If there’s one thing you can count on to positively impact your health, it’s a good night’s sleep. But that can often be elusive, with nights spent tossing and turning unable to find slumber.
Did you know that not only your daily habits but also your environment can have big a impact on the quality of your sleep - and even whether you’re able to reach rest nirvana?
That’s why we’ve decided to compile our top ten tips for getting a great night of zzzs. Read on, bird!
If you’re someone who feels energized by exercise, this might seem counterintuitive. But, when timed and executed at a cycle that works for you, exercise is a surefire way to assist your body in finding rest.
And it makes sense! If your body gets tired out during the day, you may increase your chances of hitting the pillow hard later that night.
Furthermore, “exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin,” says Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Women's Health Associates at Massachusetts General Hospital.
2. Make sleep your bed’s specific function.
When you spend time in bed watching TV, working, or even reading, you are signaling to your body that bed is a space for attentiveness instead of sleep.
By avoiding this pitfall, you can keep your bed a sleep sanctuary, where the body intuitively knows it is time to rest when you climb under the covers.
3. Consider your environment.
Did you know that having a streetlamp outside your window can actually disrupt your sleep patterns? Our circadian rhythm relies on external factors to signal to the body when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep. Light is the most important cue, which means that even dim light in your bedroom at night can mess with your rhythm. Invest in blackout window coverings or an eye mask to minimize light disruption during the night.
4. Disconnect from devices before bedtime.
In the same vein, constant exposure to the blue light in our technological devices not only causes eye strain but can also trigger wakefulness in the brain when used before your normal sleeptime. In order to help your brain fully shut off each night, try disconnecting from your devices 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime.
5. Start a sleep ritual
When you were a child and your mother read you a story and tucked you into bed every night, this comforting ritual helped lull you to sleep. Even in adulthood, a set of bedtime rituals can have a similar effect. "Rituals help signal the body and mind that it's coming to be time for sleep," explains Dr. Carlson. Drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath. Diffuse some calming aromas. Or listen to calming music to unwind before bed.
6. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
Whenever we stay up late bingeing Netflix or hit the snooze button on our morning alarm, we impact our energy levels more than many of us realize. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is important to helping the brain and body transition more smoothly into and out of rest.
That said, we all like to sleep in on the weekends from time to time. When you do alter your bedtime or wake-up time, try to keep it within one to two hours of your normal schedule.
7. Eat—but not too much
A grumbling stomach can be distracting enough to keep you awake, but so can an overly full belly. Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. If you're hungry right before bed, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers) to satisfy you until breakfast.
8. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
If you do have a snack before bed, wine and chocolate shouldn't be part of it. Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Surprisingly, alcohol has a similar effect. "People think it makes them a little sleepy, but it's actually a stimulant and it disrupts sleep during the night," Dr. Carlson says. Also stay away from anything acidic (such as citrus fruits and juices) or spicy, which can give you heartburn.
The bills are piling up and your to-do list is a mile long. Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night. "Stress is a stimulus. It activates the fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep," Dr. Carlson says. Give yourself time to wind down before bed. "Learning some form of the relaxation response can promote good sleep and can also reduce daytime anxiety." To relax, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply, and then exhale.
10. Talk to a doctor
There are all sorts of techniques you can try at home to improve your quality of sleep each night. However, if you’re consistently experiencing insomnia or struggling with low energy day-to-day, consult your doctor. Ongoing sleep issues can be a sign of underlying conditions. Your medical professional will always be the best resource in helping you achieve consistently restful sleep.