Getting Better Sleep

Getting Better Sleep

Woman waking up refreshed after restful sleep

What’s better than getting a perfectly full night’s sleep? Well, maybe there are a few things, but for sure, great sleep is way up there. Waking up fully rested immediately lifts your spirits and gets you energized for everything the day is going to throw at you.

Sleep provides both physical and psychological benefits in the short and long term and it should be easy to do (all you do is just lie there, right?), so getting more, better sleep should be a no-brainer. Yet, so many of us struggle to consistently get a good night’s sleep. There are many potential contributors to this - some that we bring upon ourselves and others that are part of an environment we can’t fully control.

In this article, we’d like to offer some consideration of the importance of sleep, and some proactive things you can do to to improve or preserve your sleep episodes. Of course teeth grinding at night is often associated with disrupted sleep (either for you or a partner), so preserving sleep is near and dear to our collective heart at BITEKNIGHT. Teeth grinding guards are definitely an ingredient in protecting the quality of your sleep, but there are many other steps you can take as well.

Graphical representation of healthy human brain activity

Let’s begin by reviewing why we need sleep. Sleep’s greatest benefit is facilitating proper brain function. While experts don’t completely understand the reasons for and roles of sleep, it is clear that sleep permits higher levels of attention and concentration, cognition and reaction time. This means that a good night’s rest helps you complete tasks more efficiently and effectively. Adequate sleep helps reduce mistakes, improves problem solving skills and makes you more productive. In addition, sleep plays a crucial role in migrating experiences from the short term to long term memory, an essential ingredient in learning and living.

There is also evidence that sleep helps clear toxins from the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid travels out of and into the brain during sleep, flushing toxins that accumulate from normal brain activity. The same cells that complete this task are also known for clearing the brain of beta-amyloid, which is strongly correlated with patients that have Alzheimer’s disease. While there is still much we don’t know about this process and its overall impact on health, it is clear that sleep plays an important role in keeping our brains healthy.

Scale indicating unhealthy body mass index

Failing to get enough sleep comes with some significant risks. One such risk is weight gain or obesity. There are several factors thought to contribute to this. First, lack of sleep inhibits hormones that suppress appetite, and stimulates production of hormones that increase appetite. So, reduced sleep is linked to a tendency to overeat.

Poor sleep also impairs the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and self control which may make it harder to resist unhealthy food cravings. Finally, there is evidence that poor sleep slows your metabolism, further contributing the risk of weight gain.

Woman eating multiple donuts

There is another important connection between weight management and sleep, and that is the link between being overweight and being more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Being overweight can obstruct the airway and may increase the potential for or risks of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious and complex topic, and beyond the scope of this post. We definitely recommend seeking the help of a qualified medical professional if you suffer from sleep apnea and do not recommend our night guards as therapy for sleep apnea specifically unless recommended by a qualified medical professional for a particular case.

Lack of sleep can also make us more susceptible to disease. Sleep deprivation is thought to impair our immune systems by disrupting the circadian rhythms that govern immune responses. In other words, without a predictable and sufficient sleep schedule, our bodies’ natural immune responses fall out of sync and become less effective.

Graphical representation of human immune system preventing infection

We’ve heard a lot about how various forms of inflammation produce health risks, (including inflammation from oral health issues such as periodontal [gum] disease - but that’s a good topic for another article:)), and poor sleep is also thought to produce an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation is associated with potentially serious health issues like type two diabetes and heart disease. In general, inflammation may cause your immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissue and organs. Getting adequate sleep can help reduce the risk of chronic health issues.

Now that we know the importance of sleep, it’s important to consider some of the things we can do to impact the length and quality of our sleep.

The best advice we’ve seen and heard from medical professionals is to take a thoughtful and deliberate approach to what is often referred to as “good sleep hygiene”, which essentially means creating and maintaining an environment that is most conducive to good sleep.

The most basic step to take is to create a consistent schedule for sleep. This means avoiding too much variation in the time you go to sleep and wake up each morning, including on the weekends. The body functions best when schedules around sleep are predictable, and it also requires time to adjust to changes. So, creating a stable schedule for sleeping will help your body get the most efficient sleep it can. This also means being careful with nap time - keep naps short and relatively early in the afternoon if they are needed.

Items typically used as part of a sleep preparation routine
Woman viewing mobile phone in bed

It’s also best to create a consistent routine to wind down before bed each night. The goal should be to avoid mental stimulants and focus on relaxation. Some people do find that listening to sleep music can help them calm down and prepare for a good night's rest. While it’s tempting to catch up on social media, news or shopping at this time, devices like phones, tablets and computers are mental stimulants that can interfere with sleep. In addition, these devices emit blue light which interferes with melatonin production, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates our sleep cycles.

Certain device screens (phones, computer monitors, etc.) have settings or features that can reduce or eliminate blue light, and some glasses also can perform a similar function. These features and products do help with the blue light aspect, but keep in mind that you want to give your mind time to wind down too - so limiting screen time is a good thing to try if you are struggling with sleep.

Challenges with establishing a good night time routine may cause sleep anxiety, potentially making it even worse. Instead, focus on other activities like sleep meditation and paced breathing that will naturally calm the body. If you haven’t tried mediation, it is definitely worthy of your consideration and is increasingly suggested as a non-pharmaceutical therapy from medical professionals. In addition to preparing to sleep before bed, meditation can help with concentration and focus throughout the day.

Along the same lines, if you find yourself lying awake in bed, don’t stay there too long. You may train yourself to be awake in bed. It’s healthier to have a stronger mental connection between your bed and sleep. So if you cannot fall asleep (or back asleep) after about 20 minutes, get up and do something else until you feel tired enough to return to bed, being sure to avoid activities that will be mentally stimulating.

Once you have a schedule and routine, the next thing to consider is your environment. And perhaps somewhat obviously, the biggest impact on your environment is your mattress. Investing in a good quality mattress is not cheap, but it’s definitely worth it. And thankfully, a flurry of competition in the mattress industry has produced a good selection of very high quality products at fair prices.

While they are not for everyone, we like the memory-foam mattresses that have recently become popular. Regardless of whether you choose one of these, another similar brand or a completely different type of mattress, definitely treat yourself on this since it has such an enormous impact on the quality of your sleep. You can find good quality products in the range of $600-1000 and up.

Also keep in mind that many of the newer mattress companies offer very generous trial periods, so make sure you understand what type of trial each manufacturer offers, and don’t be afraid to take advantage of these opportunities to find the perfect mattress for you.

Also don’t forget to get good quality sheets. They can seem expensive, but as with the mattress, this is where you should be spending about a third of your day, so don’t ignore the benefits of good bedding. Beyond just being more comfortable, high quality bedding helps manage temperature and may be better for your skin. Expect to spend at least $50-100 for a good set of sheets, depending on the size and type of material.

For many people, keeping the bedroom dark and quiet is an important factor in maintaining an environment conducive to sleep. However, this can be difficult to maintain if you live in a noisy area or if it is difficult to keep light out of your bedroom.

Image of loud city environment
Soft ear plugs available from amazon.comExcellent ear plugs

A couple of simple, inexpensive and effective solutions to these types of issues are ear plugs and sleep masks. If you haven’t tried either of these things before and struggle with falling or staying asleep, they are definitely worth consideration.

Some people may feel a little silly with the sleep mask on, but don’t worry - no one is going to see :). Plus, just remember you’ll look much sillier when you drift off in a meeting at work because you didn’t sleep enough the night before.

We like these ear plugs and this sleep mask (both available on This combination is a great, low cost way to help you sleep better, especially if you are a light sleeper. Incidentally, if you have a hard time sleeping on planes, these two items work wonders in that environment as well.

Finally, some studies show that aromatherapy has been shown to be effective in improving sleep quality for some people more than just the other sleep hygiene items alone. Some of these studies showed that using essential oils (as opposed to water with fragrance added) was necessary to obtain the sleep benefits.

Sleep mask avaialble from amazon.comOur favorite sleep mask
Nutrional supplements

There are also several supplements that can help with getting a good night’s rest. In particular, some BITEKNIGHT customers have mentioned melatonin, magnesium and GABA supplements as effective in improving sleep. Melatonin is the naturally occurring hormone that helps increase the continuity of REM sleep and GABA is an amino acid that can act as an inhibitor for the nervous system, which can be conducive to sleep. Both of these are also available as over the counter supplements. Some people have reported melatonin side effects, such as headache or dizziness. Magnesium is an essential nutrient important for many biological processes, and helps the body with natural production of GABA. While all of these supplements are known to be safe taken in typical doses, we still recommend speaking with your doctor before taking any of them.

Small group of people exercising outdoords

Once you’ve got a great sleep environment, you can think about the other things that influence the quality of your sleep. Activity during the day can also be an important factor in determining how well you sleep at night. Two things you should have on your agenda as often as possible is to get some exposure to sunlight, and also some exercise. Hopefully, you can find a way to do both of those things at the same time.

Sunlight improves daytime energy and contributes to a healthy circadian rhythm. This has been tough for many people with working from home and other home-bound restrictions related to the pandemic - it’s too easy to get stuck at home and not make time to get out as we normally might when going to and from work or going out to grab lunch. So, make a conscious effort to find time outside each day.

In the same vein, make time to exercise as often as possible, as there is ample scientific evidence that vigorous exercise improves the quality and duration of sleep. Additionally, exercise helps you manage and relieve stress, which in turn makes it easier to sleep.

Resistance training in particular is known to help improve sleep. That doesn’t mean you need to lift heavy weights at a gym - simple body weight exercises such as squats and pushups, or resistance bands can help you reap this benefit. In terms of quantity, studies have shown that 150 minutes or more of exercise per week will begin to show benefits for sleep. But try to avoid strenuous exercise too late in the day as it may keep you awake longer.

Your diet also impacts your sleep quality. Generally, the same advice you’ve probably heard about a healthy diet applies to optimizing your diet for sleep as well. A balanced diet with an emphasis on healthy, fresh vegetables is a good starting point. Research also shows that deficiencies in key nutrients such as calcium and magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D E and K are linked to sleep problems.

Managing carbohydrate intake is also important. While high carbohydrate meals may produce an immediate feeling of sleepiness, they may make it more likely that you awake one or more times during the night, and reduce the amount of deep sleep you get. Sugary foods and drinks are big culprits here.

In terms of organized diet plans, both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have been associated with improved sleep quality, along with other health benefits. The Mediterranean focuses on large quantities of fresh vegetables with healthy doses of lean meats and other proteins. DASH is an acronym for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, with a focus on healthy vegetables, reduced sodium intake and an emphasis on nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium, which also helps facilitate good sleep.

Healthy foods consistent with Mediterranean and DASH diet plans and strategies

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and we hope you find some ideas that will help you sleep better. You may have noticed that many of the things mentioned here reinforce one another, such as sleep, diet and exercise. Sleep is so important for how you feel in the short term and your overall health in the long term that we think it’s worth spending some time learning to get more, better sleep.

Finally, our night guards can help minimize the impact of teeth grinding while sleeping, which can interrupt your sleep (whether it causes you to fully wake or not) and potentially also that of your partner. And of course, this is in addition to the other benefits night guards offer, such as protecting your teeth from wearing down, preventing your gums from receding, and protecting the muscles and ligaments in your jaw from damage.

So, make sure you get serious about getting a good night’s rest, and try some of the suggestions here if you find that it is difficult to fall or stay asleep at night. Sweet dreams :).

Image of BITEKNIGHT Armor guard on blue stand
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