Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Not sleeping well or enough can lead to weight gain, getting sick more easily, and an increased risk of heart disease. Here’s how to sleep better for a good night’s rest.
We’ve all heard that we
An estimated 35 percent of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (1).
Your body’s circadian rhythm is the internal clock that naturally regulates your wakefulness and sleeps over a 24-hour period. It’s what makes you feel alert when the sun is up and ready for bed when it gets dark outside. This natural balance can get thrown off by outside factors, like traveling through different time zones and not getting enough natural light during the day..
A lot of the steps to improve your sleep aren’t one-off solutions, but new habits that’ll help your circadian rhythm function as it was meant to. Try these 7 ways to sleep better and form better sleep habits.
1. Stick to the same sleep schedule every day
Just like jet lag can throw off your sleep, having an inconsistent sleep schedule does the same thing to your body — forcing it to sleep and wake up when your internal clock says otherwise.
It sounds challenging to get into a pattern of waking up and going to bed at the same time, but getting there in stages can help, according to The National Sleep Foundation (4). They recommend changing your schedule in 15-minute increments for a couple of days.
2. Exercise on a regular basis
Having a regular exercise routine may help improve sleep, but it’s more of a long-term benefit than a quick fix. A 2013 study (5) found that it took four months with an exercise routine for participants to see improvements, but they were impactful — about 45 minutes extra sleep a night.
In the study, participants did three to four 30-minute sessions a week of moderate aerobic exercise. The National Institutes of Health (6) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (that’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week). There isn’t a single right answer for how much exercise is right for you, so aim to keep things consistent and routine to best benefit your sleep.
3. Get more light during the day
Your circadian rhythm is a big fan of natural sunlight and bright light because it keeps your energy up and supports good sleep quality (7). Plus, light tells your brain whether it’s daytime or nighttime, so your body knows whether it’s winding up for the day or slowing down for the night.
Going outside into natural light during the workday will help your body produce melatonin at night (8). Melatonin is a hormone made in your brain and it helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
4. Make your room a haven
When you’re going to sleep, a quiet, dark, cool environment is the optimal way to support snooze. Here are a few ways to get your room in sleep mode:
- Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block light
- Install dimmer switches for the lights and dim the lights 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime
- Shut off your devices 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Yes, that includes checking your email and watching TV.
- Wear earplugs or use a white noise machine
- Set your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (9)
- Make sure your mattress isn’t worn out. Research has shown replacing old beds may improve stress and back pain (10).
- Take a shower or bath about 90 minutes before bedtime, which will help your body cool down and signal itself to sleep.
Another thing to think about is shifting your mindset so your bedroom is only a place for sleep and sex — not an extension of your living room or office. That way your mind more easily shifts into sleep mode when you enter.
5. Be careful with napping
When it comes to making up for lost sleep, daytime naps can be helpful, if they’re short. Napping less than 30 minutes a day can help you feel more alert and enhance brain function, but napping longer than that may be bad for sleep quality (11). Twenty minutes is ideal for a refresher, according to the National Sleep Foundation (12). This will keep you in the lightest stage of sleep, so you won’t enter deep sleep that’ll make you groggy.
Remember, these are habits, not single tricks to help you sleep better — the more you follow them, the better chance you have for great sleep quality.
6. Skip that glass of wine
We may be accustomed to having a nightcap before bed, but drinking alcohol isn’t great for helping you get good quality sleep. When you drink, your brain makes more adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical, but it wears off quickly, which is what makes you wake up in the middle of the night after drinking (13).
7. Add plants to help purify the air
Bringing in greenery to your home will not only give you some visual stress relief, it’ll also help you clean the air, which may promote better sleep. Research has shown that indoor plants and the microorganisms in their soil can remove chemicals from the air (16)(17). Some plants, like aloe vera and snake plants, release oxygen at night. A 2004 study (18) done at high altitude found that rooms enriched with added oxygen promoted deep sleep.
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