A good night’s rest affects your mental and physical health, as well as your quality of life. Fall short, and it can take a serious toll on your morning energy, productivity, emotions, and even your weight. Getting a good nights sleep may seem like an impossible task when you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., but you have much more control than you probably think! Here’s a list of tips and tricks you can implement into your life to get a great nights rest, naturally.
Tip 1: Wind down and clear your head
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well.
- If anxiety enters your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to
learn how to stop worrying and look at life from a more positive perspective. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.
- If the stress of work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
- The more overused your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be slow down and unwind at night. During the day, many of us over-stress our brains by constantly interrupting tasks to check our phones, emails, or social media. Try to set aside specific times for these things, and focus on one task at a time.
Practicing relaxation techniques is a great way to wind down before bed, and prepare for sleep. Try:
Deep Breathing. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths. Making each breath deeper than the last.
Count Backwards from 100. Again, close your eyes, start from 100 and count down slowly.
Visualize a peaceful place. Close your eyes, and imagine a place that’s as peaceful and calming as possible. Then concentrate on how relaxed it makes you feel.
Tip 2: Be smart about what you eat and drink
Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.
Limit caffeine and nicotine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Similarly, smoking is another stimulant that can disrupt your sleep, especially if you smoke close to bedtime.
Avoid big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach problems and heartburn.
Avoid alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re out.
Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
Cut back on sugary foods. Eating lots of sugar during the day can keep you awake at night and pull you out of the deep stages of sleep.
Tip 3: Exercise during the day
People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and s increases the amount of time you spend in the deep stages of sleep.
- The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality.
- It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.
For better sleep, time your exercise right
Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but too close to bed and it can interfere with sleep.
Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. If you’re still experiencing sleep difficulties, move your workouts even earlier.
Tip 4: Control your exposure to light
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep cycle. Your brain puts out more melatonin when it’s dark, and less when it’s light making you more alert. However, modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.
How to influence your exposure to light
During the day:
Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window. The light on your face will help you wake up!
Spend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.
Let as much natural light into your home or work-space as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.
If necessary, use a light therapy box. This simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days.
Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially harmful. You can reduce the impact by using devices with smaller screens, and turning the brightness down.
Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.
Don’t read with back-lit devices. Tablets that are back-lit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows. Also consider covering up electronics that emit light.
Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you need some light to move around safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hall or bathroom.
Tip 5: Stay in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle
Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important things to note for sleeping better. If you keep a regular schedule, you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times.
Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime.
Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the symptoms you’ll experience. If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to sleep later without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.
Be smart about napping. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you get sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something , such as washing the dishes, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
Tip 6: Learn Ways to get back to sleep
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night but if you’re having trouble falling back asleep, these tips may help:
Stay out of your head. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over your inability to fall asleep again, because that stress only encourages your body to stay awake. To stay out of your head, focus on the feelings in your body or practice breathing exercises.
Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you find it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as muscle relaxation, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Even though it’s not a replacement for sleep, relaxation can still help rejuvenate your body.
Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights low and avoid screens so you don’t cue your body that it’s time to wake up.
Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve. If a great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive after a good night’s rest.
Tip 7: Improve your sleep environment
Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.
Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet
Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from neighbors, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine. Earplugs may also help.
Keep your room cool. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.
Make sure your bed is comfortable. Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably without becoming tangled. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to experiment with different pillows, blankets, or even matresses.
Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex. By not working, watching TV, or using your computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex, which makes it easier to wind down at night.
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Our content does not constitute a medical or psychological consultation. See a certified medical or mental health professional for diagnosis.