How to Sleep Better - HelpGuide.org (2022)

sleep

Tired of tossing and turning at night? These simple tips will help you sleep better and be more energetic and productive during the day.

How to Sleep Better - HelpGuide.org (1)

How can I get a better night’s sleep?

Sleeping well directly affects your mental and physical health. Fall short and it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight. Yet many of us regularly toss and turn at night, struggling to get the sleep we need.

Getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal when you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., but you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realize. Just as the way you feel during your waking hours often hinges on how well you sleep at night, so the cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine.

Unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can leave you tossing and turning at night and adversely affect your mood, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and weight. But by experimenting with the following tips, you can enjoy better sleep at night, boost your health, and improve how you think and feel during the day.

Tip 1: Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle

Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better. If you keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times, even if you only alter your sleep schedule by an hour or two.

Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime.

Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the jetlag-like symptoms you’ll experience. If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.

Be smart about napping. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.

Start the day with a healthy breakfast. Among lots of other health benefits, eating a balanced breakfast can help sync up your biological clock by letting your body know that it’s time to wake up and get going. Skipping breakfast on the other hand, can delay your blood sugar rhythms, lower your energy, and increase your stress, factors that may disrupt sleep.

Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you get sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

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Tip 2: Control your exposure to light

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm. Here’s how to influence your exposure to light:

During the day

Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window. The light on your face will help you wake up

Spend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.

Let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.

If necessary, use a light therapy box. This simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days.

(Video) How To Get A Better Sleep: Tips to Help With Insomnia

At night

Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software such as f.lux.

Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.

Don’t read with backlit devices. Tablets that are backlit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.

When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also consider covering up electronics that emit light.

Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you need some light to move around safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hall or bathroom or using a small flashlight. This will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.

Tip 3: Exercise during the day

People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.

[Read: The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise]

  • The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality.
  • It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus onbuilding an exercise habit that sticks.

For better sleep, time your exercise right

Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but too close to bed and it can interfere with sleep.

Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. If you’re still experiencing sleep difficulties, move your workouts even earlier. Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can help promote sleep.

Tip 4: Be smart about what you eat and drink

Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.

Focus on a heart-healthy diet. It’s your overall eating patterns rather than specific foods that can make the biggest difference to your quality of sleep, as well as your overall health. Eating a Mediterranean-type diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats—and limited amounts of red meat—may help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.

[Read: The Mediterranean Diet]

(Video) How to Sleep Better

Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots ofsugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.

Limit caffeine and nicotine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Similarly, smoking is another stimulant that can disrupt your sleep, especially if you smoke close to bedtime.

Avoid big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.

Avoid alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re out.

Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.

Nighttime snacks may help you to sleep

For some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep. For others, eating before bed leads to indigestion and makes sleeping more difficult. If you need a bedtime snack, try:

  • Half a turkey sandwich.
  • A small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal.
  • Milk or yogurt.
  • A banana.

Tip 5: Wind down and clear your head

Do you often find yourself unable to get to sleep or regularly waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. Taking steps to manage your overall stress levels and learning how to curb the worry habit can make it easier to unwind at night. You can also try developing a relaxing bedtime ritual to help you prepare your mind for sleep, such as practicing a relaxation technique, taking a warm bath, or dimming the lights and listening to soft music or an audiobook.

Problems clearing your head at night can also stem from your daytime habits. The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be to slow down and unwind at night. Maybe, like many of us, you’re constantly interrupting tasks during the day to check your phone, email, or social media. Then when it comes to getting to sleep at night, your brain is so accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation, it becomes difficult to unwind.

[Read: Smartphone Addiction]

Help yourself by setting aside specific times during the day for checking your phone and social media and, as much as possible, try to focus on one task at a time. You’ll be better able to calm your mind at bedtime.

A deep breathing exercise to help you sleep

Breathing from your belly rather than your chest can activate the relaxation response and lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels to help you drift off to sleep.

(Video) [Sleeping Tips] How To Get Better Sleep

  • Lay down in bed and close your eyes.
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

To follow along with a guided deep breathing exercise, click here.

A body scan exercise to help you sleep

By focusing your attention on different parts of your body, you can identify where you’re holding any stress or tension, and release it.

  • Lie on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, eyes closed. Focus on your breathing for about two minutes until you start to feel relaxed.
  • Turn your focus to the toes of your right foot. Notice any tension while continuing to also focus on your breathing. Imagine each deep breath flowing to your toes. Remain focused on this area for at least three to five seconds.
  • Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Tune in to any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot. Then move your focus to your right ankle and repeat. Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and then repeat the sequence for your left leg. From there, move up your torso, through your lower back and abdomen, your upper back and chest, and your shoulders. Pay close attention to any area of the body that feels tense.
  • After completing the body scan, relax, noting how your body feels. You should feel so relaxed you can easily fall asleep.

For a bedtime sleep meditation that uses deep breathing, mindfulness, and body scan techniques to help you wind down and clear your head, click here.

Tip 6: Improve your sleep environment

A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.

Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet

Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from neighbors, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine. Earplugs may also help.

Keep your room cool. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.

Make sure your bed is comfortable. Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably without becoming tangled. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows that provide more or less support.

Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex. By not working, watching TV, or using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex, which makes it easier to wind down at night.

Tip 7: Learn ways to get back to sleep

It’s normal to wake briefly during the night but if you’re havingtrouble falling back asleep, these tips may help:

Stay out of your head. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over your inability to fall asleep again, because that stress only encourages your body to stay awake. To stay out of your head, focus on the feelings in your body or practice breathing exercises. Take a breath in, then breathe out slowly while saying or thinking the word, “Ahhh.” Take another breath and repeat.

Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you find it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Even though it’s not a replacement for sleep, relaxation can still help rejuvenate your body.

[Listen: Sleep Meditation Using Guided Imagery]

(Video) 5 Effective Ways to Fall Asleep | Dilly Daily

Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim and avoid screens so as not to cue your body that it’s time to wake up.

Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve. Similarly, if a great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive after a good night’s rest.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal, M.A.

FAQs

How much sleep do you need Helpguide? ›

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least seven hours of sleep.

How much sleep does a 70 year old woman need? ›

Sleep and Aging

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night.

How do you get better sleep 10 practical tips to sleep well? ›

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  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. ...
  2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Don't go to bed hungry or stuffed. ...
  3. Create a restful environment. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. ...
  4. Limit daytime naps. ...
  5. Include physical activity in your daily routine. ...
  6. Manage worries.

What are 4 tips for better sleep? ›

Tips for Better Sleep

Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom.

Is 10pm to 4am enough sleep? ›

On the question of 10 pm-4am being the most ideal time to be asleep, Dr Nangia says, "According to the circadian rhythm, there are certain hormones which are at their peak during the night.

Is 6 hours of sleep OK? ›

Adults. The recommended number of hours is 7 to 9 hours, with 6 hours or 10 hours of sleep deemed appropriate on either side. It is not a good idea to get 6 hours or less of sleep.

What is the most healthy sleep position? ›

Specifically, sleeping on the side or back is considered more beneficial than sleeping on the stomach. In either of these sleep positions, it's easier to keep your spine supported and balanced, which relieves pressure on the spinal tissues and enables your muscles to relax and recover.

How can I increase my deep sleep naturally? ›

How to Increase Deep Sleep: 10 Tips + Benefits
  1. Work Out Daily. ...
  2. Eat More Fiber. ...
  3. Find Your Inner Yogi. ...
  4. Avoid Caffeine 7+ Hours Before Bed. ...
  5. Resist that Nightcap. ...
  6. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine. ...
  7. Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary. ...
  8. Listen to White and Pink Noise.
29 Apr 2020

How can I increase melatonin? ›

Certain methods may boost the production of melatonin naturally and promote better sleep, including these tips:
  1. Get some sunlight. It may seem counterproductive to get sunlight to produce melatonin, but it may help. ...
  2. Eat tryptophan-rich foods. ...
  3. Take a warm bath. ...
  4. Limit artificial light.
5 Dec 2019

What age do you start feeling old? ›

According to the research, the average American starts feeling old at the age of 47. Similarly, the average respondent starts to really worry about age-related bodily changes around 50 years old.

What is the safest sleeping pill for the elderly? ›

In the elderly, nonbenzodiazepines such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, zaleplon, and ramelteon are safer and better tolerated than tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, and benzodiazepines. Pharmacotherapy should be recommended only after sleep hygiene is addressed, however.

Why do seniors have trouble sleeping? ›

A variety of processes may interfere with sleep and wakefulness in the elderly. Among them are acute and chronic medical illnesses, medication effects, psychiatric disorders, primary sleep disorders, social changes, poor sleep habits and circadian rhythm shifts.

Why do we wake up at 3am? ›

You wake up at 3am because this is the time you shift from a deep sleep into a lighter sleep. If you turn in at 11pm, by three in the morning you're mostly out of deep sleep and shifting into longer periods of lighter sleep, known as REM.

Why is it important to sleep between 11 and 2? ›

Turning in before midnight is good for our health.

In addition to regulating circadian rhythm, sleep before midnight can affect our overall wellness when awake. "Sleeping before midnight helps to ensure that you have enough daytime hours of light exposure to regulate your melatonin production," Rohrscheib says.

How much sleep do you need by age? ›

How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Age GroupRecommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
Preschool3–5 years10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2
School Age6–12 years9–12 hours per 24 hours2
Teen13–18 years8–10 hours per 24 hours2
Adult18–60 years7 or more hours per night3
5 more rows

Do naps count as sleep? ›

Using naps to “top up” on sleep can be an effective means of increasing total sleep in a 24-hour period and has proven benefits for performance, efficiency, mood, and alertness, and can reduce fatigue and accidents.

Are naps good for you? ›

Naps are good for both children and adults. Many studies point out nap time reduces daytime sleepiness, as well as boosts learning and performance. For shift workers, naps can improve alertness and reaction times. And we know babies, toddlers, and young children benefit from naps in numerous ways.

How Little sleep Can you survive on? ›

The longest recorded time without sleep is approximately 264 hours, or just over 11 consecutive days. Although it's unclear exactly how long humans can survive without sleep, it isn't long before the effects of sleep deprivation start to show. After only three or four nights without sleep, you can start to hallucinate.

What vitamins can help you sleep? ›

Research has shown that maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamins B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12 may help achieve good sleep. Best food sources of vitamin B includes whole grains, meat, eggs, seeds and nuts as well as dark leafy vegetables.

What food is highest in melatonin? ›

Eggs and fish are higher melatonin-containing food groups in animal foods, whereas in plant foods, nuts are with the highest content of melatonin. Some kinds of mushrooms, cereals and germinated legumes or seeds are also good dietary sources of melatonin.

What fruits help you sleep? ›

Kiwifruit possess numerous vitamins and minerals3, most notably vitamins C and E as well as potassium and folate. Some research has found that eating kiwi can improve sleep4. In a study, people who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime found that they fell asleep faster, slept more, and had better sleep quality.

Should I sleep without a pillow? ›

While research is limited, anecdotal reports show that sleeping without a pillow can help reduce neck and back pain for some sleepers. Stomach sleepers are generally best suited for going pillowless, because the lower angle of the neck encourages better spinal alignment in this position.

Does sleeping on your left side affect your heart? ›

Even though lying on your left side may change your heart's electrical activity, there's no evidence that it increases your risk of developing a heart condition if you don't already have one.

Which side is best to sleep on left or right? ›

Sleeping on your left side can help naturally open the airways and make breathing easier. You may also find relief if you rest on your right side, but doctors believe sleeping on your left side to be more effective. It's also the recommended sleeping position for people with sleep apnea.

What fruit is best before bed? ›

Cherries are known for being one of the best foods for sleep as they naturally contain melatonin. Snacking on cherries or drinking cherry juice can help promote longer, deeper sleep.

What should you not drink before bed? ›

before bedtime: Avoid drinks and hot beverages which contain caffeine. These drinks can make us feel more awake and can disrupt our sleep. Some drinks which include caffeine and should be avoided close to bed are; tea, coffee, energy drinks and fizzy juice.

Is 7 hours sleep better than 8? ›

Having trouble getting that ideal 8 hours of sleep? So is everyone else. But there's some good news — you may only need 7 hours of it. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS) have issued a new recommendation, saying seven is the magic sleep number for most healthy adults.

Is 6.5 hours of sleep enough? ›

(The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for adults.)

Is 10 hours of sleep good? ›

How Much Sleep Is Too Much? Sleep needs can vary from person to person, but in general, experts recommend that healthy adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours per night of shuteye. If you regularly need more than 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested, it might be a sign of an underlying problem, Polotsky says.

How much sleep do teenagers need? ›

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended that children aged 6–12 years should regularly sleep 9–12 hours per 24 hours and teenagers aged 13–18 years should sleep 8–10 hours per 24 hours.

Why do elderly sleep so much? ›

Boredom, depression, chronic pain and/or nutritional deficiencies can be some of the underlying causes that account for excessive daytime sleeping. Medications can also be a problem.

How much sleep do you need by age? ›

How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Age GroupRecommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
Preschool3–5 years10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2
School Age6–12 years9–12 hours per 24 hours2
Teen13–18 years8–10 hours per 24 hours2
Adult18–60 years7 or more hours per night3
5 more rows

What's the magic number for sleep? ›

The healthy sweet spot is right in the middle: so 7-8 hours of sleep per night, no more, no less. In fact, long sleep is associated with roughly 1.8 times the odds of developing Alzheimer's Disease.

How much sleep do 100 year olds need? ›

Some sleep experts suggest that seniors actually need less sleep than other age groups. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep whereas many seniors can get away with 7.5 hours. Other experts believe that seniors need just as much sleep as the rest of the population.

What lack of sleep does to you? ›

Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression, reduced immune system function and lower sex drive.

Is 4 hours of sleep OK for one night? ›

For most people, 4 hours of sleep per night isn't enough to wake up feeling rested and mentally alert, no matter how well they sleep. There's a common myth that you can adapt to chronically restricted sleep, but there's no evidence that the body functionally adapts to sleep deprivation.

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3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, Andrea Scott, Ph.D
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4. 6 Sleep Hacks That Will Change Your Life
(The Top Essentials)
5. Tips for better sleep
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(Conseils Sommeil)

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