In the absence of a sleep disorder, most people take getting a quality night’s sleep for granted, as well as all the health benefits that accompany good sleep hygiene. However, when someone has trouble sleeping through the night, it can be expressed in fatigue, irritability, daytime dysfunction (including increased workplace errors and injuries), slowed responses, and increased caffeine/alcohol intake. Over time, poor sleep quality can even contribute to chronic disease and poor health outcomes. Studies published in the last few years have identified the following way to improve sleep quality:
- Be Consistent: A 2021 study found that having a fixed, consistent sleep schedule with seven to eight hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep each night is associated with a 66% lower risk of high blood pressure, a 58% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, a 73% lower risk of obesity, and a 69% lower risk of having central adiposity.
- Get Regular Exercise: Among a group of 40 middle-aged and older adults with problems getting a good night’s sleep, those who participated in a twelve-week aerobic exercise and stretching program reported significant improvements in sleep quality.
- Avoid Intense Exercise Before Bed: Following a review of data from 15 studies, researchers report that exercising at high intensity within two hours of bedtime may increase the length of time needed to fall asleep as well as reduce sleep duration.
- Turn Music Off Before Bed: A June 2021 study found that the brain may continue to process music listened to prior to sleep, which can negatively affect sleep quality.
- Go to Bed Earlier: A May 2021 study found that going to bed and waking an hour earlier can reduce one’s risk for depression by up to 23%, even though there’s no difference in sleep duration. Additionally, shifting sleep/wake times forward by two hours can lower the risk for depression by nearly 40%.
- Sleep with a Pet: A study that included 188 children aged 11 to 17 found that those who shared a bed with a pet were more likely to report high subjective sleep quality.
- Try a Weighted Blanket: Among a group of twelve adults who had been previously diagnosed with clinical insomnia and a co-occurring psychiatric disorder, researchers found that sleeping with a weighted blanket resulted in both improved sleep quality and a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Eat Better: Young women with a low fruit and vegetable intake (fewer than three servings a day) who doubled their produce consumption experienced improvements in sleep quality. Likewise, a review of findings from 29 studies concluded that a high intake of sugar-added and processed foods is associated with an increased risk for poor sleep. The researchers also cited evidence that a healthy diet pattern may be linked with better sleep quality.
Lastly, visit your doctor of chiropractic. Past research has established a bi-directional relationship between low back pain and poor sleep. That is, having one makes the other more likely. Additionally, an analysis of 32 studies, which included over 10,000 people, found that individuals with chronic migraines are not only more likely to experience poor sleep quality but they also spend less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the phase of sleep associated with dreaming. So if you have musculoskeletal pain and trouble sleeping, then managing your pain via chiropractic care might also help you sleep better.