Good sleep is crucial for well-being, both physical and mental. Without it, the risk of many health conditions increases, your immune system weakens, and you can be at higher risk for depression and anxiety.
Many things in our daily lives can negatively impact the quality and quantity of sleep that we get, including being exposed a large percentage of the day to indoor lights, following a schedule that doesn’t coincide with normal circadian rhythms, and exposure to chronic stress.
Here are some tips for improving the quality and quantity of your sleep. You may wish to follow some or all of them depending on how you are already doing in the sleep department.
Keep Your Bedroom Super Dark
Our internal clocks rely on light to determine when we sleep. The hormones that control the quantity and quality of our sleep, melatonin and serotonin, can be disrupted by exposure to light at the wrong times.
Get your bedroom as dark as you possibly can by removing electronics, using blackout curtains#AD on your windows, and turning around or covering your alarm clock if it emits light. Some people prefer to use a sleep mask#AD to achieve darkness in the room.
Keep Your Bedroom Cool
Our body temperature naturally drops what we sleep, and having a cooler bedroom is more conducive to better sleep than a warm one. Keep your bedroom, ideally, cooler than 70°F. You may wish to keep your home at that temperature all the time or lower it an hour or so before bedtime.
Sleeping without pajamas can keep you cooler and help you get a better night’s sleep too.
Use Your Bedroom for Sleeping Only
Your bedroom should not be a place where you work, watch TV, or scroll through your phone. Train your brain that your bed is the place to sleep, and it will be easier for you to relax and drift off when you’re in it.
If sleeping with someone makes it harder for you to get good quality and quantity sleep, separate yourself. That might mean sleeping in separate bedrooms if your bed partner snores or tosses and turns too much. If you find yourself continually waking up because the two of you are fighting over covers, get separate comforters.
Keep a Consistent Schedule
Figure out how many hours of sleep per night you need to function your best. Then, depending on when you need to wake up, calculate when you’ll need to go to bed to get that much sleep and do so consistently. Even if you don’t need to be up the next day, go to sleep at as close to the same time each evening as possible. Over time, that will help your body set its clock and get you better sleep.
Avoid Screens before Bedtime
Take the hour or two before your bedtime off from screen use. No computers, TV, or tablets. The blue light emitted from those devices can interfere with your circadian rhythms, confusing your body and making it think you should be waking up instead of settling in for slumber.
Create a Bedtime Routine
One thing that’s consistently recommended for people training their babies and young children to sleep well is to create and follow a nice, relaxing bedtime routine. This can also help adults get better and more sleep.
A routine can help you with sleep in two significant ways. One is that, over time, your brain will learn that, when you do certain things, you’re winding down and sleep is coming. Second, the things you do during the bedtime routine can be specifically geared toward relaxation and getting your body ready for rest. That means that a routine before bed can prepare both your brain and your body for a good night’s sleep.
Choose relaxing, sleep-conducive activities and do the same ones the same way each night in the hour or so before bed. Do some stretching or yoga, follow deep breathing exercises, take a hot bath or shower, put on lotion with lavender, write in a journal, and practice gratitude.
Avoid Alcohol and Sugar in the Evening
Alcohol and sugar can both interfere with your sleep. When you have alcohol before bed, it often helps you fall asleep easier, but then it has a tendency to cause wake-ups during the night. Similarly, eating sugar before bed can interfere with your insulin levels, resulting in a blood sugar drop sometime after you’re asleep that might wake you up.
Watch Afternoon Caffeine
Caffeine that you consume in the afternoon might be negatively affecting your sleep. Try to avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages too late in the day, and keep in mind that some medications also contain it.
Exercise Every Day, but Not Right before Bed
Exercise is excellent for keeping you healthy in almost every way, including helping you get good quality and quantity sleep. However, when you exercise, it releases adrenaline and other hormones that aren’t particularly good for winding down and sleeping. They’re actually great for boosting your energy, though, so do your exercise earlier in the day for maximum productivity and sound sleep.
Do Relaxing Things in the Evening
These things might be part of the bedtime routine discussed above, but they may also be separate. In general, focus on doing things that make you feel good and are relaxing in the evening. Try to avoid stimulating or emotional reading, TV watching, or thought. Focus on taking in things that make you feel pleasant and calm, like classical or other soothing music, uplifting or calming reading, and using self-care techniques such as changing into comfortable clothes and diffusing calming essential oils like lavender.
If you do work in the evenings, whether it’s for a day job, your business, or the home, try to finish up with an hour to spare before bedtime. That gives your mind time to wind down from the stimulation or stress your work might trigger.
Drink Lots of Water, but Stop a Couple Hours before Bedtime
Keep yourself well-hydrated throughout the day, but try to stop taking in liquids an hour or so before bed. Then visit the bathroom right before you go to sleep. This might take some experimenting to find the best time for you to stop your fluid intake so that you don’t have to get up and go to the bathroom during the night.
Do Deep Breathing and Visualization in Bed
Once you’re cozy in bed, take a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises and clear your mind. Here’s a simple one to try: breathe in through your nose for the count of eight, hold it for eight counts, and then exhale over a count of eight.
You can also use visualization techniques to encourage better sleep. Envision yourself sleeping deeply and calmly all night. Think about how rejuvenated you’ll feel in the morning and how much you’ll get done. Imagine how healthy you’ll be once you’re getting good quality and quantity sleep every day. Visualize these things in as much detail as you can.
Use Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are phrases you say to yourself over and over that help you achieve something. They’re said in the present tense, even if it’s something you haven’t yet made a reality. When it comes to sleep, some good positive affirmations might be:
- I always sleep well and wake up full of energy.
- I am a good sleeper.
- I take care of my body and mind by getting enough good quality sleep.
- I know how to prepare my mind and body for sleep.
- I am healthy and strong because I get enough sleep every day.
You can repeat these as you’re going through your bedtime routine, after you get in bed, and even throughout the day. Find more here: “Positive Affirmations for Sleep.”
Make Sure Your Mattress and Pillow Are Great
Your mattress and pillow are both critical for getting good sleep. If your body becomes sore due to a poorly supportive pillow or a lousy mattress, you’ll be waking up often, tossing and turning, and generally not getting restful sleep.
You might need to do some experimenting to find the pillow and mattress that are right for you. In general, most people do well with a mattress that’s soft on top but has a good, firm structure underneath.
As for your pillow, it depends on whether you sleep on your stomach, back, or side the most. Your pillow should hold your neck and head in a position that allows for a natural curve to your spine.