The point of this thread is so that we can share tips and strategies to getting better sleep and being healthier.
It's almost common sense that getting an adequate amount of sleep everyday can improve your health. Sleep is really important - and it's not just about conserving energy or relaxing - when you sleep your body goes through many phases and there are a lot of internal changes inside your body. For example, testosterone production, melatonin production, and growth hormones are all more active when you sleep. Furthermore, the glial cells in our brain are literally syphoning out toxins that accumulate in neurons. Every time we sleep, we all get paralyzed, we all dream - 100% of the time whether we remember it or not. Sleeping is fundamentally physiologically different than just laying in bed and relaxing.
Yet many of us find that we have obligations that force us out of bed earlier than we want to everyday and that there aren't enough hours in a day to do everything. Many of us have a hard time adjusting to a normal sleeping pattern and some have a really hard time sleeping early. Some of us may even get 8 hours of sleep in and still not feel rested.
But what if I told you that you could get better sleep, that you could fall asleep faster, more easily, and feel more rested when you wake up by making a few simple changes?
If you're like me at all, you probably spend a lot of time around bright screens in the evening or late at night. At night is probably the time that I play the most video games or watch Giantbomb videos. But this is bad and it can ruin your sleep.
It turns out that most electronic screens (lcds, laptops, phones, ipad etc) emit more blue light than other types of light. Blue light suppresses melatonin production, which is critical to making you sleepy and controlling your circadian rhythm (natural sleep and body cycle). The human body naturally has surges of melatonin when there isn't light and artificial lighting can disrupt melatonin production.
What this means is that if you're staring at a screen at night, not only will it be harder for you to sleep but it'll also make your sleep less restful. Luckily, you can easily fix this by downloading apps that reduce the blue light emitted or wearing orange/yellow tinted glasses that block blue light.
You should also try to sleep without a night light - as this may also effect your melatonin production levels (even though your eyes may be closed, the light receptors that trigger melatonin production may receive light through your eyelids. These light receptors are even present in completely blind people.)
Now, what about sleep alarms and the infamous snooze button?
They're bad for you too. Getting woken up suddenly by an alarm will wake up certain parts of your brain first while other parts (the parts that govern higher thought processes - like the prefrontal cortex) slowly wake up later, hours later. But - even if you do need an alarm to wake up, the worst thing you can do is hit the snooze button and get woken up again later.
Why? Because when you sleep, your brain goes through cycles of sleep (the REM stage is only one of 5 stages). When you hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, your brain enters the first stage of sleep and getting woken up from the first stage of sleep when the alarm rings again induces heavy sleep inertia and results in you feeling groggy the whole day.
Also, I'd like to mention that even though many over-the-counter sleeping aids may say "non-habit forming" but dependency on sleeping aids is a serious problem, even to melatonin supplement pills. And by the way, none of this applies to you if you have real sleeping problems like narcolepsy or insomnia - and you should probably get those problems checked out.
TL;DR - Reduce the amount of blue-light you consume before you sleep and try not to use the snooze button.