How to Get a Good Night's Sleep
Good sleep strategies are essential to deep, restorative sleep you can count on, night after night. By learning to avoid common enemies of sleep and trying out a variety of healthy sleep-promoting techniques, you can discover your personal prescription to a good night’s rest.
The key is to experiment. What works for some might not work as well for others. It’s important to find the sleep strategies that work best for you.
The first step to improving the quality of your rest is finding out how much sleep you need. How much sleep is enough? While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need at least 8 hours of sleep each night to function at their best.
How to sleep better tip 1: Keep a regular sleep schedule
Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep–wake cycle—your circadian rhythm—is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is important.
- Set a regular bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night. Choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late. If you want to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.
- Wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. As with your bedtime, try to maintain your regular wake–time even on weekends.
- Nap to make up for lost sleep. If you need to make up for a few lost hours, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping late. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep–wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.
- Be smart about napping. While taking a nap can be a great way to recharge, especially for older adults, it can make insomnia worse. If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating napping. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon, and limit it to thirty minutes.
- Fight after–dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
How to sleep better tip 2: Make your bedroom more sleep friendly
It’s not just the number of hours in bed that counts—it’s the quality of those hours of sleep. If you’re giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, but you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may need to make some changes to your sleep environment. The quality of your bedroom environment makes a huge difference in how well you sleep.
Keep the noise down
People differ in their sensitivity to noise, but as a general rule, you’ll sleep better when your bedroom is quiet. Even if you’ve learned to sleep through certain noises, such as the wail of sirens or the roar of a passing airplane, sleep studies show that these sounds still disrupt sleep.
If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbors, city traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. White noise can be particularly effective in blocking out other sounds and helping you sleep. You can buy a special sound machine or generate your own white noise by setting your radio between stations. Earplugs may also help.
Keep your room dark and cool
When it’s time to sleep, make sure that your environment is dark. Even dim lights—especially those from TV or computer screens—can confuse the body clock. Heavy curtains or shades can help block light from windows, or you can try an eye mask to cover your eyes.
The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.
Make sure your bed is comfortable
Is your bed big enough? You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. Make sure there is also enough room for your bedmate.
Your mattress and bedding are also important. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow. Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam or egg crate toppers, and pillows that provide more support.
How to sleep better tip 3: Create a relaxing bedtime routine
If you make a consistent effort to relax and unwind before bed, you will sleep easier and more deeply. 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.
Turn off your television
Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day. You may even have a television in your bedroom. However, television actually stimulates the mind, rather than relaxing it. Part of this is due to content. Late night news and prime time shows frequently have disturbing, violent material. Even non–violent programming can have commercials that are jarring and loud.
However, even the most relaxing program or movie can interfere with the body’s clock due to the continuous flickering light coming from the TV or computer screen. Television is also noisy, which can disturb sleep if the set is accidentally left on.
You may be so used to falling asleep to the TV that you have trouble without it for the first few nights. If you find you miss the noise, try soft music or a fan. If your favorite show is on late at night, record it for viewing earlier in the day.
Reserve your bed for sleeping
If you associate your bed with events like work or errands, it will be harder to wind down at night. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. That way, when you go to bed, your body gets a powerful cue: it’s time to nod off.
Relaxing bedtime rituals to try
- Read a light, entertaining book or magazine
- Take a warm bath
- Listen to soft music
- Enjoy a light snack
- Do some easy stretches
- Wind down with a favorite hobby
- Listen to books on tape
- Make simple preparations for the next day
How to sleep better tip 4: Eat right and get regular exercise
Your daytime eating and exercise habits play a role in how well you sleep. It’s particularly important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
- Stay away from big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. Many people think that a nightcap before bed will help them sleep. While it may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces your sleep quality, waking you up later in the night. To avoid this effect, so stay away from alcohol in the hours before bed.
- Cut down on caffeine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake.
- Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of water, juice, tea, or other fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics, only make things worse.
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in numerous ways. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep. Additionally, smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.
Eat a light snack before bedtime
A light snack before bed can help promote sleep. When you pair tryptophan–containing foods with carbohydrates, it helps calms the brain and allows you to sleep better. For even better sleep, try adding extra calcium to your dinner or nighttime snack. Experiment with your food habits to determine your optimum evening meals and snacks. For a relaxing bedtime snack, try:
- Half a turkey or peanut butter sandwich
- A small bowl of whole–grain, low–sugar cereal
- Granola with low–fat milk or yogurt
- A banana and a cup of hot chamomile tea
You’ll also sleep more deeply if you exercise regularly. You don’t have to be a star athlete to reap the benefits—as little as twenty to thirty minutes of daily activity helps. And you don’t need to do all thirty minutes in one session. You can break it up into five minutes here, ten minutes there, and still get the benefits. Try a brisk walk, a bicycle ride, or even gardening or housework.
Be sure to schedule your exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Exercising too late in the day actually stimulates the body, raising its temperature. That’s the opposite of what you want near bedtime, because a cooler body temperature promotes sleep. Don’t feel glued to the couch in the evening, though. Relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching shouldn’t hurt.
How to sleep better tip 5: Get anxiety and stress in check
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can’t get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day:
If you can’t stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. For example, you can learn to evaluate your worries to see if they’re truly realistic and learn to replace irrational fears with more productive thoughts. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime
If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
How to sleep better tip 6: Ways to get back to sleep
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night. In fact, a good sleeper won’t even remember it. But if you’re waking up during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, the following tips may help.
- Stay out of your head. The key to getting back to sleep is continuing to cue your body for sleep, so remain in bed in a relaxed position. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over the fact that you’re awake or your inability to fall asleep again, because that very stress and anxiety encourages your body to stay awake. A good way to stay out of your head is to focus on the feelings and sensations in your body.
- Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you are finding it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualization, deep breathing, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Remind yourself that although they’re not a replacement for sleep, rest and relaxation still help rejuvenate your body.
- Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim so as not to cue your body clock that it’s time to wake up. Also avoid screens of any kind—computers, TV, cell phones, Kindles, iPads—as the type of light they emit is stimulating to the brain. A light snack or herbal tea might help relax you, but be careful not to eat so much that your body begins to expect a meal at that time of the day.
- Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when you are fresh and it will be easier to resolve. Similarly, if a brainstorm or great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive and creative after a good night’s rest.
How to sleep better tip 7: Know when to see a sleep doctor
If you’ve tried the tips above, but are still struggling with sleep problems, you may have a sleep disorder that requires professional treatment. Consider scheduling a visit with a sleep doctor if, despite your best efforts at self–help, you are still troubled by any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Frequent morning headaches
And the best tip of all --
Try sleeping on a Carolina Mattress Guild mattress! ;)