How to Sleep Better
How to Sleep Better
Five evidence-backed tips for getting better sleep
If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, you are not alone. In 2020, 14.5% of adults surveyed in the U.S. had trouble falling asleep most days. Another study found that about a third of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough sleep each night. These numbers are troubling because getting good sleep is arguably the most important thing you can do for your health. 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night supports mental health, brain function, mood, and physical health.
The good news is that people can usually improve their sleep problems by tweaking just a few nighttime habits. Here are five practices that can help you sleep better tonight and every night.
Get more light during the day, less at night
Your body’s natural sleep signals are a reaction to light. When you wake in the morning, light exposure helps you wake up, and natural darkness helps you fall asleep. While people don’t often rise and fall with the sun anymore (especially during the winter), you can help your brain become tired by turning down the lights when it’s time to hit the hay. Many people watch tv or scroll through social media as they try to fall asleep, but these artificial lights give your brain signals to stay awake, which is why it is a good idea to scrap the screens 1-2 hours before bedtime and to keep the room in which you sleep extra dark.
Engage in relaxing activities
Instead of watching tv before bed, consider taking on a more calming activity such as yoga, meditation, or journaling. Make this practice a habit, and you could be on your way to better sleep. Research shows that both regular yoga and meditation practices can improve sleep quality. It’s best to stick to more relaxed yoga practices, such as restorative yoga or yin yoga, as more rigorous exercise within 1-2 hours of going to bed may keep you awake (though regular, moderate exercise earlier in the day can help you sleep better).
Take a soak in your hot tub
You can amplify your relaxation by soaking in your hot tub before bed. Research shows that soaking in hot water for as little as ten minutes, about 1-2 hours before bedtime, can improve sleep quality. Create a soothing oasis with calming music and ambient light around your hot tub to increase the relaxing qualities of your nightly soak.
Limit caffeine and alcohol, opt for calming teas instead
A lot of people like to have a glass of wine at the end of the night, but alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycles. Similarly, drinking caffeine too late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep. Try sipping on a calming tea, like mint or chamomile, as you wind down for the night instead.
Turn down the temps
If the thermostat in your room is set above 70F you may want to consider turning down the temperature. Being too hot during the night can disrupt your sleep cycles, so experts recommend cooling things down. Additionally, when you are getting ready for bed, your core temperature naturally drops a couple of degrees, which helps tell your body that it is time to sleep. Interestingly, the contrast between the hot water of a hot tub and the temperature of your bedroom supports this process, as long as you give your body 1-2 hours to cool down.
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you’re not getting enough, or you’re waking up throughout the night, give some of these bedtime practices a try. After a few nights of long, restful sleep, you’ll be amazed at how great you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.