We've all woken up after a poor night's sleep feeling like we couldn't function. But, when you experience that night after night, it can take a huge toll on your mental health and overall well-being.
Although it takes a bit of time, money, and dedication, there are actions you can take to improve how you sleep. While they won't necessarily cure insomnia, these are our top tips for better sleep, backed by science. Put all or some of them in place and improve the quality of your slumber.
If your poor sleep is due to back or joint pain in the night, picking out the right mattress could reduce or even completely banish this pain and greatly improve your quality of rest. Although you might think that softer, plusher mattresses will make you more comfortable, that's not usually the case. You must choose a mattress that provides ample support and promotes proper spinal alignment while you sleep.
Many studies have found people sleep better in bedrooms that are reserved for sleeping. So, if you eat, watch TV, or use your phone in your bedroom, it's time to stop. You should also make sure your room is completely dark when you go to sleep—use blackout blinds or thickly lined curtains, if necessary. Keeping your room at a comfortable temperature and trying to keep it tidy and clutter-free can help turn it into a sleep sanctuary.
Your circadian rhythm is what tells you when to sleep and when to wake. Our ancestors often spent the majority of their daylight hours outside and went to bed when it got dark. Exposing yourself to plenty of daylight can help regulate your circadian rhythm and make it easier to sleep at night. If your job prevents you from spending much time outdoors in the daytime, spending a couple of hours a day in front of a light therapy lamp can do the trick.
Exposure to blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets, and computers can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Ideally, it's best to put down your devices an hour or two before bed and pick up a book or magazine instead. However, if you don't want to give up your technology, you can buy blue light blocking shades or download apps that stop your phone from emitting blue light. Some smart devices even have a built-in blue light filter.
If you regularly suffer from poor sleep, it's worth getting checked out by your doctor for a range of sleep disorders.
Good sleep is partly a habit. If you attempt to go to sleep at roughly the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning, your body becomes accustomed to the routine. Of course, it's hard to put such a routine in place when you're having trouble falling asleep, but it can be effective when used in conjunction with some of our other tips for better sleep.
It might seem obvious that drinking too much caffeine will inhibit your sleep, especially late in the day, but a surprising about of people still don't want to give up that after dinner coffee. It's worth the effort, though, as it can significantly improve both your ease falling asleep and the quality of sleep once you do drift off. Caffeine stays in your bloodstream for six to eight hours, so if you go to bed at 10 p.m., you'll need to cut down on the caffeine from as early as 2 p.m. Try switching to decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas in the afternoon and evening.
Various studies have found that regular exercise can reduce the amount of time it takes people to drop off to sleep by about half, and increase the amount of time they stay asleep. However, exercise can boost adrenaline and increase alertness, so it's not a good idea to work out close to bedtime. There's no specific type of exercise recommended, so find something you enjoy. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than nothing.
Putting yourself in a relaxed state before bed can both improve quality of sleep and help treat insomnia. Meditation and breathing exercises are possible relaxation techniques, but there are other choices if that's not your style. Taking a hot bath, reading a book, or listening to relaxing music can also help induce a relaxed state before hitting the hay.