5 Steps to Better Sleep
You’ve likely heard how important it is to sleep seven to nine hours per night, which isn’t always an easy task. With your busy life and hectic schedule, it can be difficult to get the quality sleep that your body requires. Sleep is important for exercise recovery and performance, to keep your skin looking young, to reduce stress and anxiety, and to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
So if you struggle to get enough quality sleep, here are five easy steps you can implement right away to improve your sleeping habits.
1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule (even on the weekends!).
This means making an effort to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including on the weekends and holidays. I know this may seem like quite the feat on the weekends, but your body will appreciate the regular sleep cycle. By getting your body in a regular rhythm, you’ll reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and have an easier time falling and staying asleep.
An easy way to establish a sleep schedule is to create a relaxing bedtime ritual that starts at the same time each day and that allows you to wind down so you are ready to go to sleep when the time comes. Consider setting an alarm to start winding down for the night.
2. Avoid watching TV or using other electronics at least an hour prior to bed.
It can be tempting to watch TV or play around on your phone prior to bed; however, doing so can interfere with the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone controlled by light that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. When night falls and it’s dark, your body secretes more melatonin and makes you feel more sleepy. The light from watching TV, playing with your phone, or sitting on your computer disrupts the production of melatonin and, consequently, makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Additionally, watching scary movies or unsettling news can create a stress response that increases the time it takes to fall asleep. Instead, try nighttime activities that are more relaxing and that don’t involve bright lights, such as reading a real book, writing on paper, listening to audios, or meditating.
3. Create a relaxing sleep environment.
There are a few ways to make your bedroom more relaxing to allow you to fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
First, ensure the room is dark. A dark room is most conducive to maximum melatonin release. Either block out all light with blackout curtains or use a sleep mask. As mentioned in the prior tip, try to avoid brightly-lit electronics before bed. Anytime you travel, be sure to pack a mask with you as you don’t always have control of the light in hotels or when visiting family or friends’ homes.
Lastly, set the thermostat to the right temperature before heading to bed. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with sleep quality, so find a temperature that’s comfortable for you. Research shows that somewhere between 60 to 67 degrees is ideal.
4. Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime.
Eating too much before bed can create discomfort that makes it difficult to fall asleep and can also depress melatonin production. Additionally, having sugar too close to bed can give you a sugar rush that will certainly keep you awake. So avoid the late night meals or snacking and instead have a healthy and filling dinner meal at least two to three hours before you plan to go to sleep.
Additionally, pay attention to your body. If particular foods leave you feeling gassy or bloated for hours after you eat them, then they are likely interfering with your sleep. Avoid eating those foods late in the day and consider eliminating them from your diet entirely.
5. Exercise regularly and find opportunities to stand throughout the day.
We already know exercise is good for the mind and body, but exercising on a consistent basis can also improve sleep quality. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that regular vigorous exercisers reported getting the best sleep, but that even adding just a little bit of activity to your day can improve your sleep quality1.
Additionally, the same study found that sitting less throughout the day can also promote better sleep. So the key here is to find ways to be more active throughout the day, whether that’s standing, moving, or exercising.
1. Buman, M.P., Phillips, B.A., Youngstedt, S.D., Kline, C.E., and Hirshkowitz, M. Does nighttime exercise really disturb sleep? Results from the 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll. Sleep Medicine. 2014; 15: 755–76