Plenty of people wish they could have better sleep at night. Are you one of them? The fact is, some of your habits could be leading to poor sleep. Additionally, many of these habits start as soon as you wake in the morning, continuing until you finally doze off each night.
Unfortunately, these behaviors can interfere with your internal clock – and keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
If you want to know how to improve your sleep, follow these tips.
1. Lights Out
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people sleep with some sort of light on. Whether it’s a night light, reading lamp, or even a lava lamp, turn it off at bedtime.1 Light can affect your ability to fall asleep, and it can make it harder for you to sleep better throughout the night. So, sleep with as little light as you possibly can.
2. Keep the Noise Down
Again, this seems obvious, but many people try to fall asleep with the television, loud music, or other disruptive noise in the background. The key here is disruptive noise. You can help drown out the noise of the city, roommates, or any other loud distraction with a fan, a white noise machine, or audio tracks that are made to help soothe you and get you to sleep.2
3. Get Plenty of Exercise
One of the best ways to sleep better is to exercise more. Not getting enough physical activity during the day can affect your sleep patterns at night. Any kind of exercise helps. But you’ll get the best results from aerobic exercises, such as swimming, jogging, or speed walking.3
4. Limit Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant. It works by making your brain “think” it’s been awake for less time than it actually has. So it can really wreak havoc with your sleep, if you consume it too late in the day.
Stop drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, sodas, and some teas, and foods containing caffeine, such as dark chocolate, at least six hours before bedtime.4
5. Reset Your Internal Clock
One of the best things you can do to get better sleep is to get on a set schedule for falling asleep and waking up. In time, your body will get used to this schedule, and you’ll be able to get to sleep more easily at the desired time.
Your internal clock (or circadian rhythm) is heavily influenced by light, so pay special attention to Tip Number 1 on this list. Trouble with your internal clock can affect your overall health tremendously.5
6. Turn Off Those Devices
The glow from the blue light of phone, tablet, television, and computer screens can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, and for you to get better sleep throughout the night. This can, in turn, make you much more tired throughout the day. Don’t ignore this tip, because it can seriously affect your sleep.6
One great habit to start is turning down your screen brightness as you get closer to your desired bedtime. And make sure that you have all screens off, or covered, 30 minutes before you would like to be asleep.
7. Use the Right Pillows
If you want better sleep, make sure you are using a pillow that is comfortable and doesn’t cause neck or back pain. Discomfort (particularly from the wrong pillow) can disturb your sleep time and quality.
If you do wake with back or hip discomfort, try sleeping with a thin pillow between your legs or knees when on your side. It’s also not a bad idea to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing recurring pain or discomfort in your neck, back, or hips.7
8. Keep Your Mattress and Bedding Clean
Allergens, mold, dust mites, and other potentially harmful particles can ruin a good night’s sleep. Use a mattress cover to prevent these pests from getting embedded in your mattress. You should also regularly clean your sheets, pillow cases, and other bedding.8
9. Reserve the Bedroom for Bedroom Activities
Don’t “hang out” in your bed if it isn’t bedtime. You want your sleep space to feel like just that – a sleep space. Too much “bed time” when you’re wide awake (including hours of reading and TV watching) can make your bed feel like a place where you should be active. And by all means, leave the work laptop in another room.
10. Eat the Right Foods as the Day Progresses
Make sure you aren’t eating foods late in the day that will give you a boost of energy and keep you up at night. And while you might feel tired after a huge meal, try to avoid large, heavy meals late at night. This can actually interfere with getting better sleep.9
11. Avoid Alcohol
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol consumption can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Excessive intake can actually cause restless, interrupted sleep.10 Bottom line, avoid alcohol if you are having trouble getting better sleep.
12. Don’t Smoke
Nicotine is a stimulant, and it can keep you up if you smoke at night. Smoking can have other effects on your health that can, in turn, affect your sleep – like breathing and cardiovascular difficulties.11 Just don’t smoke… period.
13. Clear Your Mind
Meditating before bedtime can be a great way to shed the stress of the day and of life in general.12
Another way to escape that mental “noise” is to keep a bedtime journal. Write down any thoughts, worries, or stressors you have, and make sure that you leave them there on the page when it’s time to lie down.
Alternatively, you can start keeping a “sleep journal,” which can help you figure out the reasons why you aren’t getting good sleep. You might see a pattern develop. For example, you might notice that you’re drinking hot tea at 3 p.m. on the days you’re having trouble sleeping. That boost of caffeine might be keeping you awake… so you’ll want to cut that out to ensure you’re getting enough shut-eye.
14. See Your Doctor
Sleep is an absolutely necessary function for humans. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, or if you’re only getting poor quality sleep, your overall health can suffer tremendously. Sleep disorders are bad enough, but they can also point to other underlying or related issues.13 So, if you are having trouble sleeping, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Following These Tips Will Help You Get Better Sleep
Now you know a bit more about how to sleep better. Bottom line, if you want better sleep, then your waking behaviors may need to change. Remember, better sleep means better health.
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