These 8 Morning and Daytime Habits Will Help You Sleep Better at Night

What you do in the morning can sneakily impact your nightly sleep.


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Yes, evening activities and pre-sleep routines are imperative for developing proper sleep hygiene and promoting good sleep quality, but don’t forget that certain healthy habits and activities done throughout the day—including first thing in the morning—can also help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Wondering why you’re still not sleeping great, even though you’re tired at night and feel like you’re doing all the right things right around bedtime? It’s probably worth zooming out and actually rethinking what you’re doing earlier in the day. Here are eight morning and daytime behaviors and tips that can help you sleep better at night.

01 of 08

Exercise earlier in the day—at least 90 minutes before bed.

Regular exercise is an important habit not just in general for your health, but specifically for sleep too—and your exercise timing is just as important. Sarah Pace, ACE-certified health coach and corporate fitness regional manager at HealthFitness, says to finish whatever your exercise is for the day by at least 90 minutes prior to bedtime. This is especially important if you’re an early bird: “Research has found that if you tend to wake up early, a late workout may interfere with your sleep quality and length,” she adds.

Research has shown exercise timing can impact several sleep-related factors like melatonin cycles, sleep architecture, body temperature, and heart rate. A 2015 study found that moderate evening exercise can ramp up sympathetic nervous system activity, for example. Some research suggests morning exercise is beneficial for promoting healthy blood pressure dips and sleep quality, while another small study found that exercise done 90 minutes before bedtime was associated with increased deep sleep.

02 of 08

Get morning light as soon as you can after waking up.

Light helps your brain ‘turn on’ for the day. “I recommend getting about 30 minutes of morning sunlight within the first few hours of waking up to help lock in your body clock and improve morning alertness,” says Cheri D. Mah, MD, MS, a sleep physician with specialization in sleep and performance of elite athletes. Sunlight helps set your circadian rhythm, your physical and mental twenty-four hour sleep-wake cycle that’s largely affected by the presence of light and darkness (this is also why it’s so important to sleep in an extra-dark environment). If you’re not able to get morning light, getting outside for 30 minutes at some other point during the day is a small workaround that can also help enhance nighttime sleep.

03 of 08

Stop drinking caffeine later in the day.

FYI, caffeine can have a half-life (i.e., stay in your system) for up to nine hours, according to the National Institutes of Health. Limiting afternoon and evening caffeine may seem like a no-brainer for sleep, but there’s science behind it that may finally motivate you to cut back on those late afternoon Diet Cokes or after-dinner espressos. Pace explains that caffeine blocks your sleep-promoting adenosine receptors, and “if consumed too late in the day, those receptors won’t get the signal that it’s time to sleep until far past your bedtime,” she says. 

If you have trouble falling asleep at night and think your caffeine habits might be to blame, think about when your typical (or ideal) bedtime is, then work backward: Stop consuming caffeine nine or ten hours before that (12 hours to be safe, if you're particularly sensitive to caffeine). For those with low to normal caffeine sensitivity, another study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that cutting caffeine off at least six hours before bedtime helped reduce its disruptive sleep effects.

04 of 08

Wake up at the same time every day.

Before you panic at the thought of getting up early on your day off, consider the long-term sleep benefits of having a regular wake-up time. “I recommend waking up at the same time every day, including on weekends, as a consistent sleep schedule is key for healthy sleep,” Dr. Mah says. She adds that waking up at different times on weekdays and weekends causes social jet lag, a phenomenon resulting feelings and in circadian rhythm disruptions similar to those of travel jet lag.

05 of 08

Keep naps on the short side—and not too late in the day.

Whether or not naps are good for us has long been the source of debate. Dr. Mah recommends taking 20 to 30 minute naps (and most healthy napping guidelines parrot that rec). She explains that napping for longer can allow you to go into deeper stages of sleep so you may feel more sluggish when you wake up. Consider the purpose of your nap as a pause in your day. An occasional short nap here and there may be just what you need to keep your brain and body alert, especially on days where you’re running on fumes. (If you find you can’t function without a nap most days, you’re probably not getting good sleep at night and should look into identifying the key sleep issues.)

06 of 08

Take stress breaks during the day.

Mostly everyone has experienced difficulty sleeping when stressed out. The American Psychological Association confirms stress is impacting Americans’ sleep a lot. The long-term goal should be to reduce chronic stress by finding stress management strategies that work for you and your specific lifestyle and stressors. Shorter term and throughout the day, make sure to take breaks and engage in quick stress-reduction techniques like slowing your breathing, exercising, and journaling. Decompress with the 4-7-8 breathing method as needed, for example, a technique that helps calm your nervous system. (Inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.) Repeat two or three times.

07 of 08

Eat with sleep in mind.

It makes sense that eating an overall balanced diet full of nutritious foods can positively impact your sleep. And that goes for choosing things that encourage healthy sleep, as well as moderating foods that can keep you awake or otherwise negatively impact sleep.

Caffeinated things, like chocolate, coffee, and certain teas can disrupt good sleep later on. Spicy foods can cause heartburn and indigestion for some, which can really make getting to bed tough. Very high-fat or sugary foods are known to harm sleep, too, as these types of foods may interrupt sleep as your body works to metabolize them. Instead, reach for sleep-supporting foods like cherries, milk, kiwis, and almonds. These contain nutrients like melatonin, magnesium, and tryptophan, which can help make you sleepy and won’t leave you wired.

08 of 08

Reduce your alcohol intake.

The myth of the nightcap is real. Sure, another glass of red might help you drift off and sleep well at first, but it’s often restless, poor quality sleep. Alcohol suppresses REM sleep, the deepest sleep stage that’s not only essential for feeling properly rested the next day, but also for processing information, emotions, and memories. According to the Sleep Foundation, alcohol use disorder often goes hand in hand with symptoms of insomnia, and as little as one drink can exacerbate sleep apnea.

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