The search for better sleep proves a popular one these days, between busy work and social lives. And why not? Nothing beats the feeling of a restful night, awakening energized and ready to conquer a new day.
But, it isn’t always easy to bounce out of bed refreshed when you would rather be hitting the snooze button. Try these tips to tackle better sleep and make waking up a little easier.
Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
One of the most recommend ways to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is keeping regular hours. To keep your internal clock properly set, the National Sleep Foundation and Mayo Clinic recommend setting a sleep schedule that involves going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday.
Choose a time when you normally feel tired so you don’t toss and turn before falling asleep, and try not to hit snooze in the morning. In fact, if you get enough rest each night, you might not even need that obnoxious alarm.
To avoid waking tired, also ensure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep per night. Although it varies per individual, most people need around eight hours per night. The agreed upon range for adults is between seven and nine hours. If you feel tired on seven or sluggish on eight and half, try making some adjustments to find your sweet spot.
As tempting as it is, try not to sleep in too much on weekends! Your body works best if you maintain roughly the same schedule throughout the entire week. Generally, experts suggest keeping variations within an hour.
The jury is out on the benefits of a midday nap. Hotter climates adjusted well to afternoon siestas to avoid the hottest part of the day. And, if you’ve had a late night, a short nap helps replenish your sleep bank. But, try keeping it around 15-30 minutes or you might have trouble getting back on track.
Watch What and When you Eat and Drink
For the sake of better sleep, when you eat and drink proves as important as what you consume.
Experts recommend avoiding big meals late at night, and giving yourself at least two hours between eating and going to bed. To fight post-meal drowsiness, get off the couch and engage in a mildly stimulating activity, such as washing the dishes or calling a friend so you don’t drift off until bedtime.
The effects of caffeine can last 10-12 hours after consumption, so restrict your coffee cravings to the morning hours. Decaf after lunch is a good rule of thumb when working on better sleep habits.
Despite the name, a nightcap does not improve your rest. Alcohol interferes with your sleep cycle, disrupting later sleep cycles and affecting restorative rest. If you do indulge, use moderation and set last call a couple of hours before you head for bed, although if you are inebriated by the time you lay down, your sleep is going to suffer. Make sure the next night you give yourself extra time to recover.
Finally, watch how much water or other liquids you consume right before bedtime. If you chug a glass of water before dozing off, odds are your bladder will be waking you to take you on a late night stroll. But on waking and throughout the day, plenty of pure h20 is a wise move.
Limit Electronic use Before Bed
Blue light disturbs your internal clock because it delays the production of melatonin – the sleep hormone. Melatonin is partly controlled by light exposure and helps direct your sleep-wake cycles. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark, making you tired, and less when it is light – making you more alert.
Experts recommend turning off blue light devices – cell phones, laptops, televisions, iPads – at least one hour before bedtime. If you need to check something, keep the brightness on your device down and use a smaller screen.
Late night television may be hindering your ability to fall asleep at night as shows are built to be stimulating rather than relaxing. As an alternative, try listening to soothing music or a down tempo audio book to lure you into sleep. We are never too old to be read a bedtime story!
Keep Bedrooms Dark at Night
While we are on the topic of melatonin, make sure that your bedroom remains dark while you sleep. Opt for heavy curtains or shades, or use a sleep mask. Keep lights down if you have to get up in the night – use a small flashlight, or baseboard level nightlights in your bathroom or hallway.
Inversely, to stop the production of melatonin so you are awake and alert during the day, expose yourself to bright sunshine in the morning and throughout the day. Eat breakfast on the patio or near a window, or take the dog for a walk. In the dark winter months, try a therapeutic light box as a stand in for the actual sun when the weather proves gloomy.
Overall, spending more of your daytime outdoors, or allowing more natural light into your workspace does wonders for your daytime energy levels. It also may prove helpful for balancing sleep-wake cycles, thus promoting better sleep.
Focus on Comfort
Take inventory of your sleep environment. Do you see clutter or things like bills that may create anxiety? Is the ventilation adequate? If better sleep is your priority, the ideal environment is one that is cool, quiet, calming, and comfortable.
Most people sleep best at slightly cooler temperatures, somewhere between 60 and 72 degrees F. The slight lowering of body temperature signals the production of melatonin, setting the stage for drowsiness.
Invest in a fan if you need more air circulation or to dampen sounds. White noise machines or earplugs also help. Before bed, do a sweep and find homes for clothes and papers lying around. Hampers, a decorative box or drawers contain clutter quickly. This way, your mind rests at ease once your head hits the pillow
Make sure your bed feels comfortable and suited to your sleeping style. Side sleepers tend to get better sleep on softer mattresses, stomach sleepers on firmer, and back sleepers on medium-firm.
Memory foam mattresses rate the best for motion isolation and overall satisfaction (Amerisleep is one of the top ranked in our comparisons), with latex and pocket coil mattresses the runner ups. Take a look at our guides if it’s time to replace your bed.
Calm your Mind
If you find that your mind runs on overdrive come bedtime, try a few techniques for clearing your head. Try writing down your ideas or worries before your head hits the pillow. This way you won’t spend the entire night stressing or trying to remember what you need to do tomorrow.
In the short term, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualizing a relaxing place. Take a warm bath, read a book or magazine by a soft light, or listen to soft music. Worry and anger can be detrimental to sleep when they last a long time, so look into long-term stress management solutions.
If you wake in the night, avoid stressing about not sleeping and instead focus on the goal of relaxation. Do non-stimulating activities such as deep breathing or reading. Postpone worrying and brainstorming by writing things down on notebook kept beside your bed then letting it go until morning.
If you can’t fall back to sleep after a little while, it might be helpful to get out of bed. First off, don’t stress about getting better sleep. Read a book in another room or listen to a relaxing song on the sofa until you feel sleepy again.
Getting exercise regularly is not only good for your overall health; it is also good for your sleep health. Just be sure to finish any moderate to vigorous workout at least 3 hours before going to sleep, or your endorphins will keep you awake.
Low impact exercises, such as relaxation yoga or general stretching, can help promote better sleep so feel free to do these closer to the time you go to bed.
Make a Bedtime ‘Better Sleep’ Ritual
Having a steady bedtime ritual can help signal your body to start its descent into relaxation. Start an hour before bed by spending twenty minutes preparing for tomorrow – picking out clothes, putting your briefcase by the door. Spend the next 20-30 minutes on personal hygiene – taking a bath, brushing you teeth, and putting on pajamas. Finally climb into bed and read or listen to relaxing music.
The timing of your schedule may vary, but the key is avoiding electronics and television an hour before you go to sleep. Both the blue light and stimulation will knock you off your nightly track to relaxation.
If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, try keeping a sleep diary for two weeks to see if you notice any trends in your daily and nightly habits that may be causing the problem. Record not only what time you went to bed, how long it took you to fall asleep (approximately, so you don’t disrupt sleep by checking the clock!), and if you awake in the night, but also stressors, the foods you’ve been eating and how much exercise you are getting.
If you notice that despite getting enough sleep, you still wake drowsy, then consider digging deeper. Make sure your mattress is in good shape and not creating pressure points or support issues that keep you from deep sleep. It may also be helpful to consult with a doctor when issues become long-term or aren’t helped by improving sleep hygiene.
With these tips you will be on track to getting better sleep, and having more energetic mornings in no time.