Some people can just snuggle into bed and be out cold for the night. That’s great for them, but many of us struggle with both falling asleep and staying asleep. If you have trouble getting a full night of zzz’s, read on to learn how to sleep better.
Falling asleep has never been an issue for me, but my 3 a.m. wake-ups, fraught with to-do lists, have made me eager to find out how to sleep better. Sure, I can slip off to dreamland no problem, but if my dog snores too loudly, if I get a foot cramp, or if my kid has a bad dream in the middle of the night, that’s it, I’m up for hours. A full night’s sleep is essential to our health and well-being though, and while you might assume that sleep habits are firmly ingrained, there are certainly ways to improve them. So whether your issue is getting to sleep or staying asleep, try these expert-backed methods for solid, sound sleep.
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Stick to a Consistent Sleep/Wake Schedule
We all have busy lives, and it’s often tough to get to bed at the same time every day. Still, having a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule is the #1 recommendation of Michael J. Breus, PhD, a Los Angeles area sleep specialist and founder of The Sleep Doctor. “It’s critical to keeping your circadian rhythm in sync, and should even be practiced on the weekends,” he explains. This self-regulation is how you get better sleep.
Turn Off the Screens
We’re all addicted to our phones, televisions, and tablets, but if you want to ensure a deeper sleep, you’ve got to shut them all down at least one hour before bedtime. “The blue light stimulates your brain and keeps you alert, so I ask people to try to shut their screens down early,” says Dr. Breus. (Even devices with nighttime settings emit blue light, so you should shut those down early too, he says.) If you must use a device at night, Dr. Breus recommends using blue blocker glasses ($69, Amazon.com).
You know that working out is good for your overall health, but it can also improve your sleep quality as well, particularly if you work out in the morning. (Evening workouts should occur at least four hours before bedtime to give your body time to cool down before you go to sleep, says Dr. Breus). He recommends about 20 minutes of cardio exercise a day, to achieve solid zzz’s that night.
Don't Take Naps
Sleep cycles are truly cycles. If you get a bad night’s sleep, you may be tired the next day, and decide to squeeze in a nap to take the edge off. Unfortunately though, that short snooze can make it harder to fall asleep later, and can give you insomnia. Your best bet is to power through the urge to doze, and maybe just go to bed a little earlier.
Cover Your Clocks
If you often wake up in the middle of the night, you know that digital clock can taunt you. When you see that it’s 4:30 a.m., you immediately start doing the mental math, stressing about how many hours there are left to get some sleep. To sleep better, experts recommend turning it away from view to curb the anxiety that’ll undoubtedly just keep you awake.
Don't Drink Alcohol Before Bed
Sure, a glass or two of wine might give you that soothing, sleepy buzz, but once the effects wear off, you may find yourself awake with sweats, headache or just general discomfort. “Try to stop drinking 3 hours before bed," says Dr. Breus. "That way it is out of your system and won’t affect sleep quality."
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Turn on Some White Noise
Light sleepers, like me, will wake up at the drop of a hat...or the sound of a spouse rolling over. I blame motherhood, which now has my ears perked up throughout the night. Try any kind of soothing background noise, like a fan, to muffle the other sounds. You can even purchase a white noise machine, which experts use to sleep better. Dr. Breus recommends the iHome Zenergy Sleep Therapy Machine (Amazon, $95).