It is proven that sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Tips for quality sleep But despite its importance, an alarming percentage of people regularly lack quality sleep sleep and sleepy during the day.
Although there are a wide range of causes and types of sleep problems, expert consensus points to a handful in particular steps that promote more restful sleep. Organizations such as the CDC1, the National Institutes of Health2, the National Institute on Aging, and the American Academy of Family Physicians4 highlight the same fundamental tips for better rest.
Tips for quality sleep
For many people, trying to implement all these strategies can be overwhelming. But remember it's not all or nothing. you can start with small changes and work your way up to healthier sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene.
To make these sleep hygiene improvements more accessible, we've broken them down in four categories:
- Creating a sleep-inducing bedroom
- Optimizing your sleep schedule
- Create a bedtime routine
- Promoting pro-sleep habits during the day
In each category, you can find specific actions you can take to fall asleep easier, stay asleep, and wake up rested. Tips for quality sleep
Creating a sleep-inducing bedroom
An essential tip to fall asleep quickly and easily is to make your bedroom a place of comfort and relaxation. While this may seem obvious, it is often overlooked, contributing to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep through the night.
When designing your sleep environment, focus on maximizing comfort and minimizing distractions, including these tips:
- Use a high performance mattress and pillow: The best mattress for your needs and preferences is vital to ensuring you are comfortable enough to relax. It also ensures, along with the best pillow, that your spine has the proper support to avoid aches and pains.
- Choose quality bedding: Your sheets and blankets play an important role in helping your bed feel inviting. Look for bedding that feels comfortable to the touch and will help you maintain a comfortable temperature during the night.
- Avoid light disturbance: Too much light exposure can throw off your sleep and circadian rhythm. Blackout curtains over your windows or a sleep mask over your eyes can block out light and hinder your rest.
- Cultivate peace and quiet: Keeping noise to a minimum is an important part of making a positive bedroom. If you can't eliminate nearby noise sources, consider drowning them out with a fan or white noise machine. Earplugs or headphones are another option to stop the jarring sounds from bothering you when you want to sleep.
- Find a comfortable temperature: You don't want your bedroom temperature to distract you by feeling too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature can vary by person, but most research supports sleeping in a cooler room that is around 65 degrees.
Enter pleasant aromas: A light scent that you find calming can help you sleep. Essential oils with natural fragrances, such as lavender5, can provide a soothing and fresh smell to your bedroom.
Optimizing your sleep schedule
Controlling your daily sleep schedule is a powerful step toward better sleep. Tips for quality sleep. To start using your schedule to your advantage, try implementing these four strategies:
- Set a consistent wake-up time: It's nearly impossible for your body to get used to a healthy sleep routine if you're constantly waking up at different times. Choose a wake-up time and stick to it, even on weekends or other days when you might otherwise be tempted to sleep in.
- Budget time for sleep: If you want to make sure you get the recommended amount of sleep each night, then you need to build this time into your schedule. Given your fixed wake-up time, work backwards and determine your target bedtime. Whenever possible, give yourself extra time before bed to get ready for bed.
- Be careful with naps: To sleep better at night, it is important to be careful with naps. If you sleep too much or too late in the day, it can throw off your sleep schedule and make it difficult for you to sleep when you want to. The best time to sleep is shortly after lunch in the early afternoon and the best sleep duration is about 20 minutes.
- Adjust your schedule gradually: When you need to change your sleep schedule, it is best to make adjustments gradually and over time with a maximum difference of 1-2 hours per night6. This allows your body to get used to the changes so it's more sustainable to follow your new schedule.
Create a bedtime routine
If you have trouble falling asleep, it's natural to think that the problem starts when you lie in bed. In reality, however, the start of bedtime plays a key role in preparing you to fall asleep quickly and effortlessly.
Bad bedtime habits are a major contributor to insomnia and other sleep problems. Changing these habits7 may 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 every night, because this helps reinforce healthy habits and signals to the mind and body that bedtime is approaching. As part of this routine, incorporate these three tips:
Relax for at least 30 minutes: It is much easier to fall asleep smoothly if you are calm. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, listening to relaxing music, and relaxation exercises are examples of ways to get in the right frame for sleep.
Dim the lights: Avoiding bright light can help you transition to sleep and help your body produce melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone.
Disconnect from devices: Tablets, cell phones, and laptops can keep your brain wired, making it difficult to truly burn out. The light from these devices can also suppress the natural production of melatonin. As much as possible, try to disconnect for 30 minutes or more before going to bed.
Promoting pro-sleep habits during the day
Setting a high-quality sleeper table is an all-day affair. A handful of steps you can take during the day can pave the way for a better night's sleep.
- See the light of day: Our internal clocks8 are regulated by exposure to light. Sunlight has the strongest effect9, so try to absorb daylight by going outside or opening 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 to your doctor about using a light therapy box.
- Find time to move: Daily exercise has general health benefits, and the changes it causes in energy use and body temperature can promote sound sleep. Most experts advise against vigorous exercise near bedtime because it can hinder your body's ability to wind down effectively before sleep.
- Monitor your caffeine intake: Caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea and soft drinks, 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 this approach is not sustainable and can cause long-term sleep deprivation. To avoid this, watch your caffeine intake and avoid it later in the day when it can interfere with sleep.
- Beware of alcohol: Alcohol can make you drowsy, so some people want you to drink before bed. Unfortunately, alcohol affects the brain in ways that can reduce sleep quality, and for this reason, it's best to avoid alcohol before bed.
- Don't eat too late: It can be harder to fall asleep if your body is still digesting a big dinner. To minimize food-based sleep disturbances, try to avoid late dinners and minimize particularly fatty or spicy foods. If you need an evening snack, choose something light and healthy.
- Do not smoke: Exposure to smoke, including secondhand smoke, has been associated with a range of sleep problems10, including difficulty falling asleep and fragmented sleep.
- Keep your bed for sleep and sex only: If you have a comfortable bed, you may be tempted to hang out 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 limit your bed activities strictly to sleep and sex.
If you can't sleep
Whether you're getting into bed for the first time or after waking up in the middle of the night, you may have trouble drifting 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 trying to relax. Controlled breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided visualization are examples of relaxation techniques that can help you sleep
Experiment with different methods: Sleep problems can be complicated, and what works for one person may not work for another. As a result, it makes sense to try different approaches to see what works for you. Just remember that it can take a while for the new methods to take effect, so give your changes time to kick in before assuming they don't work for you.
Keep a sleep diary: A daily sleep diary can help you track how well you're sleeping and identify factors that may be helping or hurting your sleep. If you're trying a new sleep schedule or other sleep hygiene changes, a sleep diary can help you document how well it's working.
Talk to a doctor: A doctor is best placed to offer detailed advice to people with severe sleep difficulties. Talk to your doctor if you find that your sleep problems are getting worse, persisting for a long time, affecting your health and safety (such as from excessive daytime sleepiness), or if they occur alongside other unexplained health problems.