There may be no better health and wellness advice than to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, for some people, this is easier said than done. If you struggle with going to sleep, or find yourself waking up frequently or feel groggy in the morning, read on for tips to improve “sleep hygiene”—a variety of routines and practices that can greatly affect your sleep.
Tips for Better Sleep
Ban Devices It’s easy to take electronic distractions to bed with us—phones, tablets and TVs are more present in modern homes than ever before. Ensure a good night’s rest by reserving your bedroom solely for sleep and sex.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that exposure to light from computer tablets significantly lowered levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates internal cycles and makes us feel sleepy. For the best sleep, put a stop to your screen time at least 30 minutes before bed.
Create a Bedtime Ritual
Once you’ve made your bedroom a distraction-free zone, come up with a nightly ritual to signal your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. This might include taking a bath, reading, meditating, doing yoga or engaging in another low-key activity that you find relaxing.
Set Your Schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day; having a set schedule regulates your body clock. Maintain the same schedule on weekends and holidays, and your body will naturally acclimate. Some people who have successfully regulated their sleep schedules find that they don’t even need an alarm clock to wake up.
Invest in Your Sleep Environment
You sleep in your bed every night, so a comfortable mattress and heavenly pillows are well worth the investment. Your perfect pillow and mattress firmness will depend on the position(s) in which you normally sleep, so do some research before you buy.
In the same vein, set yourself up for solid snoozing with dark curtains or shades, a humming fan or a white-noise machine.
Many people sleep better when it’s slightly colder. In fact, a study by a French sleep clinic found that the optimal temperature for sleeping is around 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider turning the thermostat down a couple of degrees; however, don’t lower it to the point where your hands and feet are cold, as this will actually make it more difficult to sleep.
Pay Attention to Other Factors
Exercise, diet, alcohol consumption and stress all affect how you sleep. Regular exercise in the morning or late afternoon will ensure that you are tired enough to sleep, while eating no later than two hours before bed will help prevent weight gain and potentially unpleasant side effects of horizontal digestion, like bloating.
Drinking alcohol before sleeping may seem like a no-brainer to anyone who’s ever fallen exhausted into bed after a few beers. Even though drinking helps you get to sleep, it will wake you up later as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol.
Getting the right kind of rest can make all the difference in the day to come. Here are some expert tips on sleeping well through the night.
Ben Springgate, MD, Internal Medicine, Touro Infirmary
“Try to get 8 hours of sleep on average, when possible,” Dr. Springgate says. “In general, it is better not to drink caffeinated beverages within a few hours before going to sleep. Try to use the sleeping area just for sleeping and not for TV watching or eating, for example. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Getting a good night’s rest can be beneficial to your health, and can depend on consistent bedtime habits and a quiet, dark sleep environment.”
Stuart Busby, MD, Chairman, Department of Sleep Medicine, Ochsner Baptist
“Daylight is actually the most important cue for setting our internal clock at the beginning of the day,” Dr. Busby explains. “An earlier sunrise is great for early risers. With [the recent time change and] the sun rising an hour earlier, this helps us set our biological clock at the beginning of the day. This in turn helps us get to sleep more easily once nighttime has arrived and it’s time for bed. Now, if you are a late sleeper, and don’t need to get up until later in the day, you may want to make sure your bedroom is adequately protected from light, since this may get you waking up earlier than you wanted.
Supat Thammasitboon, MD, MSCR, Associate Professor of Medicine
Director, Sleep Medicine Fellowship Program
“Try to get a lot of sunlight in the morning to help stay alert and subsequently secrete more melatonin at night,” Dr. Thammasitboon says. “[Also] avoid bright light in the evening (try using a light dimmer or change light bulbs [to a lower wattage], [and avoid] using computerized gadgets). Go to bed and get up at the same time everyday, regardless of the day of the week or how the weather looks outside.”