I know, I know. Everyone is telling you how important sleep is these days. Magazine articles guilt-trip you about how many hours you spend snoozing, news stories report on the number of traffic accidents caused by sleep-exhausted drivers. But here’s the reality: most of us, at some point or another, will have a hard time getting enough sleep. Whether we’re just too busy to spend enough time in bed or stress causes us to toss and turn all night, no one is guaranteed a good night’s sleep every single night. So we want to help you. We want to change the way you view sleep: not from a “shame on you if you’re not sleeping great” perspective, but a practical “let’s try to get as much of this stuff as possible” perspective. Maybe you won’t get 8 hours every night, but we want to help you try whenever you can. Here are our realistic tips for falling—and staying—asleep a little better.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
When it comes to sleep, your body likes a routine—even on the weekend. Try to get into a habit of waking up and going to bed at the same time each morning and night. While your schedule may dictate burning the midnight oil or a super early rise, try to make those occurrences the exception rather than the rule. By implementing a sleep schedule, your body will start to anticipate when it’s time for bed and when it’s time to rise.
2. Watch caffeine intake after noon
Caffeine affects everyone a little differently, and for some, it can be the hidden culprit behind their insomnia or middle-of-the-night tossing and turning. Coffee and tea are great in moderation, but try to cut yourself off after noon if you find that caffeine is keeping you awake. Switch to herbal tea in the evening if you miss having a warm beverage after dinner.
3. Get a white noise machine
If random nighttime noises (or your partner’s snoring) keeps you awake at night, try a white noise machine. The beauty of a white noise machine is that it emits a low volume, constant, soothing noise, as opposed to random noises from outside or inside that can rouse light sleepers. We like the Dohm Sound Machine because it provides several different options for noise style and volume.
4. Skip alcohol
Ever notice when you have a cocktail or two that you keep waking up during the night? It’s not a coincidence. Many people with insomnia use a glass of wine to try and induce sleep, but studies show that alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of sleep—you will wake up and have a more difficult time getting back to sleep. Alcohol’s impact on your sleep is thought to get worse if you regularly have a drink before going to bed. If you want quality sleep, skip the adult beverages.
Related: 9 Natural Ways To Avoid A Hangover
5. Try melatonin or lavender
There are many natural sleep aids like melatonin supplements which tell your body it’s time for sleep or essential oils like lavender which naturally calm the mind and body. You can get an aromatherapy diffuser to slowly dispense lavender fragrance throughout the night or mix a few drops of lavender with coconut oil and apply it to your body before sleep. Both melatonin and lavender are natural alternatives to sleeping pills that can be effective at helping you fall and stay asleep.
6. Create calming bedtime rituals
If you develop some calming bedtime routines, you can signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. If you read every night before you drift off to dreamland, you will begin to get tired when you pick up that book. Maybe you have a face washing regimen or you listen to peaceful music—just create some gentle habits that tell your body to slow down and prepare to sleep.
7. Turn off your devices
Most people sleep better in total darkness, so make sure you don’t have any iPhones beeping or lighting up your bedroom. Shut down your laptop so it isn’t glowing in your room and emitting light. Studies show that exposure to blue light, like the kind from electronic devices, decreases your melatonin production; the hormone responsible for signaling to your body it’s time for bed.
8. Don’t toss and turn for hours
If you’re finding yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, don’t let yourself lie there awake for too long. You don’t want to start viewing your bed as “that place where I don’t sleep.” Plus, getting up can make you feel sleepy enough to fall asleep again. Put on a light that isn’t glaring and read a magazine or a book. Have a warm glass of milk. Signal to your body that the bed is where you sleep, not where you lie awake and fret about sleeping.
9. Take a hot bath or shower
A peaceful way to end your day, stepping out of a warm shower or bath into a naturally cooler bedroom causes a drop in your body temperature. This drop in temperature is shown to naturally trigger feelings of sleepiness because it slows down metabolic functions. So next time you need to unwind and induce sleep a little quicker, take a warm shower or bath! Bonus points if you can add some epsom salts to your bath…they can help relax your muscles and your mind.
10. Jot down your worries and plans before bed
Oftentimes we wake up in the middle of the night worrying about all the things we have to do the next day, or everything we didn’t accomplish today. It can actually be beneficial to designate a “worry and planning” time earlier in the da to get out your subconscious fears, concerns, and to-dos. Get a journal or notebook and free-write after you get home from work, for example, to release your fears and worries and get them down on paper so they don’t haunt your dreams!
Even five minutes of meditation before bed can be incredibly helpful at inducing sleep and relieving stress. Sit calmly in your room with the lights low and breathe in and out calmly for at least five minutes. Sometimes it’s hard for us to fall asleep because we haven’t slowed down all day and then hop into bed expecting our brains to calm down instantly! But if we give ourselves a few moments reprieve from the daily hustle and bustle, it can signal to our bodies that it’s time to rest.
12. Switch to morning workouts
Daily exercise can help you sleep better at night, but not necessarily if you’re hitting the gym late at night. Try to schedule your workouts in the morning so you get the benefits of exercise all day long but the adrenaline of your workout doesn’t keep you up all night.
13. See a physician if you are still tired
If you repeatedly feel tired after a night’s rest, it’s possible that you could suffer from sleep apnea, a condition where you stop breathing several times during the night and as a result, your body keeps waking you up. See your doctor and find out if you need to go to a sleep lab to be tested. Advances in the treatment protocol, CPAP technology, have resulted in smaller, quieter and more comfortable devices.
The worst thing you can do if you struggle with sleep issues is to panic or amp up your stress level by freaking out. Yes, you might be a walking zombie the next day. Try to dial down your sleep stress and calm yourself with some kind words like “I’ve got this.” Or, “there’s always coffee tomorrow.” Having a sense of humor and keeping perspective about your sleep challenges can actually help you sleep better. And sleeping better makes everything better.