How to Sleep Better Tonight: 15 Easy Ways
We all know that poor sleep quality can negatively affect our energy and next-day productivity. However, a good night’s sleep isn’t just about our performance; the importance of a good night’s sleep carries over into our overall well-being. Sleep is an essential process where the body restores itself and insufficient sleep can have negative effects on both our mental and emotional health.
There are a number of lifestyle choices and habits that you can make to improve your “sleep hygiene.” Follow the 15 tips below to sleep better, starting tonight.
Tip 1: Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Understanding your natural sleep/wake schedule (or circadian rhythm) and regulating your body’s clock will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Consistency is key here.
You should aim to wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on the weekends. If you do have a late night, opt to pay off the sleep debt with an early nap, rather than sleeping in.
Tip 2: Exercise During the Day
Regular physical activity has been shown to enhance your overall sleep quality, and can improve the symptoms of insomnia. Exercise regularly during the day, but avoid vigorous exercise right before bed as physically stimulating exercise can cause the body to release the stress hormone cortisol.
This “fight or flight” response can make it harder to fall asleep. Try to limit exercise to the morning or after lunch.
Tip 3: Limit Caffeine Intake
A cup of coffee or tea is great way to wake up in the morning, but excessive caffeine can cause sleep problems. If you want to promote a more restful slumber, be aware of your caffeine intake. Watch out for surprising sources of caffeine, like certain teas, chocolate, sports/energy drinks and some pain relievers.
Stick to beverages like water, herbal tea, fruit juice or milk in the afternoon and avoid caffeine four to six hours before bedtime.
Tip 4: Eat Healthy Meals
What you eat affects how well you sleep. Heavy or acidic meals too close to bedtime (within two hours) can cause heartburn or indigestion. Eating too much sugar and refined carbs during the day can keep you awake at night. If you’re hungry at night, eat a healthy snack like whole grain cereal and milk.
Tip 5: Check Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is a depressant, but while it may help help you fall asleep, it acts as a stimulant a few hours later. As such, it interferes with the sleep cycle by increasing nighttime awakenings and decreasing sleep quality. It is best to limit the amount of alcohol you drink and avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
Tip 6: Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
To make your bed into a sleep sanctuary, try painting your room a relaxing color. Use a fan or white noise to mask unwanted sound, or unwind with aromatherapeutic scents such as lavender.
You should make sure your bed is comfortable, with the right mattress, supportive pillows and covers that give you enough room to move around.
Tip 7: Keep Your Room Cool
As your body prepares itself for sleep, your body temperature decreases. As such, a cool environment, which helps your body temp decrease, can help initiate and promote sleep.
The trick is finding the sweet spot when it comes to temperature—a room that’s too hot or too cold can increase restlessness and affect your overall quality of sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees. To promote ideal sleep, turn down your thermostat or invest in a cooling gel-infused memory foam mattress mattress.
Tip 8: Use Light to Regulate Your Sleep
You can use light to your advantage to regulate your internal sleep schedule and get better sleep. Natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythms, so expose yourself to sunlight early in the morning and get as much sunlight throughout the day as possible.
At night, avoid artificial light, especially the blue light emitted from your television and backlit devices. Unplug or cover devices that emit light and make sure your bedroom is dark. Use room darkening shades or a sleep mask, if necessary.
Tip 9: Learn to Relax and Wind Down Before Bed
Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode. Psychologically straining activities, like checking your work email before bed, can increase the production of the cortisol as much as exercise. Additionally, anxiety and stress are common causes of sleeplessness. Before you slide under the covers, create a pre-bedtime ritual that will help you wind down and quiet the mind.
A relaxing bedtime ritual can include activities that help calm the mind and prepare the body for sleeping, including listening to soft music, reading or meditating. A warm bath is also an effective way to wind down before sleeping, because the rise and fall in body temperature can help you get to sleep more quickly.
Tip 10: Limit Your Fluid Intake
Staying hydrated throughout the day is an essential part of your overall health. However, drinking water too close to bed can actually impact the quality of sleep you get. While you don’t want to go to bed thirsty, but drinking fluid too soon before bed can lead to getting up in the middle of the night.
To avoid excessive trips to the bathroom, stop drinking fluids between 90 minutes and two hours before bedtime.
Tip 11: Power Down Before Bed
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 percent of people in the United States admit to using a technological device an hour before going to sleep. While some people falsely believe watching TV or reading electronic media is a good way to wind down at night, the use of electronic devices can actually hurt the quality of sleep you get.
Electronic devices are actually physiologically and psychologically stimulating, meaning using them at night actually makes it harder for us to settle down before bed. Additionally, studies have shown that blue light sources, such as televisions, computers, tablets and phones, actually reduce melatonin, a chemical which helps regulate our sleep cycles.
Since screen time is so disruptive to your sleep schedule, so you’ll get better shut eye if you shut off your devices two to three hours before you go to sleep.
Tip 12: Keep a Sleep Diary
Keeping a sleep journal can help you understand your trouble points. It only takes a few minutes a day and can help you identify areas that you believe are hindering your ability to sleep. Once you know the culprit, you can take corrective action.
Log what time you go to sleep, what you eat and drink right before sleep, and what disturbed your sleep.
Tip 13: Don’t Stress If You Wake Up
The worst thing you can do if you wake up in the middle of the night is to watch the clock. Worrying about how much time you have left to get back to sleep could actually keep you awake longer.
If you can’t fall back asleep in 20 minutes, get up but keep the lights dim. Try listening to relaxing music or reading a book and avoid stimulating activities like watching television.
Tip 14: Buy a New Mattress
Research has shown that the quality of your mattress can greatly affect your overall sleep quality, including that an old or low-quality mattress can be associated with stress and pain. Consumer Reports advises buying a new mattress after nine or 10 years.
However, there’s no set formula and if you’re not sleeping well at night, it may be time to make the switch. Consider buying a new mattress if you’ve had yours for a long period of time or you wake up tired.
Tip 15: See a Doctor
If you try all the tips listed above and you still find yourself struggling to fall asleep, consider seeing a doctor. There are a number of sleep disorders that could cause trouble sleeping, including sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
The good news is that once identified, most sleep disorders are highly treatable. You’ll also want to rule out chronic medical conditions linked to sleeplessness, including diabetes, obesity, thyroid problems, anxiety and depression.
Getting a better night’s sleep is within your control. Even if you have a sleep disorder or medical conditions that affects your ability to sleep, it is still possible to influence the quality of sleep you get by changing your habits. By making changes such as cutting out caffeine, powering down before bed, investing in a better mattress and sticking to a schedule, you can wake up rested and refreshed.