal level — REM sleep, in which dreams appear — only occurs when your body feels safe in its surroundings. Light and sound aren’t dangerous, but to the brain, they signal that there may be a reason to stay alert.
There are plenty of products on the market to help easily combat these disturbances, the most relevant being blackout curtains. These curtains are designed to block out light, and as a result of their heaviness, they help with sound too. You can also wear a sleep mask or close the blinds to reduce light disturbances. For sound blocking, you can also get earplugs or a sound machine.
5. Keep a Consistent Schedule
Your body is a highly complicated machine that needs to be maintained. Think about it like a restaurant appliance or the engine of an airplane. Food service equipment needs to be cleaned on a consistent basis to stay efficient and safe from contamination. The same goes for the airplane engine — it must be checked even more frequently to ensure everyone’s safety.
Like this equipment, you have to take care of your body regularly to keep it operating at 100%. It needs to get used to a certain sleep routine, so it can learn how to refuel most efficiently. For example, if you sleep strictly at 10 p.m. every night, your body will learn and go into REM sleep faster. It quickly notices that, once 10 p.m. hits, you’ll be asleep until your wake-up time and can rest for that duration.
Sleep is truly a team effort between your conscious and unconscious processes and improves the more they cooperate. If you consciously create a safe, comfortable, distraction-free environment, your unconscious mind will be able to rest. So if you notice that you’re having issues getting a good night’s sleep, look at your surroundings. How can you make it easier to feel safe and comfortable? Answering this question is the key to peaceful slumber.
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