There are few things more important to your health and wellness than sleep. For many of us, however, a good night’s sleep feels elusive and sometimes even impossible. If you’re serious about upgrading the quality of your sleep and your life, this guide will help you learn how to sleep better in simple, easy steps.
You don’t have to try all of these at once, but integrating your favorites into your lifestyle will help you learn how to sleep better and reap the benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Better Sleep?
Sleep isn’t just about the quantity; it’s also about the quality. And getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a day can have the following benefits, according to Healthline:
- Sleeping more can help you lose weight. Research has found that obesity can be related to getting less sleep at night. Some believe it’s a combination of increased stress hormones and a waning ability to control appetite when tired.
- Adequate sleep can help you perform better at work and make better decisions. Sleep deprived individuals have the same reaction times as alcoholics and tend to make mistakes.
- Regular, healthy sleep decreases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Plus, not getting enough sleep has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, depression, suicide, and more. But the problem is that 63.5% of adults get less than 8 hours of sleep each night. If you're part of that statistic and you're not sleeping well at night, it’s time to learn how to sleep better!
Let’s start with one of the best ways:
1. Create a Routine
Parents of infants and small children are encouraged to create bedtime and naptime routines to help children calm and become sleepy before bed. Well, you can do the same for yourself! Going to bed at the same time every time and beginning your routine about half an hour before it’s time for bed signals to your brain that you’re ready to sleep.
It takes practice and will feel awkward at first, but you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of a full night’s sleep. Your routine might include a warm bath, diffusing lavender, and reading a few pages from a book you enjoy. Or, you might involve meditation and a small cup of chamomile tea.
Waking up at the same time every day can also help you to become sleepy at the same time every day.
2. Utilize Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy, as attractive as it sounds, isn’t a magical pill or cure-all. However, there is some concrete science indicating aromatherapy might help with stress, anxiety, agitation, and depression, all of which can impact your sleep.
The good news is that, unlike many drug sleep aids, there are no downsides or possible side effects to using aromatherapy. Plus, whether or not you feel the scent of, say, lavender helps you fall asleep, what it will do if you use it regularly is trigger your brain for sleep.
Scents traditionally used to help with sleep include lavender, vetiver, and cedarwood. You can use pillow sprays, scented salves, or diffuse essential oils while you sleep.
3. Turn off the Lights
Did you know you have something called a circadian rhythm? No, it has nothing to do with cicadas; but it does have a lot to do with light and your body’s natural rhythm. Our bodies have traditionally used light from the sun as cues for the production and release of hormones.
When it gets dark, for example, our bodies begin to secrete melatonin, which makes us sleepy. Thanks to our modern lifestyle with lights on around the clock, bright screens in our faces till late in the night, and most of our time spent indoors at a desk, our endocrine systems can struggle.
This often impacts our sleep, so one of the first things you should do when you’re trying to learn how to sleep better is pay more attention to the light.
We’ve already recommended trying to wake up at the same time every morning, but if possible, you should also try to spend some time outside in the sun. Even if it’s not in the morning, outdoor time helps to nourish your body’s natural rhythm so you can produce the hormones you need to sleep well at night.
Sunlight in the morning will also help your body produce its first shot of cortisol, which can help you wake up naturally. At the very least, open those windows, so you get some sunshine in!
Watch Your Light Consumption at Night
In the evening is where things get tricky. Many of us fall asleep in front of the television or use our phones right before we go to sleep, but the blue light these screens produce can be especially disruptive to our circadian rhythms.
Here are some tips to avoid this and help your natural processes put you to sleep:
- Use blackout curtains and turn out the light (use a sleep mask, too, if you need it).
- Stop using screens several hours before bed.
- If you do use screens, try using special blue light blocking glasses; some devices can also turn off the blue light.
4. Upgrade Your Mattress
One of the things that might be keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep is your mattress. Most mattress companies recommend changing your mattress every eight years, but this is somewhat arbitrary.
A sagging mattress can cause you to sleep in uncomfortable positions, while a mattress that is too soft or that has lost its spring can cause you to get “stuck” in the same position all night–which can lead to soreness and discomfort when you’re waking up in the morning.
To get a good night’s sleep, it’s important that you’re sleeping on a quality mattress–thankfully, this doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg, either.
5. Be Careful What You Eat and Drink Before Bed
You probably know that you can’t drink a steaming cup of coffee right before bed, but what you probably don’t know is that caffeine has a long half-life. It takes as long as six hours for the caffeine in your cup of coffee to be expelled by your body, so if you’re drinking an afternoon cup, you might still have a lot of caffeine in your body by bedtime. If you’re caffeine-sensitive, this can be a problem.
Caffeine might also be hiding in medications and things like soft drinks, black teas, and chocolate, so make sure you stay away from these foods in the afternoon or evening to ensure a good night’s sleep.
It’s not just caffeine, though–nicotine is another stimulant that can keep you from sleeping, even though we like to think of cigarettes as relaxing. Heavy or spicy meals can keep you up while your body digests. So can lots of protein before bed; protein contains an amino acid that increases alertness and can keep you from sleeping.
To keep you from waking up at night because you need to use the restroom, try to not drink fluids several hours before bed.
6. Use a Natural Sleep Aid
Using NyQuil or Benadryl aren’t good ways to help your body fall asleep, and many prescription sleep aids can cause negative side effects or even create dependency issues. Melatonin is a great alternative. It’s a natural hormone that your body already produces.
Taking it doesn’t cause any weird hallucinations or other side effects, but it creates a strong sense of drowsiness that’s welcome to anybody suffering from insomnia or difficulty sleeping!
Another natural sleep aid is magnesium. Some doctors believe much of the general population at large is deficient in magnesium, and it’s an incredibly important mineral involved in hundreds of bodily processes. Taking it can also help you relax and become sleepy.
7. Use a White Noise Machine
If you’re a light sleeper, a white noise machine can be a godsend. You don’t have to stick with a machine, though these are often specially designed to sound good and have several options that run all night. You can also use an app on your phone or other device or use a prop, like a fan. You can even play music softly in the background–classical music is a good choice for lots of people.
8. Learn to Meditate
A study published in 2015 found that regularly practicing mindfulness meditation, a type of mediation that focuses on calming the body’s natural stress response leads to better sleep at night. This isn’t the only research to find a strong, positive link between meditation and sleeping better, good news for those who want to learn how to sleep better!
A good night’s sleep doesn’t have to feel so elusive. With these eight tips, you’ll be on your way to a great night’s sleep in no time!