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← 6 tips for better sleep

Want to not only fall asleep quickly but also stay asleep longer? Sleep scientist Matt Walker explains how your room temperature, lighting and other easy-to-fix factors can set the stage for a better night's rest.

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Showing Revision 5 created 09/02/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. We can all have a bad night of sleep
  2. and that's perfectly normal,
  3. but how could we try to improve
  4. both the quantity
    and the quality of our sleep?
  5. [Sleeping with Science]

  6. (Music)

  7. Here are six scientifically grounded tips

  8. for better sleep.
  9. The first tip is regularity.

  10. Go to bed at the same time
    and wake up at the same time.
  11. Regularity is king,
  12. and it will actually anchor your sleep
  13. and improve both
    the quantity and the quality,
  14. no matter whether
    it's the weekday or the weekend
  15. or even if you've had
    a bad night of sleep.
  16. And the reason is
    because deep within your brain,
  17. you actually have a master 24-hour clock.
  18. It expects regularity
  19. and works best under
    conditions of regularity,
  20. including the control
    of your sleep-wake schedule.
  21. Many of us use an alarm to wake up
  22. but very few of us use a to-bed alarm,
  23. and that's something that can be helpful.
  24. The next tip is temperature.

  25. Keep it cool.
  26. It turns out that your brain and your body
  27. need to drop their core temperature
    by about one degree Celsius
  28. or around two to three degrees Fahrenheit
  29. in order to initiate sleep
    and then to stay asleep.
  30. And this is the reason
    that you will always find it easier
  31. to fall asleep in a room
    that's too cold than too hot.
  32. So, the current recommendation
  33. is to aim for a bedroom temperature
  34. of around about 65 degrees Fahrenheit,
  35. or a little over 18 degrees Celsius.
  36. It sounds cold but cold it must be.
  37. The next tip is darkness.

  38. We are a dark-deprived society
  39. and, in fact, we need darkness
    specifically in the evening
  40. to trigger the release
    of a hormone called melatonin.
  41. And melatonin helps regulate
    the healthy timing of our sleep.
  42. In the last hour before bed,
  43. try to stay away from all
    of those computer screens
  44. and tablets and phones.
  45. Dim down half the lights in your house.
  46. You'd actually be quite surprised
  47. at how sleepy that can make you feel.
  48. If you'd like, you can wear an eye mask
  49. or you can have blackout shades
  50. and that will help best regulate
  51. that critical sleep hormone of melatonin.
  52. The next tip is walk it out.

  53. Don't stay in bed awake
    for long periods of time.
  54. And the general rule of thumb
  55. is if you've been trying to fall asleep
  56. and it's been 25 minutes or so,
  57. or you've woken up
    and you can't get back to sleep
  58. after 25 minutes,
  59. the recommendation is to get out of bed
  60. and go and do something different.
  61. And the reason is because your brain
  62. is an incredibly associative device.
  63. The brain has learned the association
  64. that the bed is this trigger
    of wakefulness,
  65. and we need to break that association.
  66. And by getting out of bed,
    you can go and do something else.
  67. Only return to bed when you're sleepy.
  68. And in that way, gradually,
  69. your brain will relearn the association
  70. that your bed is this place
    of sound and consistent sleep.
  71. The fifth tip is something
    that we've actually

  72. already spoken about
    in detail in this series,
  73. which is the impact
    of alcohol and caffeine.
  74. So, a good rule of thumb here
    is to try to stay away
  75. from caffeine in the afternoon
    and in the evening
  76. and certainly try
    not to go to bed too tipsy.
  77. The final tip: have a wind-down routine.

  78. I think many of us in the modern world,
  79. we expect to be able
    to dive into bed at night,
  80. switch off the light,
  81. and we think that sleep
    is also just like a light switch,
  82. that we should immediately
    be able to fall asleep.
  83. Well, unfortunately,
    sleep isn't quite like that
  84. for most of us.
  85. Sleep, as a physiological process,
  86. is much more similar to landing a plane.
  87. It takes time for your brain
    to gradually descend down
  88. onto the firm bedrock of good sleep.
  89. In the last 20 minutes before bed
    or the last half an hour,
  90. even the last hour,
  91. disengage from your computer
    and your phone
  92. and try to do something relaxing.
  93. Find out whatever works for you
  94. and when you have found it,
    stick to that routine.
  95. The last thing I should note

  96. is that if you are suffering
    from a sleep disorder,
  97. for example, from insomnia or sleep apnea,
  98. then these tips aren't necessarily
    going to help you.
  99. If I was your sports coach,
  100. I could give you all of these tips
    to improve your performance,
  101. but if you have a broken ankle,
  102. it's not going to make a difference.
  103. We have to treat the broken ankle first
  104. before we can get back to improving
    the quality of your performance.
  105. And it's the same way with sleep.
  106. So, if you think
    you have a sleep disorder,
  107. just go and speak with your doctor.
  108. That's the best piece of advice.
  109. Where do we stand, then,

  110. in all of this conversation about sleep?
  111. Well, I think the evidence is clear.
  112. We can think of sleep
    almost like a life-support system.
  113. In fact, some may even
    call sleep a super power.