While we know a good night’s sleep makes it easier to start off the next day on the right foot, it’s also one of the most important things we can do for our whole health. After all, we spend one-third of our lives sleeping or trying to sleep. Almost everyone tosses and turns through the night every once and a while, but if it happens regularly, it can increase the risk of several problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and mental health issues. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, but most healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re struggling to snooze soundly, some simple changes might be the help you need to sleep better and, ultimately, feel better.
1. Build a sleep-friendly bedroom
If you want to sleep better, start by making sure your bedroom is a relaxing space for sleeping. Is it comfortable, dark, and quiet? Here are three tips to make your bedroom more sleep friendly:
- Check your “sleep station”: Think about your sleep habits, including your sleep position, whether you sleep hot or cold, and whether your body needs extra support. From there, check to make sure your sheets, pillows, and mattress are designed to work best for your body and patterns.
- Block out light and noise: If you live in a noisy area, try drowning out outside sound with a fan, white noise machine, or earplugs. Room-darkening curtains can also help simulate nighttime if you’re in an area with a lot of light pollution or you work unconventional hours.
- Keep it cool: Our body temperatures are programmed to drop a little when we sleep. Turning down the thermostat matches your body’s natural drop and signals it’s time to sleep. For adults, the best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut down on screen time
Scrolling through your phone or laptop at the end of the night isn’t as harmless as it might seem. Device backlights can interrupt the body’s release of melatonin, which is its natural way of making you feel sleepy. Over time, regular electronic use around bedtime can permanently increase the time it takes to fall asleep. If you’re used to screen time at night, start with small, simple tweaks to cut it down, like enabling the “do not disturb” setting on your phone in the time leading up to and through your normal sleep hours. See more tips to help you change your nighttime tech routine and sleep better.
3. Watch what you eat and drink
What you put in your body in the hours before bedtime can have a big impact on your quality of sleep. Consider the following tips:
- Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed: Going to bed uncomfortable, whether it’s from hunger or an overly full stomach, is a recipe for poor-quality sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime: Alcohol can cause drowsiness, which might put you to sleep more quickly. However, drinking alcohol — especially too much of it — actually lowers overall sleep quality. Caffeine, on the other hand, can cause sleep problems when it’s consumed within six hours before bedtime.
4. Stick to a schedule
Even if your schedule looks different on the weekdays and weekends, it’s important to wake up and go to bed around the same time every day. Try not to let your bedtime and mornings vary by more than an hour or so — this helps your body’s sleep cycle stay on track.
If you find you can’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes in bed, leave the room to try something relaxing, like reading or listening to soothing music. If you spend too much time lying in bed trying to fall asleep, you might end up worrying about being awake, which could make the problem worse.
5. Reduce stress and anxiety
It’s no surprise that chronic worrying and stress make it harder to relax, including at bedtime. If you think stress and anxiety are the root cause of your sleep problems, your first step should be talking to your doctor. On top of that, meditation, therapy, yoga, and mindfulness exercises can all help tame anxiety, which may help you sleep better.
A good night’s sleep doesn’t only keep you feeling rested — it’s an essential part of a healthy life. Quality sleep has many benefits: It can improve mood and concentration, help maintain healthy weight, reduce stress, and lower the risk for illness and serious health problems. Taking the time and effort to find out what will help you sleep better is a powerful way to protect your whole health and feel great in the process.
Mayo Clinic: mayoclinic.org.
National Sleep Foundation: thensf.org.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: nhlbi.nih.gov.
American Heart Association: heart.org.
Cleveland Clinic: clevelandclinic.org.
Info. gathered from Anthem Insurance