7 Ways to Sleep Better & Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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 need sleep for a myriad of health reasons, but when it comes down to it, it can be so. hard. to get enough. And even when you do get the hours in, sometimes you still wake up feeling groggy, which just seems unfair.

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.

An irregular bedtime schedule can make your sleep quality worse (2), while sticking to a consistent bedtime and wake up time may help long-term sleep quality (3).

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).

Alcohol also disrupts your circadian rhythm’s ability to function and synchronize (14) and a moderate amount of alcohol an hour before bed can suppress melatonin function by 15 to 19 percent (15).

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.

References

1. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 2016. Accessed March 9, 2019.

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2. Kang JH, Chen SC. Effects of an irregular bedtime schedule on sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue among university students in Taiwan. BMC Public Health. 2009;9:248.

3. Van Dongen HP, Dinges DF. Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep-wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance. J Sleep Res. 2003;12(3):181-7.

4. The Secret to Resetting Your Sleep Routine When Your Work Hours Change. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed March 8, 2019.

View resource

5. Baron KG, Reid KJ, Zee PC. Exercise to improve sleep in insomnia: exploration of the bidirectional effects. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(8):819-24.

6. Physical Activity and Your Heart. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed March 8, 2019.

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7. Mishima K, Okawa M, Shimizu T, Hishikawa Y. Diminished melatonin secretion in the elderly caused by insufficient environmental illumination. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86(1):129-34.

8. Viola AU, James LM, Schlangen LJ, Dijk DJ. Blue-enriched white light in the workplace improves self-reported alertness, performance and sleep quality. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2008;34(4):297-306.

9. Best Temperature for Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed March 11, 2019.

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10. Jacobsen B, Boolani A, Smith D. Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems. J Chiropr Med. 2009;8(1):1–8.

11. Dhand R, Sohal H. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2006;12(6):379-82.

12. Debunking Sleep Myths: Does Napping During the Day Affect Your Sleep at Night? National Sleep Foundation. Accessed March 8, 2019.

View resource

13. Wiers CE. Adenosine sheds light on the relationship between alcohol and sleep. J Neurosci. 2014;34(23):7733-4

14. Rupp TL, Acebo C, Carskadon MA. Evening alcohol suppresses salivary melatonin in young adults. Chronobiol Int. 2007;24(3):463-70.

15. Wolverton BC, Douglas W, Bounds K. A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement. NTRS. 1989.

16. Hong SH, Hong J, Yu J, Lim Y. Study of the removal difference in indoor particulate matter and volatile organic compounds through the application of plants. Environ Health Toxicol. 2017; 32: e2017006.

17. Orwell R. Wood R, Tarran J, Torpy F, Burchett M. Removal of benzene by the indoor plant substrate microcosm and implications for air quality. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution .2004;157(1-4):193-207.

18. Ha ZD, He TH, Zhang XZ, Wang W, Ma Y, Jian XQ. Effects of oxygen enrichment of room air on sleep patterns at high altitude. Zhonghua Nei Ke Za Zhi. 2004;43(5):368-70.

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