4 sleep hacks to improve your mood and energy, from keeping a journal to meditation techniques
Keeping a sleep log by hand can be just as useful as a high-tech tracker.
Try to minimize the blue light before bed or use it to your advantage in the morning.
Meditation is a proven relaxation technique that can help you sleep deeper and easier.
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There’s no shortage of devices to hack your sleep with, from an Alexa-enabled sleep apnea monitor to a portable tracker that gives people the ability to choose their dreams.
Sleep experts told insiders the influx of new technology isn’t a bad thing for sleep health. The more interested people are in tracking their sleep, the more likely they are to move on to healthier habits.
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However, you don’t need high-tech devices to track your sleep. Keeping an old-fashioned sleep diary can work as well, or even better, than an Apple Watch – and turning off the electronics before bed is good for your sleep and sanity, too. Low-tech therefore offers additional advantages.
Insider asked two sleep experts about the basic sleep hacks that underlie some of the most popular Somnic inventions.
A handwritten sleep log may be better than a phone tracker
There was a time when handwritten sleep diaries were the only way to track sleep outside of a lab, Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona, told Insider.
“It turns out that this method is still extremely useful and is often forgotten in some technologies,” said Grandner. “But with regard to insomnia, which is very common, keeping a sleep log is still the best way to measure insomnia.”
Sleep logs – diaries in which someone records their bedtime, how long it takes to fall asleep, how they wake up at night and what time they wake up in the morning – capture a dimension of sleep that devices that track the heart’s speed and movement miss: your own perception of the Sleep.
“If you only have information from the night before, you are much more likely to think about what you did or might not have done the day before and how you can possibly improve the next day,” said Rebecca Robbins, a sleep researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Wristbands or phone apps that claim to track your sleep often overestimate nighttime wakes, Robbins said, potentially raising unnecessary concerns. When you notice awakening yourself, you will only grasp the cases in which you were consciously awake and get a clearer picture of your sleep.
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Eliminating light stimuli will make a world of difference
One of the best recommendations from sleep research is to use light to your advantage, Robbins said.
The blue light from a computer screen can excite your brain much like sunlight. Robbins therefore recommends installing apps that dim the lights in the hours before bed.
Another option is to reduce your screen exposure between dinner and bedtime – no apps required.
A simple eye mask and earplugs can also block out any stimulating light and sound, Grandner said. For light sleepers in particular, this time-tested method can effectively accomplish what many high-tech devices aim to do: avoid distractions that would keep you awake.
To boost your mood and energy levels, open your curtains and move around as soon as you wake up
Light moods can work in both directions, and some modern alarm clocks have a sunrise function to simulate this natural alarm signal. But devices with a soft yellow or orange light are unlikely to have any real effect, and nothing can beat the bluish light from the sun.
“Outside light is better than inside light because it’s actually orders of magnitude brighter even if you don’t notice it,” Grandner said. “The cloudiest cloudy day is probably still ten times brighter than a bright living room.”
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Partly opening the curtains before bed is therefore more effective than buying a wake-up lamp, but not everyone has access to sunlight. For people who live in less sunny parts of the world or who don’t have windows, a light box can help – but make sure it emits blue light to mimic the sun, Robbins said.
Combining light cues with exercise – for example, when you go outside first thing in the morning to take your dog for a walk – is even more effective at waking up the brain and can also improve mood and energy levels, Grandner added.
Easy Ways to Meditate Before Bed to Clear the Mind
Meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction have proven themselves over centuries with impressive results.
“If you can teach people to meditate, they’ll fall asleep faster. You sleep deeper, ”said Robbins. “Anything that can teach or guide people in meditation-like activities like breathing is really a home run for me.”
How to practice sleep meditation to help you fall asleep
One option for bedtime meditation is the body scan. First, turn off the lights and find a comfortable position. Then take a few deep breaths at your own pace. With each breath, imagine the stressors of the day that leave a different part of your body, from your head to your shoulders to your feet.
While not every technique that relaxes you is guaranteed to put you to sleep, whether you go the high-tech or the low-tech path, meditation can do both.
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