A good night’s sleep is one of life’s most satisfying gifts. When you have enough sleep you feel refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the day. In contrast, when you do not get enough sleep you feel sluggish, depressed, annoyed, and weak. Therefore it is important to improve your sleep quality as much as possible.
Sleeping is also a way for the body to flush out waste that were generated during the day. Research has shown that fluids were actually coming out of areas of the brain during sleep which reinforces the theory that sleep is important to have a cleaner and clearer body.
An unusual quirk of sleep is that a few hours greatly affect its quality. For example, if I have slept for 6 or 6.5 hours, I experience the negative effects of lack of sleep. However, if I have slept for 7-8 hours I feel the positive effects, with 8 hours being the optimal length. This shows that lacking an hour or even 30 minutes of sleep greatly affects how we feel about the quality of our sleep.
It is with this fact that I know it is possible to enjoy a good night’s sleep with only a small change in our sleeping habits. As an hour of sleep greatly improves the result (given that you have a total of 7-8 hours), we can think of ways on how to get that extra hour of sleep.
Perhaps the most obvious way to get more sleep is to sleep earlier! If you need to wake up early for work, then the only solution is to adjust when you are going to bed. Some people have trouble sleeping immediately while in bed. Unless you have a chronic sleep problem, some ways on how you can sleep better at night are:
- reduce or eliminate viewing a computer or mobile screen at night
- reduce or eliminate caffeine intake in the afternoon
- try not to eat heavy snacks during night time and allow a few hours for your body to digest your dinner
- get a nice warm bath or shower to help you relax
- make sure the lights are dim and does not make you feel alert
Sleep on a regular schedule
Another way to improve sleep quality is to try and sleep on a regular schedule. For example, we want to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am. On the first few days, you may find it hard to sleep at 10pm as this still feels too early for you. When this happens you will actually not get enough sleep as you still need to wake up at 6am. On the following night though, you will find yourself tired and sleepy already at 10pm (beacause of the previous night) and this will help you go to sleep faster. Doing this for several days will allow your body to adjust to your sleeping schedule and eventually you will naturally feel sleepy at 10pm.
The dangers of bright screens at night
When you look at your computer or your mobile device, the backlight (“blue light”) actually affects the quality of your sleep. Due to the bright screens where our eyes are fixated, our brain thinks that it is still daytime and does not release the chemicals that sends signals that it is time to sleep. Thus when we go to bed we find that it is quite difficult to get to sleep immediately (unless we are very tired or sleep-deprived which is a separate issue by itself).
There are several academic research regarding the effects of blue light in sleep quality. Light is actually useful for humans to function during the day: it keeps us awake, responsive, and alert. At night however, exposure to this same light can adversely affect our internal monitoring systems.
During the evening our body releases a chemical called melatonin which tells our body that it is already night and prepares us for rest and sleep. Exposure to blue wavelengths of light suppresses the release of melatonin. The effect of this is that we do not feel sleepy as the body thinks it is still daytime. Thus in the following morning our bodies do not get enough rest and sleep and this also leads to other health problems.
There are software programs that can be installed in the computer or your mobile device to remove this “blue light” and replace it with a warmer tone. One popular example is f.lux, which is a free program that supports multiple operating systems. It automatically activates during the evening and adjusts your screen brightness.
I find these kinds of programs useful and important in my daily activities, as it reduces eye strain for me even if I am on my computer in the evenings. I also no longer find it hard to sleep at night compared to before I started using the program.
On your first try you will find it weird as your screen goes into a pinkish or brownish color, but as your eyes adjust you will find it very pleasing and gentle to the eyes. Other people who look at your computer screen may also wonder if your display is broken due to the brownish, dimmer screen. This is a good chance for you to introduce these software programs to them and encourage them to improve their sleep and reduce eye strain as well.
Here are some examples of software programs and applications that removes the blue light from your screen. This is not an exhaustive list though and I focus more on free and open-source solutions.
- f.lux – Windows, Linux, Mac (https://justgetflux.com/)
- Redshift – Windows (http://jonls.dk/redshift/)
- Twilight – Android (http://twilight.urbandroid.org/)
- Red Moon – Android (https://github.com/LibreShift/red-moon)
I recommend installing these programs both on your laptop and your mobile device and observe the results after a few days.
I hope these ideas will help you improve the quality of your sleep and also help save your eyes from strain and injury caused by too much exposure to bright displays. In today’s age, we are using more and more mobile devices throughout the day and even at bed. These technologies provide us with convenience, entertainment and portability that is not even thought of decades ago. However, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility, so it is up to us to make sure that we take care of our eyes and our body as well.