5 Unexpected Ways To Take Your Sleep To The Next Level

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Alexandra Lozovschi

There's no question that your sleep quality and general wellbeing are intimately linked. A good night's rest, or the lack thereof, dictates how you feel during the day, which, in turn, impacts your slumber.

"Sleeping well directly affects your mental and physical health. Fall short and it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight," explains HelpGuide.

So, if sleep is so important, then why aren't we getting enough of it? Well, according to The Wall Street Journal, we might be going about it the wrong way.

"Ironically, insomnia [and other sleep problems and disorders] is also driven by the things we do to try to solve it, experts say. We start to chase sleep — waking up later, taking naps, going to bed too early. This diminishes our sleep drive, which is our body’s need for sleep."

The good news is, "you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realize." The secret lies in your lifestyle choices and routine during the day.

Here are a few healthy habits that will have you sleeping soundly, listed in order from morning to nighttime.

Soak Up Some Sunshine In The Morning

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Your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is regulated by a naturally occurring hormone in the body known as melatonin, which, in turn, is controlled by light exposure.

"Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark, making you sleepy, and less when it’s light, making you more alert," notes HelpGuide.

As such, experts recommend that you develop healthy sleep habits by starting your morning with a hearty dose of sunshine.

"Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window."

By exposing yourself to bright sunlight as soon as you wake up, you signal to your brain that you're ready to get the day rolling, setting up a good routine that will help you fall asleep faster come nighttime.

Limit Your Nap Time

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Long naps during the day can interfere with your sleep at night. As such, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you limit nap time to 30 minutes at the most. Additionally, it's also advisable to avoid napping late in the day, unless you work nights and need to make up for lost sleep.

Avoid Sleeping In, Even On Weekends

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It might sound counterintuitive, but sleeping in on weekends to catch up on rest might actually do more harm than good. According to sleep experts, the best strategy to ensure you get plenty of Zzzs is to stick to a sleep schedule, which means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.

Consistency is key, which is why it's important "to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour," per the Mayo Clinic.

HelpGuide also supports this advice.

"If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm."

Create Your Own Sleep Environment

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One great trick to promote restful sleep is to create a relaxed environment for your slumber. This means making sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet. Aside from noise and light, temperature can also affect your sleep quality, so keep the room slightly cool and ensure your bed is as comfortable as possible.

Another good idea is to implement a relaxing routine before bed, which can include taking a bath or a hot shower, meditation, breathing exercises, or dimming the lights and listening to soft music or an audiobook.

"A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep."

No Bright Screens Before Bed

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In order to keep your circadian rhythm stable and stimulate melatonin release, it's important not to be distracted by bright lights before bed -- and that includes any type of screen. Put your phone down and turn off the TV one or two hours before bedtime to make sure you get a good night's sleep.

"The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software such as f.lux."

In case you're having trouble dozing off, get out of bed and read a book or listen to some calming music or an audiobook. Avoid reading with backlit devices, since they're "more disruptive than e-readers" and will suppress melatonin, keeping you awake for longer -- as will watching TV late at night.