Getting enough sleep is just as important as good diet and exercise for your health. But many of us are walking around sleep-deprived, day after day. Whether you have a busy schedule, deal with sleep problems like insomnia, or just have poor sleep habits, here are some tips for improving your sleeping conditions—starting tonight!
What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Health
Poor sleep can take a bigger toll than most of us realize. Lack of sleep can have an impact on:
- Weight gain
- Focus and concentration
- Mood and mental health
- Stroke and heart disease risk
- Inflammation and immunity, and more
When you sleep, your body repairs itself and recharges for the next day.
9 Ways to Get Good Sleep (or at Least Better Sleep)
Try these top nine tips for improving your sleep each night.
1. Avoid Caffeine and Other Stimulants Later in the Day
Caffeine can stay in your system for 6-8 hours after you consume it. That means as you’re trying to get to sleep, your body is still trying to process this stimulating substance.
Stop drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages after 3-4 pm—and maybe even earlier if you’re sensitive to caffeine. If you really want a nice cup of something, stick to herbal tea or decaf coffee.
The same goes for heavy meals, alcohol, and cigarettes (although we recommend quitting those completely). Each of these can disrupt sleep and prevent your body from resting as it’s supposed to.
2. Don’t Take Long Daytime Naps
If you’re already sleeping poorly, long naps during the day are tempting. But they can confuse your body’s internal clock and make nighttime sleep even harder.
Stick with short naps and avoid sleeping longer than 30 minutes during the day—especially in the afternoon.
3. Work on a Regular Sleep Schedule
Our bodies have what’s called a circadian rhythm that tells us when to be asleep (after sunset) and when to wake up (as the sun rises). Inconsistent sleep habits can disrupt your circadian rhythm, especially these days when we have artificial light all around us.
To aid your body’s internal clock:
- Be as consistent as you can with your bedtimes and wake times—even on the weekends.
- Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
- Try to avoid bright light in the evenings—including light from smartphones, laptops, TVs, and e-readers, at least two hours before bed. There are some good phone and computer apps that allow you to block blue light on your screen.
4. Start a Bedtime Ritual to Wind Down
Choose a calming ritual before bedtime. This could be reading, praying, writing in a journal, taking a bath, or anything else that takes you away from the day’s worries, anxieties and bright lights (including those from electronics!).
5. Set Up Your Bedroom for Sleep
Take a look at your bedtime environment. See if you can change certain factors to better support good sleep, such as:
- The temperature—good sleeping temperatures are between 66 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
- Noise—remove any disturbing noises (or start using white noise or a fan to block them out).
- Light—try blackout curtains and eye masks and avoiding having the TV on in your room before bed.
- Air quality—perhaps you could use a humidifier if you suffer from allergies or other breathing issues.
6. Get Exercise Every Day
Daily exercise, especially vigorous exercise, can help your body rest better when it’s time to sleep. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day.
7. Analyze Your Mattress and Pillows
Is your mattress the right amount of firmness and support? What about your pillows? These factors can affect your sleep, especially if you’ve had both for a long period of time. Consider whether it’s time to replace them for something more comfortable.
8. Keep Anxiety-Provoking Items Out of the Bedroom
Avoid doing any work in your bedroom. Keep any computers or other work materials in another room of the house and try to shut everything down at least a few hours before bed.
9. If You’re Still Having Trouble Sleeping, Dig Deeper
If good sleep still escapes you, it might be time to consider professional help. Speak with a sleep specialist who can work with you to pinpoint other possible sleep factors getting in your way. Focus on building habits every day that support your physical and mental health, so you can feel more at peace and calm when your head hits the pillow.