The average person spends more than one third of his/her life asleep. But don’t be fooled—just because the body is sleeping doesn’t mean it’s slacking off. During sleep, the body repairs itself so that when the alarm clock goes off, our bodies are renewed and refreshed. Tossing and turning all night can affect judgment, productivity, and the ability to retain information the next day. Over time, it can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and—of course—a chronic bad attitude. (Did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?) So whether or not you're a morning person, check out our list on how to sleep better tonight—and thank us in the morning.
Disclaimer: While factors like stress or big life changes can bring on a few sleepless nights, prolonged trouble sleeping could be a sign of another issue like depression or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. If these are worries, schedule a doctor’s visit to get things checked out. A medical professional might suggest a hormone test or another kind of evaluation to make sure everything’s okay.
1. Establish a bedtime routine
This lets the body know it’s time to unwind from the day’s stress and chill. Figure out a schedule and stick to it every night of the week—even weekends!
Thinking about or doing stressful activities can cause the body to release stress hormones, leading to alertness. But writing out stressful thoughts in a journal can help us avoid restlessness once we hit the sheets. Studies suggest certain types of journaling allow us to focus on the positive instead of the negative aspects of our day. Journaling+about+stressful+events:+effects+of+cognitive+processing+and+emotional+expression.+Ullrich,+P.M,+Lutgendorf,+S.K.+Department+of+Psychology,+University+of+Iowa,+Iowa+City,+USA.+Annals+of+Behavioral+Medicine+2002+Summer;24(3):244-50.
3. Munch on magnesium
Research suggests magnesium plays a key role in our ability to sleep through the night. Magnesium+involvement+in+sleep:+genetic+and+nutritional+models.+Chollet,+D.,+Franken,+P.,+Raffin,+Y.,+et+al.+Department+of+Psychiatry,+University+of+Geneva,+Switzerland.+Behavior+Genetics+2001+Sep;31(5):413-25. Try chowing on magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and swiss chard The+bioavailablity+of+magnesium+in+spinach+and+the+effect+of+oxalic+acid+on+magnesium+utilization+examined+in+diets+of+magnesium-deficient+rats.+Kikunaga,+S.,+Ishii,+H.,+Takahashi,+M.+Faculty+of+Home+Economics,+Notre+Dame+Seishin+University,+Okayama,+Japan.+Journal+of+Nutritional+Science+and+Vitaminology+1995+Dec;41(6):671-85. Or pop a ZMA supplement, another form of magnesium, about half an hour before bedtime.
4. Try a cup of chamomile tea
This herbal drink can reduce anxiety that might make it more difficult to fall asleep. A+randomized,+double-blind,+placebo-controlled+trial+of+oral+Matricaria+recuttia+(chamomile)+extract+therapy+for+generalized+anxiety+disorder.+Amsterdam,+J.D.,+Li,+Y.,+Soeller,+I.,+et+al.+Depression+Research+Unit,+University+Science+Center,+Philadelphia,+PA.+Journal+of+Clinical+Psychopharmacology+2009+Aug;29(4):378-82.
5. Exercise regularly
Studies suggest some aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety and improve quality of sleep in people who suffer from insomnia. Moderators+and+mediators+of+exercise-induced+objective+sleep+improvements+in+midlife+and+older+adults+with+sleep+complaints.+Buman,+MP,+Hekler,+EB,+Bliwise,+DL,+et+al.+Health+Psychology.+2011+Jun+20.
6. Work out earlier in the day
While exercise can help improve sleep quality, it’s important to schedule workouts that end at least two hours before hitting the hay so that post-workout adrenaline boost doesn’t keep you up.
7. Take a power nap during the day
8. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep
While many of us don’t get nearly that much, sleep deprivation has been linked to high cortisol levels (aka more stress). Metabolic,+endocrine,+and+immune+consequences+of+sleep+deprivation.+Aldabal,+L,+Bahammam,+AS.+Open+Respiratory+Medicine+Journal.+2011;+5:31-43.+Epub+2011+Jun+23. Recent research also suggests not sleeping enough is linked to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can’t process insulin efficiently and a risk factor for diabetes Impaired+insulin+signaling+in+human+adipocytes+after+experimental+sleep+restriction:+a+randomized,+crossover+study.+Broussard,+J.L.,+Ehrmann,+D.A.,+Van+Cauter,+E.+et+al.+University+of+Chicago,+Chicago,+IL.+Annals+of+Internal+Medicine+2012+Oct+16;157(8):549-57.
9. Bedroom activities only, please
Reserve the bed for bedtime-only activities so the mind associates the bedroom with relaxation. Sleep and sex, yes. Work and bills, not so much. Sleep+hygiene+practices+of+good+and+poor+sleepers+in+the+United+States:+an+internet-based+study.+Gellis,+LA,+Lichstein,+KL.+Philadelphia+Veterans+Medical+Center,+Philadelphia,+PA.+Behavior+Therapy.+2009+Mar;40(1):1-9.+Epub+2008+Jul+14.
10. Create a comfortable environment
Whether that means picking the perfect mattress, splurging on 800-thread-count sheets, getting heavy-duty curtains to block out light, or keeping a fan in the room for background noise, make sure it’s comfy before climbing into bed. Share a bed? Work with your partner to make any changes necessary so everyone sleeps well.
11. Keep the bedroom slightly cool
Between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. A room with extreme temperatures leads to more frequent awakenings and lighter sleep.
12. Take a hot shower or bath before bed
13. Set a daily wakeup time
Just like it’s best to go to bed at the same time every day, it’s a good idea to keep a consistent wakeup time—even on the weekends. Irregular bedtime and wake-up hours can lead to poor sleep patterns. Prevalence+of+insomnia+and+sleep+characteristics+in+the+general+population+of+Spain.+Ohayon,+MM,+Sagales,+T.+Stanford+Sleep+Epidermiology+Research+Center,+Stanford+University,+School+of+Medicine,+Stanford,+CA.+Sleep+Medicine.+2010+Dec;11(1):1010-8.+Epub+2010+Nov+18.
14. Make up for lost sleep
Stayed up too late the past few nights? Tack on an extra hour tonight to repay sleep debt and get back on track.
15. Keep caffeine fixes to mornings and early afternoons
Drinking it too late in the evening can lead to an unwelcome bedtime boost. For some people, the effects of caffeine can last the whole work day—up to 10 hours after that last venti macchiato.
16. Don’t toss and turn
Can’t fall asleep? If you’ve been lying in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and try a relaxing activity like reading or listening to mellow music. Thinking about not sleeping will bring on even more anxiousness—it’s a vicious cycle.
17. Check the medicine cabinet
Certain medications might be interfering with sleep. Think a prescription is the culprit to a sleepless night? Talk to a doctor about potential side effects and how to deal with them.
18. Leave Fluffy on the floor
Sleeping with pets can interfere with sleep. Snuggle before bedtime and then let them get comfortable elsewhere.
19. Face the alarm clock away
Watching the time tick by can actually cause more stress and make it harder to fall asleep. Plus, artificial light from electronic gadgets can mess up our circadian rhythm, making our bodies think it’s time to stay up and party.
20. Get techy
Check out the variety of smartphone apps and other gadgets designed to help usher in a better night’s sleep. Tracking sleep over a long period of time can also help us pinpoint what’s helping—and hurting—our snooze time.
21. Listen to soothing music
It can improve both sleep quality and duration. Music+improves+sleep+quality+in+older+adults.+Lai+HL,+Good,+M.+Community+Health+Center,+Buddhist+Tzu-Chi+General+Hospital,+Hualien,+Taiwan.+Journal+of+Advanced+Nursing.+2005+Feb;49(3):234-44. Try classical, folk, or slow-paced contemporary styles for some soothing sounds.
22. Sniff some lavender
This scent can actually be an antidote to insomnia. Try burning lavender-scented candles or essential oils to ease into sleep. A+single-blinded,+randomized+pilot+study+evaluating+the+aroma+of+Lavandula+augustifolia+as+a+treatment+for+mild+insomnia.+Lewith,+GT,+Godfrey,+AD,+Prescott,+P.+University+of+Southampton,+Southampton,+United+Kingdom.+Journal+of+Alternative+Complementary+Medicine.+2005+Aug;+11(4):631-7.
23. Try progressive muscle relaxation
Starting with the feet, tense the muscles. Hold for a count of five and then relax. Do this for every muscle group in the body, working up from the feet to the top of the head. Treating+insomnia+with+a+self-administered+muscle+relaxation+training+program:+a+follow-up.+Gustafson,+R.+Department+of+Social+Sciences,+University+of+Orebro,+Sweden.+Psychological+Reports.+1992+Feb;+70(1):+124-6. A nightly meditation practice that involves focusing on the breath can also help prepare the body for sleep.
24. Dim the lights
Bright lighting, in particular the “blue light” emitted by most electronic devices, might contribute to sleep disturbances. Tech-savvy insomniacs might want to check out the special glasses designed to block blue light and help us snooze through the night. Amber+lenses+to+block+blue+light+and+improve+sleep:+a+randomized+trial.+Burkhart,+K.,+Phelps,+J.R.+University+of+Toledo,+Ohio.+Chronobiology+International+2009+Dec;26(8):1602-12.
25. Get some fresh air
26. Establish an “electronic curfew”
The artificial lights from computers, TVs, and cell phones might make it more difficult for the body to understand when it’s time to wind down. And one study suggests limiting TV at bedtime can reduce sleep debt. Dubious+bargain:+trading+sleep+for+Leno+and+Letterman.+Basner,+M,+Dinges,+DF.+Sleep.+2009+Jun;32(6):747-52.
27. Drink something warm
While a glass of warm milk might not be medically proven to bring on sleep, the relaxation that comes with sipping on a mug of a “comfort drink” like warm milk, hot chocolate, or tea can make those eyelids a bit heavier.