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How to Sleep Better: 7 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

written by / February 27, 2020
How to Sleep Better - Featured

Want to learn how to sleep better and longer? Do you know what you should do if you spend half the night tossing and turning, unable to get some shut-eye? Or if you get up feeling as tired as when you went to bed? Don’t want to turn to sleep medication, but you are unsure of which natural remedies work best? Think you are eating or drinking things you shouldn’t before hitting the hay? We’ve got the answers for you. 

Read on for the best, easiest, and simplest ways to improve your slumber. 

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule 

How can I stay asleep for 8 hours? It’s all about the routine. Studies have shown time and time again that having a sleep routine is one of the best ways to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Consistency works wonders 

Did you know that your body has its own internal clock that regulates your sleep and wake times? Also known as the circadian rhythm, it affects your brain and body, basically telling you when it’s time to get up and when you should call it a day. A well-regulated circadian rhythm is a crucial part of good sleep hygiene. 

Listen to your body. Choose a bedtime when you normally feel tired, and stick to it. Try to wake up at similar times, too. Waking up without an alarm clock might be a tall order, but if you hit the snooze button too many times in the morning, you might need an earlier bedtime. 

Don’t cheat on weekends

Yes, it’s tempting to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays, but try not to. One of the best tips for better sleep is to remember that the more you alter your sleep schedule and night routine, the more you will disrupt your internal clock, and the poorer your sleep quality will be.

Skip daytime naps

Naps can be a great way to combat daytime sleepiness, but only if you limit them to 15 or 20 minutes in the early afternoon. Any longer than that, and they might have the opposite effect, making you feel even more drowsy.

Another tip on how to sleep better: avoid after-dinner naps. Sleeping after eating is never a good idea, as it can cause digestive problems. Furthermore, taking a cat nap after a big meal will further disrupt your sleep schedule. Do something else instead, such as washing the dishes, folding your laundry, or chatting with a friend. Anything mildly stimulating is better than late afternoon naps on the couch.

2. Get Exposure to the Right Kind of Light 

To ensure maximum sleep quality, you need to learn what light to avoid and what type of light can actually improve sleep

Avoid artificial blue light 

Using tech before bed is harmful in itself because it keeps your brain working overtime and delays sleep, but the blue light from devices is even more detrimental to your sleep quality. 

Simply put, ALAN (Artificial Light At Night) tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime, which stops you from drifting off to sleep. So, if you want to work on your big presentation for a few more minutes before bed (let’s face it, it will be a couple of hours), try not to. 

Therefore, to sleep better, turn off all electronic devices, i.e., all sources of artificial light, which will not only stop the blue light from messing with your brain, but it will also help you unwind and relax. Technology makes our lives easier in so many ways, but sometimes, a break from smartphones and tablets is just what you need. 

Sleep in the dark

Darkness is essential to sleep. Any kind of light can interrupt your sleep, so if you’re looking to improve sleep quality, it’s best to block out any unwanted light during the night by using blackout curtains or a sleeping mask.

If you need light, let’s say to go to the bathroom, use a nightlight with a red bulb, as these have longer wavelengths, which is less disruptive to sleep. If possible, put the nightlight in a different room or out in the hallway to make sure it doesn’t disturb your sleepiness.

Get as much sunlight as you can 

Exposure to bright, daytime light helps balance your circadian rhythm and promotes good sleep habits. Don’t believe it? Well, it’s true. Research has shown that just two hours of bright light exposure throughout the day results in two more hours of sleep and 80% improved sleep efficiency. 

If, for some reason, you can’t get enough sunlight during the day – for example, if you work the night shift or if you are a night owl, you can always try a light therapy box. They mimic natural light, and although they are not as good as the real thing, light therapy boxes are quite effective. 

3. Get Better Sleep by Creating the Right Environment 

How to Sleep Better - Blue Bedroom

Where you sleep is another important factor that has a huge impact on your sleep quality. 

Use your bedroom just for sleep and other nighttime activities

Declutter your bedroom by removing anything that suggests it doubles as an office or gym, and try to create a soothing environment. If you can see your bedroom as your personal haven from the outside world, it will help you fall asleep more easily and quickly. 

Choose the right color

Studies on how to sleep better at night naturally show that bedroom color has a great impact on the quality of sleep. But, it may surprise you to learn that pastels are not the way to go, and that the best color for your bedroom is actually blue. 

The blue color on the walls sends a message to your brain that you are in a calm environment, thus lowering your heart rate and blood pressure and getting your body all set for a long night’s rest. 

Get the right mattress and pillow 

Some of the most important things to help you sleep well are a good quality mattress, bedding, and pillows.

Sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress can do more damage than just keep you up at night. Numerous studies have shown that an old or worn-out mattress, or even a mattress that is not best suited to your needs, can cause lower back and shoulder pain, as well as neck stiffness, and sometimes even chronic pain. 

A brand new mattress, on the other hand, can improve sleeping habits and your health. It’s important to remember that there is no such thing as the best mattress and pillow. There are only the best ones for you, depending on how you sleep, your age, and your health needs. One thing is universal about mattresses, though. The average life expectancy of a high-quality mattress is 9 to 10 years, so make sure you get a new one once this period expires. 

Using comfy pillows and clean bedding is another tip on how to get better sleep. They make the bedroom more inviting and pleasing to the eye, and they provide you with the right back and neck support while you sleep. 

Lower the noise and temperature 

The best environment to sleep in is the one that is quiet, cool, and dark. If you have a partner who snores, or if you live on a busy street, quality earplugs might be a good investment.

Room temperature is also very significant when it comes to getting better sleep. It doesn’t matter if you are a hot or cold sleeper, experts agree that the ideal bedroom temperature is 65° F. Anything drastically lower or higher is sure to cause problems. And that’s not all! Studies have shown that lowering the temperature in the bedroom can also help you go out like a light, as well as go back to sleep more easily if you wake up during the night. 

4. Watch What You Eat and Drink

One of the ways to sleep better is to stop raiding the fridge at night and start eating the right kind of food during the day. 

What to avoid? 

The best thing is to avoid big meals, especially late at night. Refined carbs, like bread, pasta, or rice, as well as sugar, can have a detrimental effect on your sleep. Spicy and heavy food can also cause indigestion and heartburn, interrupting your sleep patterns and causing you discomfort throughout the night. On the other hand, a light snack before bed could sometimes promote drowsiness, but only if you eat the right kind of food.

What foods make you sleepy?

A turkey sandwich with whole-grain bread or yogurt and cereal is the perfect bedtime snack. Other types of food that can make you sleepy include bananas, kale, and nuts – basically anything that is rich in tryptophan.

Tryptophan is an amino acid found in protein foods that acts as a precursor to sleep-promoting compounds serotonin and melatonin. You don’t need high levels of tryptophan to feel sleepy. For instance, turkey contains small amounts of the acid, and just think how drowsy Thanksgiving dinner makes us.

What to drink to sleep faster?

  • One beverage we all associate with a good night’s sleep is a glass of warm milk. Although some might see it as an old wives’ tale, science can actually back this up. Being rich in both tryptophan and calcium, milk is proven to help you fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night. 
  • If you are not a fan of milk (not everyone is), try hot chocolate for better sleep instead. It is made with milk, so you would be getting the benefits of this drink combined with cocoa butter and a much sweeter, creamier taste. 
  • A hot cup of tea isn’t just for the British. Drinking tea before bed is known to relax the body, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and even calm an upset stomach – what more do you need to fall asleep instantly? Chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, and even decaffeinated green tea are all recommended as the best home remedies for good sleep and fighting off sleeplessness. 
  • It might come as a surprise, but juices, in particular tart cherry juice, are great at helping you hit the hay. What’s more, a 2010 study found that consuming around 16 ounces of cherry juice a day can help battle insomnia symptoms. 

And what about other drinks that do not go hand in hand with sleep?

Coffee

It is a known fact that coffee can kickstart your day, as well as disrupt your sleep and prevent you from falling asleep. As a powerful stimulant, it can also stop you from forming healthy sleep habits by confusing your circadian rhythm, which could lead to sleep problems and disorders. 

Caffeine stays in your system for a long time. It has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours, which means that the body eliminates only half of the substance in that period of time, and the effect is even more pronounced among older adults. Actually, drinking coffee 6 hours before bedtime can reduce your total sleep time by one hour. Talk about a powerful impact!

How to get a better night’s sleep and still enjoy a cup of joe? Limit caffeine intake to before 3 pm. 

Alcohol 

True, alcohol is a sedative, but it hurts sleep more than it helps it. Even though it can help you fall asleep more quickly at first, the effects soon wear off, and you start building a tolerance. This means that you would need to drink more to get the same effect. 

Alcohol can also have other negative effects on sleep, research on how to get better sleep at night indicates. It is known to amplify the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea, as well as cause vivid dreams and night sweats. Not to mention the many, many times, you will be forced to get up to use the bathroom or get a glass of water after a night of drinking. 

This doesn’t mean that you should stay clear of alcohol altogether. It takes the body around an hour to metabolize the substance, so a glass or two during dinner shouldn’t be too harmful, tips on how to sleep better suggest. Of course, drink more than that, and chances are you are in for a restless night. 

5. Get Exercise – But Time It Right

Exercise before bed – to do or not to do, that is the question. 

Being physically active is a great and fun way to improve your health. But did you know that it also helps you sleep? 

People who exercise during the day fall asleep twice as fast as people who do not. They are also more likely to sleep for longer, making physical activity one of the best natural ways to sleep better. In fact, moderate exercise throughout the day increases sleep time by 18% and reduces night wakefulness by an amazing 30%. 

That being said, working out right before bedtime can have a negative effect on your sleep. Physical activity later in the day, particularly vigorous exercise, can make you feel more alert and full of energy, which is not beneficial for a restful night.

If you feel like you need some PA after a long day, try some gentle stretching exercises. Many people have praised the benefits of yoga for better sleep, so why not give it a try? You’ll get more rest if you do yoga before bed than if you hit the gym in the evening. 

6. Try Some Natural Remedies and Supplements

How to Sleep Better - Lavender

From teas and oils to supplements, there are plenty of natural remedies that can improve your slumber. 

By far, the most popular one is melatonin. The body already produces melatonin, a sleep hormone that controls your sleep and wake times. Taking melatonin supplements can be one of the best ways to get better sleep as they are often used to treat insomnia and jet lag, as well as other sleep issues. 

Other natural supplements include Ginkgo biloba, magnesium, and lavender. It’s important to remember that none of these supplements are a magical solution to your sleep problems, but they can be effective when combined with other methods and techniques for a sound slumber. Just don’t forget to consult a medical professional before taking any kind of supplements.  

7. Clear Your Head and Relax Your Body

How can I stop thinking at night? It’s a question that has bothered us all. You go to bed, ready to enjoy a long night’s rest, and thoughts about work, bills, and your to-do list pop into your head.

First and foremost, you need to clear your mind. Take a hot bath or read a book. Don’t check your phone or email. 

Meditation and breathing exercises are proven techniques to help you sleep well because they put the body in a state of deep relaxation. Studies on how to sleep better reveal that breathing techniques, like 4-7-8, for instance, replenish the oxygen supply to the body, which comes in handy when you need to calm your racing mind. 

What to do if you wake up in the middle of the night?

Once your sleep is interrupted, it may be very hard to fall back asleep, even harder than drifting off was initially. If this happens, try some relaxation techniques, like lying flat on your back and taking deep breaths, or try to picture serene and calming images in your mind. One of the best tips to sleep better: Stay out of your head, think positive thoughts, and stop worrying about the day ahead. 

FAQs

How can I sleep well during pregnancy?

Basically, the same methods used to help you sleep well apply when you are pregnant. Sleep routines, relaxation methods, and eating the right food are some of the best ways to get more sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, especially in your third trimester, experts recommend sleeping on the left side, as this increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the fetus. 

How do you fall asleep in 5 minutes?

In addition to all the tips mentioned above, there is another suggestion you can try: The so-called military method, which is apparently used by the US Army to help soldiers fall asleep in stressful situations. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Relax the muscles in your face.
  • Drop your shoulders, then let your arms drop too, one side at a time.
  • Exhale, relax your chest and legs.
  • Spend 10 seconds clearing your mind (a must in all sleeping tips) and then imagine yourself lying in a canoe on a calm lake under a clear sky, or in a black, velvet hammock in a dark room. You can also try saying “don’t think, don’t think” to yourself repeatedly.

This simple trick is supposed to make you fall asleep in just two minutes. It is also said to work for 96% of the people after six weeks of practice. 

What’s the healthiest way to sleep?

Although the fetal position is the most popular, sleeping on your back is actually the best and healthiest sleeping position. Why? It puts your head, neck, and spine in a neutral position, making you less likely to experience any pain. It also helps with acid reflux – sleeping on your back stops food or acid from coming up your digestive tract. An added bonus, this sleeping position also prevents the appearance of wrinkles. 

Why I cannot sleep at night?

There are many reasons why people have problems sleeping at night. However, the most common cause is sleep disorders. Some of the most prevalent sleep issues include:

  • Insomnia
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Circadian rhythm disorders (jet lag or shift work sleep disorder)

Other causes might include stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as an underlying health condition. If you have trouble sleeping, one of the first things to do is to rule out sleep disorders

What is the strongest herb for sleep?

According to some studies, lavender is the best herb for helping you sleep through the night. Lavender is most commonly sold in the form of essential oil to be used as aromatherapy. However, it can also be taken as a supplement.

Another natural sleep-inducing herb is Valerian root. Although there is some research showing inconsistency in its effects, Valerian root is one of the most commonly used herbal supplements to promote sleep in the US and Europe. Be smart, though – try to use supplements as the last resort sleeping solutions, or at least try to consume them in the form of teas or oils instead of pills. 

To Sum Up

Sleep. We all know how much we need it, yet none of us gets enough of it. Some of us sacrifice it to pursue our careers or improve our social life. Others are kept up by the pressures of everyday life, while many cannot catch the Zzzs they need due to some underlying medical or psychological condition or sleep disorder. Whatever the reason, we could all benefit from some of these suggestions on how to sleep better and make sure we are well rested for the challenges life has in store for us. 

Ljubica Cvetkovska is a writer and researcher who enjoys spending most of her time between the pages of her favorite books, or immersed in her writing. With a background in English literature, she prides herself on delivering content which is well-researched and backed up by relevant data. Her interests include health and lifestyle and she hopes that her knack for writing will teach people about the importance of living a full, healthy life. When she's not working, she is known to binge-watch a TV show or two or hit the gym, which doesn’t happen that often.