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4 Ways to Get Deeper Rest (Even If You’re a Light Sleeper)

Being a light sleeper isn't a bad thing, but it can hinder your sleep.

Whether you’re a light sleeper or a heavy sleeper, you should still be able to sleep through the night as the world goes on around you.

Is It Possible for a Light Sleeper to Become a Heavy Sleeper?

In short, no. Light sleepers and heavy sleepers are just born that way, and unfortunately, there isn’t any way to deliberately change it. Your sleep habits and sleep needs may change as you age, however, and melatonin production can decrease with age in some populations. This could impact how lightly or heavily you tend to sleep.

Even if you can’t rewire your brain to make yourself into a heavier sleeper, there are still ways for even the lightest sleeper to get the deep, rejuvenating sleep they need to feel and perform at their best each day, starting with these:

1. Reduce background noise and light.

This is especially helpful if your partner snores or works during the night. Blackout curtains are great for reducing ambient light from outside, and an eye mask is a simple, effective, and accessible way to block out any light or movement that may disturb your rest.

If you’re worried about noise, earplugs are awesome for blocking out anything you don’t want to hear. And like an eye mask, earplugs are cheap and easy to find just about anywhere.

If you need some ambient noise to sleep, I recommend a sound machine or a white noise machine. These devices can drown out any obtrusive sounds that can impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep while playing soothing sounds that help you drift off peacefully.

2. Follow a consistent sleep schedule.

The right sleep schedule is key to a good night’s sleep. By going to bed at the same time each night and setting your alarm for the same time every morning, you’re helping your body adapt to your sleep schedule. This helps your body anticipate when it should be awake and when it should be asleep, which will make it much easier to stick to your new schedule,

Consistency is key, though—make sure you stick to these times every day, even on weekends. It may not be the easiest habit to get into, especially if you work odd hours, but it’s one of the best steps you can take to making sure you sleep well.

3. Improve your sleep hygiene.

A consistent sleep schedule and proper sleep hygiene go hand-in-hand to help you sleep well. Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe your nighttime habits before bed—good sleep hygiene helps you get a good night’s sleep, while poor sleep hygiene can easily ruin your night.

Here are a few of my suggestions to help you improve your sleep hygiene and sleep more soundly tonight:

  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol at least a few hours before bed.
  • Avoid electronic devices at least an hour before bed
  • Do something to help you relax before bed, like a warm bath, journaling, or meditating
  • Give yourself enough time before bed to finish your day-to-day business

4. Don’t nap too late in the day.

A restful nap can help you get through the day if you’re feeling sluggish, but be sure not to nap too close to bedtime, or for too long. Napping too close to your bedtime can delay your sleep schedule and make it tougher for you to fall asleep on time.

The best time to nap each day is between 1:00 and 3:00 PM, which is when many people have their post-lunch afternoon lull. This is because your circadian rhythm naturally prepares itself for sleep at this time, which makes it much easier to catch a few ZZZ’s.

When to See a Sleep Expert

If you’re still struggling to sleep and you’re not sure if an underlying sleep disorder is to blame, then contact your doctor or a sleep expert. Here are a few symptoms to look out for:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Loud snoring, difficulty breathing, or gasping/choking during the night (these may be signs of sleep apnea)

It’s important to get the deeper non-REM sleep you need at night to feel rested in the morning. An accredited sleep expert can help you figure out your symptoms and get started on a treatment plan that will help you feel rested and refreshed. If you’re not sure where to find a sleep center in your area, check out this resource from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

While it’s not possible for you to rewire your brain to turn a light sleeper into a heavy sleeper, there’s always a way to help yourself sleep better at night. I hope you give some of these suggestions a try.

More from Michael J. Breus Ph.D.
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