When you toss and turn in the night, it may feel as if your life is coming to an end but you don't need to live that way. If you just follow some simple tips for getting better sleep, it can really make a difference in your life and your nocturnal activities.
Take a moment to think about everything that can interrupt your ability to sleep through the night. Stress about work, responsibilities at home and challenges, such as unexpected illnesses1 can all play a role. It's little wonder that sometimes, we find it difficult to sleep.
It is not always possible to control the issues that interfere with your sleep but you can adopt habits that will help you to sleep better. These simple tips are a great place to start:
1. Stick to your schedule
You should never set aside more than eight hours every night for sleep. A healthy adult should be getting at least seven hours a night2. But, for the most part, people don't need over eight hours in bed to do so.
Make sure that you are going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. There may be times in which you need to vary your sleep schedule but it should be limited to no more than one hour. When you are consistent, it helps your body to establish a sleep-wake cycle.
If you toss and turn for more than 20 minutes without falling asleep, get up and go do something relaxing. Try listening to some music or reading a book. Return to bed after you're tired and if necessary, repeat the process.
2. What you eat and drink matters
You should not go to bed hungry and you should not stuff yourself before going to sleep. It is important to avoid any large or heavy meals within a few hours of bedtime. It could make you uncomfortable and keep you up.
You should also be cautious about caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine3. Both caffeine and nicotine have a stimulating effect that takes hours to wear off. It can impact your ability to get quality sleep. Alcohol is tricky because it makes you feel sleepy but later at night, it will disrupt your sleep.
3. Create the Environment
Your room should be situated so that it is ideal for a good night sleep. This typically means that it will be dark, quiet and cool. If you have light in the room it could make it more difficult to fall asleep. Avoid using light emitting screens close to bedtime. You may also want to use earplugs, shades that make the room darker or a fan to help create the environment necessary for sleeping.
Taking part in calming activities prior to bedtime may help. This could include a relaxing bath or deep breathing exercises.
4. Limit Your Naps
Taking a long nap in the middle of the day can interrupt your ability to sleep at night. If you decide to nap, keep it to under 30 minutes and don't do it too late in the day4.
People who work nights may like to nap late in the day to make up for sleep debt and to prepare for work.
5. Get Some Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activity on a regular basis can help you to sleep better at night. Be cautious about doing it close to bedtime5.
You might also find it helpful to spend some time outdoors every day.
6. Deal with Your Worries
If possible, resolve any serious concerns or worries before you hit the sack. Write down what is on your mind and tell yourself you will get to it on the following day.
You might also want to try some stress management techniques, such as meditation, organization, delegation and setting priorities.
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26581727, Prioritizing Sleep Health: Public Health Policy Recommendations, 2015 Nov;10(6):733-7. doi: 10.1177/1745691615598509
2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352721815000157, National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary, March 2015
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26049205, Commonly used stimulants: Sleep problems, dependence and psychological distress, 2015 Aug 1;153:145-51. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.05.036. Epub 2015 May 28
4. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html, Tips for Better Sleep
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25596964, The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review, 2015 Jun;38(3):427-49. doi: 10.1007/s10865-015-9617-6. Epub 2015 Jan 18