A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Research has shown that poor sleep can have an immediate negative effect on your body’s hormones, exercise performance, and thinking ability.

It can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk for both adults and children

Unfortunately, over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined.

If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, then getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.

Here are some tips to follow to improve your sleep.

 Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day

Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm

It affects your brain, body and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep. Keeping odd hours moves your body out ot this natural rhythm. Get as much natural light as you can, especially during the shorter days of winter.

A  study in the elderly found 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80%

To date, most of the research is in patients with severe sleep issues. However, even if you have average sleep, daily light exposure will most likely help improve it.

If natural light is not possible or practical,  invest in an artificial bright light device or bulbs.

 Don’t Consume Caffeine Late in the Day

Caffeine has numerous benefits and is consumed by nearly 90% of the US population

A single dose has been shown to enhance focus, energy and sports performance

But, when consumed late in the day, the stimulation of your nervous system may prevent your body from naturally relaxing at night.

Consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsens sleep quality

Caffeine can stay in the blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you are caffeine sensitive or have trouble sleeping

Try to Sleep and Wake at Consistent Times

Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset.

Even though you may hate getting up with the alarm clock, having a consistent pattern is the best way to develop good sleep habits.

Studies have found that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, the signals that tell your brain to sleep.

Take a Melatonin Supplement

Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that signals your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed

A melatonin supplement is a popular aid to fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.

Frequently used to treat insomnia, it may be one of the best aids to fall asleep faster

Melatonin is also useful when traveling and adjusting to new time zones and unfamiliar surroundings.

Start with a low dose to assess your tolerance, and then increase it slowly as needed. Since melatonin may alter brain chemistry, it is advised that you check with a medical professional before use.

Consider These Other Supplements

Several supplements can help relaxation and getting to sleep, including:

Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it can aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction.

Glycine: A few studies have found that 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality

Valerian root: This root is backed by several studies that show it can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Take 500 mg before bed

L-Theanine: An amino acid, l-theanine can improve relaxation and sleep. Take 100–200 mg before heading to bed

Lavender: A powerful plant-based supplement with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary-like effect to improve sleep. Take 80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool

Don’t Drink Alcohol

Contrary to popular belief, having a couple of drinks at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones.

Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns

It also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm

Relax and Clear Your Mind in the Evening

Develop an evening routine of quieting the mind and working on positive thinking. Counting backward truly does help.

Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia

Try I listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, deep breathing and visualization.

Test different methods and find what works best for you.

Summary

Though many of us wear our tired and ragged bodies from lack of sleep as a badge of honor. It is truly detrimental to our overall well being. Take the time to listen to your body and develop healthy patterns to encourage restful sleep.