The quality of your sleep ultimately affects how you feel the next day after waking up. Similarly, the reason for having difficulties falling to sleep can often be found in your daily routine. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day–to–day lifestyle choices can make an great difference to the quality of your every night sleep.
To ensure deep, restorative sleep every night, you need to have well-planned strategies. These strategies involve understanding the common enemies of sleep and exercising healthy sleep-promoting techniques, and then you can discover your personal prescription to a good night’s rest.
The solution, or secret, is to experiment. There is no one strategy that works for everyone. It’s important to find the sleep strategies that work best for you.
The first step to improving the quality of your rest is finding out how much sleep you need. While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best.
The following 6 sleep tips will help you optimize your sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long.
How to sleep better tip 1: Keep a regular sleep schedule
- Set a regular bedtime. Set a time when you normally feel tired and go to bed. Follow this regular schedule strictly even on weekends or holidays when you may be most tempted to stay up late. If you want to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.
- Wake up at the same time every day. You should be able to wake up naturally if your body gets sufficient rest every night. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. As with your bedtime, try to maintain your regular wake–time even on weekends.
- Nap to make up for lost sleep. If you need to make up for a few lost hours, try to go for an afternoon nap. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without affecting your natural sleep–wake rhythm, which often backfires in insomnia and throws you off for days.
- Be smart about napping. While taking a nap can be a great way to recharge, especially for older adults, it can make insomnia worse. If insomnia is a problem for you, consider eliminating napping. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon, and limit it to thirty minutes.
- Fight after–dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting lethargic way before your bedtime, do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as doing some chores, calling a friend, 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 experience trouble getting back to sleep.
How to sleep better tip 2: Create a relaxing bedtime routine
- Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from the surrounding such as the traffic, neighbours or any other sources, try masking it with a fan, recordings of calming sounds, or white noise. You can buy a special sound machine or generate your own white noise by setting your radio between stations. Earplugs may also help.
- Keep your room cool. The temperature of your bedroom also greatly affects the quality of your sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable. You should have enough room to toss and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow. Experiment with different levels of comfort and support that may be more suitable for you.
- Relaxing bedtime rituals to try
- Read a book or magazine by a soft light
- Take a warm bath
- Listen to soft music
- Do some easy stretches
- Wind down with a favourite hobby
- Listen to books on tape
- Make simple preparations for the next day
How to sleep better tip 3: Eat right and get regular exercise
- Stay away from big meals at night. Try not to eat within two hours before going to bed and as much as possible, do avoid heavy and rich foods as it will make your stomach work harder as they are harder to digest and may ultimately keep you up. Also be cautious when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. Many people think that a small amount of alcohol before bed will help them sleep better, but on the contrary, while it may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces your sleep quality, waking you up later in the night. To avoid this effect, stay away from alcohol in the hours before bed.
- Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it. Try eliminating caffeine after lunch or reduce your overall intake.
- Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of water, juice, tea, or other fluids may result in numerous bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics, only make things worse.
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in numerous ways. Nicotine, being a stimulant will disrupt your sleep, plus smokers experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it even harder to sleep.
How to sleep better tip 4: Get anxiety and stress in check
Relaxation is valuable for everyone, especially for those struggling with sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Some simple relaxation techniques include:
- Deep breathing. Close your eyes, and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.
- Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.
How to sleep better tip 5: Ways to get back to sleep
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night. In fact, a good sleeper won’t even remember it. However if you’re waking up during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, the following tips may help.
- Stay out of your head. Cue your body for sleep by maintaining a relaxed position in bed. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over the fact that you’re awake or your inability to fall asleep again, because that very stress and anxiety encourages your body to stay awake. A good way to stay out of your head is to focus on the feelings and sensations in your body.
- Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you find it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualization, deep breathing, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Remind yourself that although they’re not a replacement for sleep, rest and relaxation still help rejuvenate your body.
- Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim so as not to cue your body clock that it’s time to wake up. Also avoid screens of any kind—computers, TV, cell phones—as the type of light they emit is stimulating to the brain. A light snack or herbal tea might help relax you, but be careful not to eat so much that your body begins to expect a meal at that time of the day.
- 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 you are fresh and it will be easier to resolve
How to sleep better tip 6: Know when to see a sleep doctor
If you’ve tried the tips above and are still struggling with sleep problems, make an appointment with a sleep doctor as you may have a sleep disorder that requires professional treatment. Some common symptoms include:
- Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Frequent morning headaches
- Crawling sensations in your legs or arms at night
- Inability to move while falling asleep or waking up
- Physically acting out dreams during sleep
- Falling asleep at inappropriate times