Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the recommended hours of sleep per night is between seven to nine. We’re told over and over again that this is the quantity of sleep that we should be aiming for, but what is often overlooked is the quality of these resting hours.
While giving yourself enough time to rest is without a doubt very important, we won’t be reaping the full benefit of our sleep if we focus only on quantity and some experts say that the quality is equally, if not more, important.
“We found that poor sleep quality is linked to worse functioning regardless of how long a person has slept for,” said Dr Yu Sun Bin, a research fellow from the University of Sydney, who conducted a study with researches from Finland and Norway.
“In fact, people who sleep six or fewer hours functioned just as well as those who sleep six to eight hours, provided their sleep was of good quality.”
The research found that those with poor quality sleep of eight plus hours had the poorest functioning overall.
Consider the way you feel after a full nine hours of light, restless sleep, versus waking up after a solid six hours of undisturbed sleep.
To get the most out of your sleep, your body needs to fully go through sleep cycles, which typically range from 90 minutes to two hours. If we’re not staying asleep long enough or sleeping deep enough to complete these cycles, we won’t get the proper rest we need, no matter how long we’re in bed.
So, how do you maximize your sleep and get a proper night’s rest? We’ve all heard the usual tips like avoiding caffeine later in the day and minimizing screen time before bed, so we did a little more digging to find some advice you may not have come across before.
Check out the following tips to help you get the most out of your nightly slumber.
The 4- 7- 8 Breath
Do you ever notice that when you go to sleep worrying you seem to have an almost worry-filled sleep? You may have bad dreams, find you’re tossing and turning, or be clenching your teeth, and you wake up feeling tense and uneasy.
You can help to reduce this by getting yourself into a calm state before you drift off, and for this we recommend the 4- 7- 8 Breath. This breathing pattern is one of the top recommended breathing techniques for inducing sleep, and it helps to shift the body out of sympathetic mode (i.e. fight or flight) and into parasympathetic mode (i.e. rest and digest) so your body will be relaxed and out of stress mode prior to falling asleep.
You can do this technique either sitting or lying down.
- Take a slow inhale to the count of four.
- Gently hold the breath to a count of seven.
- Slowly exhale to the count of eight.
- Repeat this pattern 3-4 times.
To ensure that you’re not inadvertently causing more stress with this breath, practice easy and relaxed inhales, holds, and exhales, rather than trying to force it or work too hard.
If you have trouble falling asleep, Yoga Nidra is a great practice to help you drift off and enter a deep state of relaxation. Also known as yogic sleep, this practice is a guided meditation that takes you through your “five layers of self,” and helps you to unwind, release tensions, and ready for mind and body for sleep.
Yoga Nidra can be practiced at any time during the day to help you relax and rejuvenate, but using it before bed is an option if you have trouble falling asleep. It’s said that half an hour of yoga nidra is equal to 2-4 hours of regular sleep, so this is the ultimate in quality over quantity!
Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is one of the top mineral deficiencies in our body and a lack of this vital mineral can lead to a whole host of issues including poor circulation, tense muscles, increased anxiety, and restless sleep.
Simply by supplementing your magnesium intake, you can see drastic improvements in your sleep. Make sure you choose a high-quality magnesium supplement, as there are a number of low-quality options on the market that won’t offer much benefit and can instead cause digestive issues.
You can choose between an oral supplement or a topical spray- the latter is believed to be absorbed by the body better so this is a route to consider!
Get Your Cortisol Up.
Yup, you read that right! We generally think of cortisol as being a “bad” hormone, but it’s actually vital to our sleep regulation and getting our cortisol levels up in the morning actually helps to properly regulate it during the day and leads to decreased levels in the evening, which helps us to sleep.
Sleep expert Shawn Stevenson recommends getting your cortisol levels up by exercising first thing in the morning. He says even five minutes of light exercise is great, so this could be as simple as taking a few laps around your block or doing a few squats and push ups in your living room.
Sleep at the right time.
After a long hectic day, it’s completely understandable that you want to spend a few hours relaxing on the couch with your favorite book or shows. Often, especially for those of us with kids, the later evening hours are the only real time we have to ourselves, and we may find ourselves regularly heading to bed much later than we planned.
We don’t want to be the bearer of bad news or interrupt your latest Netflix binge, but studies show that the best hours for quality sleep are between 10pm-2am, which must of us regularly miss at least half of.
Experiment with going to sleep earlier (ease into it if you need to) and see if you feel a difference going to bed by 10pm. This may mean less you-time in the evening, but hey with all of that quality sleep you’ll be getting, maybe you’ll find yourself waking up earlier and being able to enjoy some time to yourself in the morning instead!
Choose the right bedding.
Bedding plays into sleep in a number of ways. The most obvious is simply that a more comfortable bed will help you to enjoy your sleep more! Our organic bedding is as soft as they come and just get softer with each wash. We also carry a line of down pillows and duvets, which are the ultimate in bedding luxury.
Sleep temperate is also a very important factor in a good night’s sleep, and your body won’t be able to fully rest if you’re too hot or too cold.
Our bedding is available in two varieties- sateen and percale. Sateen is great for cooler temperatures and climates, while percale is a more lightweight breathable cotton weave that is better for warmer months/climates or for anyone who tends to sleep hot.
Our duvets are also available in all season and summer fills so you can choose the warmth level that’s right for you. Another option is our wool blankets, which actually help to regulate your temperature.
We hope these tips help you to get not just more sleep but a better-quality sleep!
Looking for more sleep advice? Check out the following posts from our blog.