If you’re like most Americans, you’re not getting enough sleep. Nearly 70 million Americans have chronic sleep problems, and 10 percent of adults suffer from insomnia that disrupts their ability to get proper rest on a regular basis. If you’re one of them, or if you know someone who is, these tips on how to get enough sleep can help your restlessness go away and allow you to sleep soundly every night.
1) Prepare before bed
Make sure you’re following a regular bedtime schedule—if possible, aim to go to bed and wake up at exactly the same time every day. Taking naps can also help provide your body with more consistent amounts of sleep. Plus, a pre-bed routine can help you unwind and relax before getting some shut-eye. Set aside time before bed to let yourself wind down and relax—for instance, by reading a book or catching up on your favorite TV show. But limit tv time and especially exposure to blue light as this can interfere with your circadian rhythm. Avoid looking at electronic devices such as phones or computers about an hour before hitting snooze. The blue light emitted from these devices might be keeping you awake longer than necessary because it impacts how our bodies interpret sunlight exposure and sets us up for increased alertness.
2) Eat a healthy snack
Eat a healthy snack before bedtime can help ensure you don’t wake up in the middle of the night hungry and if you choose the right snack, it may help increase your body’s ability to fall asleep. Magnesium, for example, is essential to helping your body to relax, which can help you sleep. So choose snacks high in magnesium as well as potassium. Try having a handful of nuts. Pumpkin seeds, pistachios, and almonds can work wonders. Also make sure you have plenty of b vitamins. If you’re not eating enough salad throughout the day, try incorporating a handful of spinach at night to make sure you are getting the nutrients needed to support your body’s natural sleep functions.
3) Think about your sleep routine
Are you someone who hits snooze every morning or do you wake up on your own? Do you work an unconventional schedule and, if so, how do you manage to make sure that you’re getting adequate sleep? Are there activities that tend to keep you up at night? Answering these questions will help lay a foundation for establishing a routine that supports healthy sleep. If it’s part of your job to work late nights and early mornings, what are some ways in which you can support healthy sleep during those times? For example, setting an alarm earlier than necessary is often a good way to force yourself into being alert when it’s time to go home.
Is your activity before bed time relaxing or stressful? Are you watching the news late at night? Or something that stresses you out (a horror movie for instance). All of these things can interfere with your sleep.
4) Track your sleep with apps
Mobile apps and fitness trackers aren’t just useful to those seeking a healthy lifestyle. Plenty of sleep-tracking apps exist, many of which sync with existing tools like Fitbit or Jawbone. These programs can help you figure out exactly how much time you spend in each stage of sleep—which is crucial to developing healthier habits. The Sleep Cycle app, for example, wakes you when you’re lightly sleeping so that it doesn’t require using an alarm clock. This approach helps improve your overall quality of sleep and makes waking up easier in the morning. Of course, there are plenty of non-mobile solutions too; if all else fails, start with setting a schedule and making sure your room is dark and quiet at night!
But don’t spend too much time on your phone, as the blue light may interfere with your sleep as discussed above.
5) Swap out your alarm clock
Is the light on your alarm clock blue? Is there a blue light in your room all night long right next to your head illuminating the walls? It is a well-established fact that blue light can interfere with your sleep rhythms, so try swapping out that alarm clock for one with green light, which actually helps reinforce sleep.
6) Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine close to bedtime
The half-life of caffeine is about five hours, so it takes that long to completely leave your system. On top of that, nicotine has a half-life of two to three hours. Since you’re going to be asleep eight hours, those last few milligrams can make a difference. For best results, stop drinking anything with caffeine an hour before bedtime and avoid smoking or chewing tobacco at least three hours before bedtime.
7) Use your bed only for sleep and sex
Your bed should be a place where you go to sleep and have sex. Don’t read or watch TV in your bed. When you spend time in your bed doing other things, it’s easy to subconsciously associate it with other activities. If there are things you like to do before going to sleep that aren’t good pre-sleep activities, do them somewhere else. For example, if eating makes you thirsty and you get up in the middle of night to drink water, stop eating at least two hours before bedtime. Or maybe you like knitting—take your knitting projects elsewhere so that when you lie down, your body thinks sleep time.
8) Choose comfortable sleepwear
Wearing bulky clothing to bed can make it harder to relax. The first thing you should do when you go to bed is change into comfortable sleepwear, so that your body and mind know that it’s time to wind down. While you’re at it, get rid of any electronic devices that could be sending signals like Hey! Don’t fall asleep yet! or You need to make a call right now! And in terms of physical comfort, keep in mind that temperature plays a role in sleep. Try experimenting with different levels of warmth or coolness (and blankets vs. sheets) before deciding on what works best for you. Have any concerns?
9) Enjoy natural light throughout the day
Natural light is one of your body’s best sources of vitamin D, a vitamin that keeps your bones strong and supports immune system health. According to some studies, low levels of vitamin D are linked to sleep disorders such as insomnia. If possible, try to get outside in natural light during daytime hours; if that isn’t an option, make sure you spend plenty of time near windows. And keep screens—your laptop included—out of your bedroom at night. The blue light they emit may interfere with your body’s ability to produce melatonin and get good rest. One other helpful tip: Make sure you’re not too hot or too cold when you go to bed at night.
10) Reduce your stress levels
Everyone has a little stress in their lives, but at times, the amount of stress we allow to enter into our lives can be overwhelming. Stress is a sleep killer, and particularly if you find yourself thinking and thinking and thinking all night long about a variety of stressful things happening in your life, it is likely the culprit. Reduce your stress and you will likely see your sleep improve. It’s not always easy, but make it a priority and you should be able to eliminate stressors from your life.
Conclusion If you follow these simple tips, you should see a noticeable improvement in your overall health. Not only will you be less tired, but you’ll also notice that aches and pains are easier to deal with. What’s more, since your body and mind aren’t so overtaxed from sleep deprivation, you’ll likely be more productive and creative. Sleep is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and can make all of the difference in how well you feel—and how much energy you have—each day. If these tips don’t seem to help enough or if your sleeping patterns still remain chaotic, it might be time to visit a doctor for pro