Sleep is one of the most important parts of both physical and mental health. It’s been said that sleep is the golden chain that binds our health and body together.
If you’re like most people, chances are you know exactly how important sleep is to your daily routine.
When you sleep well throughout the night, it feels like you can conquer the world. But when you don’t sleep enough or wake up throughout the night, everything feels more challenging the next day.
To perform your best in all areas of your life, you need enough (and quality, enough) sleep. But how much sleep do you actually need?
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need seven or more hours per sleep. But the amount of sleep is only part of the equation, other factors include:
- Sleep quality: This refers to how often you’re interrupted, which is just as important as the number of hours.
- Previous sleep deprivation: If a work project turns into an all- night event like you’re in college, this can take several days to bounce back.
- Aging: Older adults need more sleep, similar to younger children.
While your sleep patterns are likely to change throughout the course of your life, it’s a vital component to overall health. Keep reading to learn six science-backed ways to get more sleep.
1. Invest in Your Sleep
The first step to sleeping well is investing in your sleep. By that I mean making sure your environment is conducive to sleep. Otherwise, it’s an uphill battle that a lot of people make without even realizing it.
When it comes to optimizing your sleep environment, start by looking at these three components:
- Mattress and pillows. A high-quality mattress is one of the best investments you can make in your entire life. They can last 5-10 years and play a huge role in making sure you sleep well consistently. Everyone has their preferences on firm or soft mattresses, but just make sure that you love it. Do not go the cheap route with your bed and pillows.
- Blackout curtains. Another important piece of sleeping well is ensuring that you don’t have a ton of light interfering with your sleep. According to Sleep.org, “The darker your bedroom, the better your sleep.”
- Remove artificial light. While light from the street or an alarm clock isn’t helpful, artificial light is even worse. According to the same Sleep.org study, “The blue light delayed melatonin production for twice as long. Blue light has a particularly strong impact on your circadian rhythm.”
2. Create a Sleep Schedule
Once you have the right equipment to sleep well, the next step is to create a consistent sleep schedule. When you wake up regularly at the same time and go to bed at the same time, it makes it easier for you to get to sleep and wake up fresh.
According to Healthy Sleep, “Keeping a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, maintains the timing of the body's internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.”
While it’s not always possible to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, do your best. It’s a simple fix that can lead to big changes in your quality of sleep.
3. Get Outside More Often
If you want to sleep better at night, get outside more often, so your body can get additional vitamin D. Very Well Health found that getting morning sunlight can help you sleep better at night. They found that it can help regulate body temperature, increase the level of the hormone serotonin, and regulate the stress hormone cortisol.
They found that “Light exposure also can be helpful in people who suffer from difficulty sleeping as a result of insomnia by helping to regularize the patterns of sleep and wakefulness.”
While sunlight is preferred, they also found positive effects from light therapy and light boxes can help as well. If you live in a less-than-ideal climate, make sure to get some extra vitamin D in the form of supplements and a clean diet. This will help offset the lower vitamin D and should help with better quality sleep.
4. Reduce Screen Time at Night
While our smartphones make life a lot easier, there are plenty of downsides to them. One of the biggest downsides is how much they can screw up your sleep schedule.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “Electronic back-lit devices like cell phones, tablets, readers, and computers emit short-wavelength enriched light, also known as blue light. Fluorescent and LED lights also emit blue light, which has been shown to reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness.”
Plus, blue light can also cause retina damage as well. The Sleep Foundation recommends:
- Minimizing blue light-emitting devices in the hours leading up to bedtime (especially right before trying to go to sleep).
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. This should include time without screens to set your mind and body up for sleep.
- Make your bedroom a screen-free zone. That means eliminating a TV and any other electronic devices from your bedroom. If you must use a device, make sure it’s always in nighttime mode as well.
- Invest in blue blocker glasses. These orange- tinted glasses will help shield your eyes from blue light and studies have shown them to be very effective. Plus, you can get a great pair for cheap.
Related: Break Your Phone Addiction Quickly
5. Only Sleep in Bed
Another easy trick to sleep better is to make sure your bed is associated with sleep, not everything else. Don’t use it to watch movies, read, journal, work at home or anything else.
By setting boundaries, you are signaling to your mind that the bed is directly related to sleep. It helps associate your bedroom with sleep, not work or eating. Plus, avoiding screens in your room will increase melatonin, the hormone that is responsible for letting your body know it’s time to sleep.As Sleep Association said, “The bottom line: You should only use your bed for sleeping — and yes, for sex as well (as long as no blue-wavelength devices are involved, of course).”
6. Try Out Melatonin
Speaking of melatonin, sometimes an extra supplement can help you sleep better too.
While the body does create enough melatonin, life can get in the way. Studies have found that artificial light, poor diet, and excess stress can reduce melatonin and make it harder to get to sleep.If you struggle falling asleep, try a dose of melatonin 30-60 minutes before bed. This should help you fall asleep fast and is better for you than sleeping pills.
More Sleep Tips
- Skip naps. Naps that are too long or late in the day can disrupt your sleep schedule and make it much harder to fall asleep.
- Minimize caffeine. Too much caffeine, especially late in the day, can make it very difficult to get to sleep. While you don’t need to eliminate caffeine entirely, try to avoid it in the afternoon so it’s easier to fall asleep.
- Exercise regularly. Studies have found that exercise and sleep have a bidirectional relationship. Meaning, the more you optimize your exercise routines, the better you can sleep. Plus, all the other health benefits that come with a regular exercise regimen.
- Improve your diet. While exercise is key, don’t skimp on our diet either. Avoid eating foods that are high in fat or carbs, especially before going to sleep.
- Use hypnosis tracks. Hypnosis tracks can help you drift to sleep quickly and even reprogram your mind to stop a habit (like smoking or nail-biting). Or, you can listen to calming music as well.
- Skip the nightcap. Alcohol can actually have an adverse effect on sleep and actually make it harder to get to sleep.
- Turn the air down. Finally, don’t forget to make sure it’s cold enough as well. Turn the air down and/or use a fan to regulate your body temperature and get to sleep faster.
Bonus: Create a Sleep Ritual
Finally, don’t forget to create a sleep ritual to set yourself up for success before hitting the pillow. For example, let’s say you go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 5am each morning.
Your routine might include:
- 730pm: Stop eating after dinner and start to wind down.
- 830pm: Turn off electronics and read a book or write in a journal. If you can’t skip TV time, make sure to wear blue- blocking glasses.
- 930pm: The final 30 minutes of your routine should have zero screens. Use this time to prepare for tomorrow so that you can hit the ground running. If you take melatonin, this is a good time to take your supplement as well.
- 10pm: Turn down the air conditioner, close the blackout curtains, and wear a sleep mask if needed.
To make the most of your days, prioritize your sleep.
Use these tips to create your own environment and routines so you can become a sleep guru. Remember, good sleep will help with recovery, productivity, mood, and more.