A Few Tips on Improving Sleep Quality

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Jun 28, 2024

In our fast-paced society, sleep is often the first casualty. Yet, quality sleep is crucial for overall well-being. 

There are a multitude of topics that could be covered regarding the interesting nature of sleep habits. For example, (i) there is no evolutionary reason to explain why most species need sleep, as while sleeping they are completely vulnerable to predators, or (ii) how 'morning people' and 'night owls' were humanity’s way of 'protecting the tribe,' ensuring there was always someone vigilant. But in this article, we’ll share a few tips on how to improve sleep quality.1

1. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule

One of the simplest ways to improve our rest is to establish a consistent sleep schedule. That is, going to bed and waking up at the same time every night, even on weekends (I know it’s hard, but it truly helps)! This consistency helps regulate the body's internal clock and allows the body to fully recover from the day. 

As thoroughly explained by Matthew Walker in his book Why we sleep1, consistency can improve both sleep duration and sleep quality.  This routine enhances the synchronization of circadian rhythms (a fancy way to refer to our body’s “internal clock”), reducing sleep disturbances and improving overall health. 

Basically, a night’s sleep is broken down into different stages (most commonly referred to as wake, N1, N2, N3, and REM), so if we go to bed later than usual, our bodies will ‘miss’ the early stages which, as proven by Dr. Walker’s research, are not really ‘recovered’ or ‘made up’ by sleeping in.

You can incorporate some nudges to establish your new sleep routine. Cues in your environment, like light pollution, will signal that it's time to be active and awake. To combat this, turn off all lights and devices at the same time every day (and it doesn’t have to be unreasonably early!). It will likely be challenging at the beginning but soon it could become part of your status quo.

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2. Reduce Screen Time Before Bed

Limiting exposure to screens at least one hour before bedtime can significantly improve sleep quality. 

Basically, the human eye is not good at blocking blue light, so almost all of it passes straight through to the back of your retina (which helps your brain translate light into images). While this is really great for watching movies or TikTok dances, blue light actually messes with your body’s ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a hormone called melatonin (which is the stuff in our bodies that makes us sleepy). So the more reels you watch, the less sleepy you feel, but not because you’re resting!2

So, what can you do about it? Well, the simplest way to lower your exposure to artificial blue light is to shut down or ignore all your gadgets well before bedtime and maybe take a good 10 to 20 minutes to meditate or read a good book!

3. Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment

Believe it or not, some environmental characteristics can improve the way you take advantage of the hours spent on top of your mattress. 

As Dr. Walker explains in his book, a dark quiet environment doesn’t just allow you to fall asleep faster; it improves the overall quality of sleep. If you can, make the room as dark as possible by eliminating all light sources (ie. no night lights nor slightly open shades). Try to make it as easy on the ears as possible; I know, the street can be noisy at times, so minimize disturbance by using a white noise machine to block out any unwanted sound. Also, maintain a comfortable room temperature, as this is crucial for good sleep (although that is a more obvious one)!

Conclusion 

Implementing some easy changes to your evening routine could make a significant difference in how you feel when you wake up and, in the long run, can positively impact your overall health and well-being. By trying to create a clear sleep routine, lowering your exposure to blue light before bed, and creating an adequate environment, you could see significant positive changes!

References

  1. Walker, M. P. (2018). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 
  2. Salamon, M., & Robinson, J. (2022, November 16). How to manage Blue Light for better sleep. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-blue-light

About the Author

Hector Alvarado's portrait

Hector Alvarado

Hector Alvarado is a Director at The Decision Lab. He holds a Masters in Applied Statistics from the University of Oxford, an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelors in Actuarial Science. He is very interested in applying insights and his past experience to generating meaningful impact for vulnerable populations around the globe. Prior to joining The Decision Lab, Hector worked about 5 years as a Private Equity investor in the Infrastructure Sector in LATAM and over 6 years as a Management Consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. Hector has lead large transformation, growth strategy and integration projects in the Pharma, Consumer Goods and Banking Industries both in North and Latin America.

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