How to Sleep Better - Sleep Foundation (2022)

It’s well-established that sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. But despite its importance, a troubling percentage of people find themselves regularly deprived of quality sleep and are notably sleepy during the day.

Though there’s a wide range of causes and types of sleeping problems, expert consensus points to a handful of concrete steps that promote more restful sleep. Organizations like the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the American Academy of Family Physicians point to the same fundamental tips for getting better rest.

For many people, trying to implement all these strategies can be overwhelming. But remember that it’s not all-or-nothing; you can start with small changes and work your way up toward healthier sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene.

(Video) Sleep Hygiene - How to Sleep Better!

To make these sleep hygiene improvements more approachable, we’ve broken them into four categories:

  • Creating a Sleep-Inducing Bedroom
  • Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule
  • Crafting a Pre-Bed time Routine
  • Fostering Pro-Sleep Habits During the Day

In each category, you can find specific actions that you can take to make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up well-rested.

Creating a Sleep-Inducing Bedroom

An essential tip to help fall asleep quickly and easily is to make your bedroom a place of comfort and relaxation. Though this might seem obvious, it’s often overlooked, contributing to difficulties getting to sleep and sleeping through the night.

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In designing your sleep environment, focus maximizing comfort and minimizing distractions, including with these tips:

  • Use a High-Performance Mattress and Pillow: The best mattress for your needs and preferences is vital to making sure that you are comfortable enough to relax. It also ensures, along with the best pillow, that your spine gets proper support to avoid aches and pains.
  • Choose Quality Bedding: Your sheets and blankets play a major role in helping your bed feel inviting. Look for bedding that feels comfortable to the touch and that will help maintain a comfortable temperature during the night.
  • Avoid Light Disruption: Excess light exposure can throw off your sleep and circadian rhythm. Blackout curtains over your windows or a sleep mask for over your eyes can block light and prevent it from interfering with your rest.
  • Cultivate Peace and Quiet: Keeping noise to a minimum is an important part of building a sleep-positive bedroom. If you can’t eliminate nearby sources of noise, consider drowning them out with a fan or white noise machine. Earplugs or headphones are another option to stop abrasive sounds from bothering you when you want to sleep.
  • Find an Agreeable Temperature: You don’t want your bedroom temperature to be a distraction by feeling too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature can vary based on the individual, but most research supports sleeping in a cooler room that is around 65 degrees.
  • Introduce Pleasant Aromas: A light scent that you find calming can help ease you into sleep. Essential oils with natural aromas, such as lavender, can provide a soothing and fresh smell for your bedroom.

“Our human brain really does like routine. Keep as close as possible to the same bedtime seven days a week. That is what the body clock expects.”

(Video) Pleasant Pink Noise for Sleep | White Noise 10 Hours | Sleep Foundation

Dave Gibson
Wellness Practitioner

Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule

Taking control of your daily sleep schedule is a powerful step toward getting better sleep. To start harnessing your schedule for your benefit, try implementing these four strategies:

  • Set a Fixed Wake-Up Time: It’s close to impossible for your body to get accustomed to a healthy sleep routine if you’re constantly waking up at different times. Pick a wake-up time and stick with it, even on weekends or other days when you would otherwise be tempted to sleep in.
  • Budget Time for Sleep: If you want to make sure that you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, then you need to build that time into your schedule. Considering your fixed wake-up time, work backwards and identify a target bedtime. Whenever possible, give yourself extra time before bed to get ready for sleep.
  • Be Careful With Naps: To sleep better at night, it’s important to use caution with naps. If you nap for too long or too late in the day, it can throw off your sleep schedule and make it harder to get to sleep when you want to. The best time to nap is shortly after lunch in the early afternoon, and the best nap length is around 20 minutes.
  • Adjust Your Schedule Gradually: When you need to change your sleep schedule, it’s best to make adjustments little-by-little and over time with a maximum difference of 1-2 hours per night. This allows your body to get used to the changes so that following your new schedule is more sustainable.

Crafting a Pre-Bed Routine

If you have a hard time falling asleep, it’s natural to think that the problem starts when you lie down in bed. In reality, though, the lead-up to bedtime plays a crucial role in preparing you to fall asleep quickly and effortlessly.

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Poor pre-bed habits are a major contributor to insomnia and other sleep problems. Changing these habits can take time, but the effort can pay off by making you more relaxed and ready to fall asleep when bedtime rolls around.

As much as possible, try to create a consistent routine that you follow each night because this helps reinforce healthy habits and signals to mind and body that bedtime is approaching. As part of that routine, incorporate these three tips:

  • Wind Down For At Least 30 Minutes: It’s much easier to doze off smoothly if you are at-ease. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music, and relaxation exercises are examples of ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.
  • Lower the Lights: Avoiding bright light can help you transition to bedtime and contribute to your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
  • Disconnect From Devices: Tablets, cell phones, and laptops can keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down. The light from these devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin. As much as possible, try to disconnect for 30 minutes or more before going to bed.

(Video) Timely Leadership at the National Sleep Foundation: Helene A. Emsellem, MD

Fostering Pro-Sleep Habits During the Day

Setting the table for high-quality sleep is an all-day affair. A handful of steps that you can take during the day can pave the way for better sleep at night.

  • See the Light of Day: Our internal clocks are regulated by light exposure. Sunlight has the strongest effect, so try to take in daylight by getting outside or opening up windows or blinds to natural light. Getting a dose of daylight early in the day can help normalize your circadian rhythm. If natural light isn’t an option, you can talk with your doctor about using a light therapy box.
  • Find Time to Move: Daily exercise has across-the-board benefits for health, and the changes it initiates in energy use and body temperature can promote solid sleep. Most experts advise against intense exercise close to bedtime because it may hinder your body’s ability to effectively settle down before sleep.
  • Monitor Your Caffeine Intake: Caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and sodas, are among the most popular beverages in the world. Some people are tempted to use the jolt of energy from caffeine to try to overcome daytime sleepiness, but that approach isn’t sustainable and can cause long-term sleep deprivation. To avoid this, keep an eye on your caffeine intake and avoid it later in the day when it can be a barrier to falling sleep.
  • Be Mindful of Alcohol: Alcohol can induce drowsiness, so some people are keen on a nightcap before bed. Unfortunately, alcohol affects the brain in ways that can lower sleep quality, and for that reason, it’s best to avoid alcohol in the lead-up to bedtime.
  • Don’t Eat Too Late: It can be harder to fall asleep if your body is still digesting a big dinner. To keep food-based sleep disruptions to a minimum, try to avoid late dinners and minimize especially fatty or spicy foods. If you need an evening snack, opt for something light and healthy.
  • Don’t Smoke: Exposure to smoke, including secondhand smoke, has been associated with a range of sleeping problems including difficulty falling asleep and fragmented sleep.
  • Reserve Your Bed for Sleep and Sex Only: If you have a comfortable bed, you may be tempted to hang out there while doing all kinds of activities, but this can actually cause problems at bedtime. You want a strong mental association between your bed and sleep, so try to keep activities in your bed limited strictly to sleep and sex.

If You Can’t Fall Asleep

Whether it’s when you first get into bed or after waking up in the middle of the night, you may find it hard to drift off to sleep. These tips help explain what to do when you can’t sleep:

  • Try Relaxation Techniques: Don’t focus on trying to fall asleep; instead, focus on just trying to relax. Controlled breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are examples of relaxation methods that can help ease you into sleep.
  • Don’t Stew in Bed: You want to avoid a connection in your mind between your bed and frustration from sleeplessness. This means that if you’ve spent around 20 minutes in bed without being able to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing in low light. Avoid checking the time during this time. Try to get your mind off of sleep for at least a few minutes before returning to bed.
  • Experiment With Different Methods: Sleeping problems can be complex and what works for one person may not work for someone else. As a result, it makes sense to try different approaches to see what works for you. Just remember that it can take some time for new methods to take effect, so give your changes time to kick in before assuming that they aren’t working for you.
  • Keep a Sleep Diary: A daily sleep journal can help you keep track of how well you’re sleeping and identify factors that might be helping or hurting your sleep. If you’re testing out a new sleep schedule or other sleep hygiene changes, the sleep diary can help document how well it’s working.
  • Talk With a Doctor: A doctor is in the best position to offer detailed advice for people with serious difficulties sleeping. Talk with your doctor if you find that your sleep problems are worsening, persisting over the long-term, affecting your health and safety (such as from excessive daytime sleepiness), or if they occur alongside other unexplained health problems.

FAQs

What are the 5 idea for better sleep? ›

So unwind every night by reading, listening to music, spending time with a pet, writing in a journal, meditating, or doing anything else that relaxes you. Expect a good night's sleep.

What are 8 tips for improving your sleep? ›

8 Tips for Better Sleep
  • Maintain a Sleep Schedule. ...
  • Get Enough Sleep at Night. ...
  • Establish a Sleep Routine. ...
  • Monitor Your Eating and Drinking Habits. ...
  • Create a Room Ideal Only for Sleeping. ...
  • Get Physically Active. ...
  • Manage Stress. ...
  • Limit Naps.
Sep 30, 2016

What can increase deep sleep? ›

For example, taking a hot bath or spending time in a sauna before bed may help improve your sleep quality. Eating a low-carbohydrate diet or taking certain antidepressants may also promote deep sleep, though more research is needed in this area. Getting enough sleep in general may also increase your deep sleep.

How can I solve my sleeping problem? ›

Basic tips:
  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including on weekends.
  2. Stay active. ...
  3. Check your medications. ...
  4. Avoid or limit naps. ...
  5. Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol and don't use nicotine. ...
  6. Don't put up with pain. ...
  7. Avoid large meals and beverages before bed.
Oct 15, 2016

Why is sleep so important? ›

Contrary to our quiet physical state, the brain is very active during sleep, carrying out many important functions. Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk.

What is the best time to sleep? ›

A recent study suggests that going to sleep at 10 p.m. is the optimal time.
...
Sleep tips
  • Aim to eat dinner at the same time every night. ...
  • Take a small dose of melatonin. ...
  • Use a sleep diary. ...
  • Eliminate naps.
Feb 7, 2022

Does milk help u sleep? ›

Tryptophan and melatonin

Your two best friends for a restful night. Milk (and other dairy products) are a really good source of tryptophan. It's an amino acid that can help promote sleep, so it can come in particularly handy especially if you're used to tossing and turning before finally getting off to sleep.

Why I Cannot sleep at night? ›

Common causes of chronic insomnia include: Stress. Concerns about work, school, health, finances or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma — such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss — also may lead to insomnia.

Do bananas help you sleep? ›

Bananas are rich in sleep-promoting nutrients like magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin B6, carbs, and potassium, all of which have been linked to improved sleep.

How much deep sleep do seniors need? ›

Most adults should aim for seven to nine hours17 of sleep each night. Between 13% and 23%18 of that time should be spent in deep sleep. If you get seven hours of sleep each night, then you spend approximately 55 to 97 minutes each night in deep sleep. To a certain extent, the body self-regulates amounts of deep sleep.

How much deep sleep do you need by age? ›

Preschool children (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours a day. School-age children (ages 6-13) need 9-11 hours a day. Teenagers (ages 14-17) need about 8-10 hours each day. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.

What affects sleep? ›

Other factors that affect sleep include stress and many medical conditions, especially those that cause chronic pain or other discomfort. External factors, such as what we eat and drink, the medications we take, and the environment in which we sleep can also greatly affect the quantity and quality of our sleep.

How can I sleep better with anxiety? ›

Here are some steps to take:
  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Daylight helps set sleep patterns, so try to be outdoors while it's light out for 30 minutes a day.
  3. Exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime). ...
  4. Keep naps short — less than an hour — and forgo napping after 3 p.m.

How does sleep affect health? ›

“Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.” Research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections.

How much sleep is enough? ›

National Sleep Foundation guidelines1 advise that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. People over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours per night.

What happens to your body when you don't get enough sleep? ›

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.

What time should a 70 year old go to bed? ›

Sleep Changes in Older Adults. Most healthy older adults aged 65 or older need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to feel rested and alert.

Why do I keep waking up at 3am? ›

People whose sleep is disrupted by waking up at 3 a.m. can try following healthy sleep tips to sleep through the night more consistently. Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol are associated with disrupted sleep, especially when they are consumed later in the day.

Is waking up at 3am healthy? ›

As per researchers, if you sleep early in the evening, then waking up at 3 am is good and it is also the perfect time to meditate.

Which fruit is good for sleeping? ›

Cherries. Cherries and cherry juice contain high levels of melatonin, a hormone in the brain that controls your sleep regulation. One study even shows that drinking tart cherry juice could improve sleep in people who suffer from insomnia.

What to eat if you can't sleep? ›

What are foods that will help you sleep through the night?
  • Complex carbohydrates. Embrace whole-grain bread, cereals, pasta, crackers and brown rice. ...
  • Lean proteins. Lean proteins include low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey and fish. ...
  • Heart-healthy fats. ...
  • Foods high in magnesium. ...
  • Beverages. ...
  • Fresh herbs. ...
  • Sleep-inducing snacks.
May 25, 2022

What should you not eat before bed? ›

Take a look at the 11 worst foods to eat before bed.
  • Tomatoes. If you ever experience acid reflux or heartburn, you probably already know tomatoes are not good pre-bedtime. ...
  • Chocolate. ...
  • High-Fat Foods. ...
  • High-Sugar Cereal. ...
  • Water. ...
  • Onions. ...
  • Donuts. ...
  • Dried Fruit.

How can I sleep faster in 5 minutes? ›

How to do it
  1. empty the lungs of air.
  2. breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds.
  3. hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.
  4. exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds.
  5. repeat the cycle up to 4 times.
Jul 27, 2020

How can I fall asleep in 2 minutes? ›

An Easy Way to Fall Asleep Faster
  1. Relax your entire face. Close your eyes. ...
  2. Drop your shoulders and hands. Let go of any tension. ...
  3. Exhale and relax your chest. With your shoulders and arms relaxed, that should be easy.
  4. Relax your legs. ...
  5. Now clear your mind. ...
  6. Try repeating the words "Don't think" for 10 seconds.
Feb 28, 2022

What is the best sleeping position? ›

Sleeping on your side offers several benefits. It promotes healthy spinal alignment and is the sleep position least likely to result in back pain, especially when supported with pillows.

What is the 4-7-8 sleep trick? ›

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep. Some proponents claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.

How can I force myself to sleep? ›

20 Simple Tips That Help You Fall Asleep Quickly
  1. Lower the temperature. ...
  2. Use the 4-7-8 breathing method. ...
  3. Get on a schedule. ...
  4. Experience both daylight and darkness. ...
  5. Practice yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. ...
  6. Avoid looking at your clock. ...
  7. Avoid naps during the day. ...
  8. Watch what and when you eat.

How do military go to sleep so fast? ›

The military method

Relax your legs, thighs, and calves. Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene. If this doesn't work, try saying the words “don't think” over and over for 10 seconds. Within 10 seconds, you should fall asleep!

Why I Cannot sleep at night? ›

Insomnia, the inability to get to sleep or sleep well at night, can be caused by stress, jet lag, a health condition, the medications you take, or even the amount of coffee you drink. Insomnia can also be caused by other sleep disorders or mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Videos

1. David Cloud, CEO, National Sleep Foundation at Digital Health LIVE CES WebMD Lounge
(Digital Health Summit)
2. The National Sleep Foundation on America’s Sleeping Habits
(AZTV7)
3. Test Lab Methodology | Temperature Control
(Sleep Is The Foundation)
4. Soothing White Noise for Sleep | White Noise 10 Hours | Sleep Foundation
(Sleep Is The Foundation)
5. Pleasant Pink Noise with Black Screen | White Noise 10 Hours | Sleep Foundation
(Sleep Is The Foundation)
6. Soothing White Noise with Black Screen | White Noise 10 Hours | Sleep Foundation
(Sleep Is The Foundation)

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