How to Get Your Best Night's Sleep
- “Sleeping like a baby” isn’t quite as simple as it sounds; just ask the one-third of American adults who report that they usually fail to get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep.
We all know how hard it is to concentrate, produce quality work, and show up for friends and family after a night of tossing and turning. But that’s not all; poor sleep can lead to an increased risk for certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression, and impair your memory and alertness, which can make you more accident- and injury-prone.
The good news is that there are proven ways to set yourself up for solid sleep. Here are six strategies for optimizing your nights—and by default, the days that follow.
1. Start your mornings with some sun.
Your preparation for a night begins as soon as you wake up that day. Morning sunlight—ideally 30-45 minutes of direct exposure within an hour of waking—kickstarts your production of energy-boosting cortisol, increases your body temperature, and revs up your serotonin levels, which play a role in mood regulation, digestion, and sleep. Together, those factors help regulate the internal clock known as your circadian rhythm, leading to a clearer sense of day (awake) versus night (asleep).
2. Move your body daily.
Exercise is one of the most effective sleep promoters that exists. A daily dose of at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can help you fall asleep quicker, sleep more soundly, stay asleep longer, and operate more effectively while you’re awake.
Resistance exercise, such as weight lifting, can also enhance all aspects of sleep—especially when it’s combined with aerobic activity. Although any exercise is better than no exercise, it’s a good idea to leave at least 90 minutes between the end of a moderate workout and the start of your evening wind-down.
3. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.
The difference between a restful and a fitful night often lies in the environment. To optimize your bedroom for sleep, try these science-backed tips:
- Block It Out: Use earplugs or a white noise machine to tune out external noise, consider blackout curtains for your windows, and remove or conceal in-room artificial lights (like digital clocks) to create a dark, serene environment.
- Cool Down: Set your thermostat to around 65° Fahrenheit, a temperature that most people find comfortable for sleep.
- Declutter and Disconnect: Clutter—whether physical or mental—can stand in the way of sound sleep. Prevent that by keeping your bedroom tidy, and stashing your phone and other devices away from your bed while you sleep (ideally turned off or to sleep mode).
- Make It Cozy: Choose a mattress that’s comfortable and complementary to your sleeping style. Let your sleeping position (side, back, or stomach), preference for soft versus firm, body size and shape, and other considerations such as back pain steer your decision. You’ll also want some cozy, breathable sheets; look for a thread count between 200 and 400, and natural materials such as cotton, linen, and bamboo.
4. Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol consumption.
You may not have sleep on your mind while you’re sipping that afternoon latte or getting in on a good happy hour. But caffeine, which is found in coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate, has a half-life of four to six hours (the time it takes your body to metabolize just half of what you’ve consumed). If possible, wrap up your caffeine consumption at least six hours before you go to bed; some people will need even longer.
Alcohol, too, can impair sleep by messing with your evening melatonin production and contributing to sleep apnea, snoring, and other disruptions. The effects vary from person to person, but the recommendation is to avoid heavy drinking in general—especially if you have trouble sleeping—and to finish your drink at least four hours before bedtime.
5. Consider a sleep aid.
Being a sleep hygiene expert does not necessarily make you a pro sleeper. That’s why nearly one-fifth of adults take at least one sleep aid in a given month. There are many different types, with efficacy levels that vary by person, but generally, they work by inducing sleepiness so you fall asleep quicker, sleep for longer, or recalibrate your sleep schedule for the better. According to SleepFoundation.org, “When taken by healthy adults, sleep aids are usually safe for short-term use as long as they are used as directed.” Betr’s Sleep Aid is a safe, non-habit-forming option, containing the number one doctor recommended active over-the-counter ingredient..
6. Stick to a routine.
Humans thrive on routines, and our sleep-wake cycles are no different. If there’s one step you take to optimize your shuteye, being consistent with the time you wake up and hit the sack every day should be it. (Unfortunately, weekends do count.) Through repetition, your brain and body will fall into a familiar pattern that will make it easier to both doze off and rise and shine—not unlike those enviable newborns.
Centers for Disease Control. (2020). Sleep. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
Centers for Disease Control. (2018). Sleep and Chronic Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/happens-body-dont-get-enough-sleep/
Brandon Peters, MD. Very Well Health. (2020). Get Morning Sunlight and You'll Sleep Better. https://www.verywellhealth.com/morning-sunlight-exposure-3973908#morning-light-therapy
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Exercising for Better Sleep. (2021). https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep
Ana Kovacevic, Yorgi Mavros, Jennifer J. Heisz, Maria A. Fiatarone Singh. (2018). The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079216301526?via%3Dihub
Danielle Pacheco. Sleep Foundation. (2021). What’s the Best Time of Day to Exercise for Sleep?
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Eric Suni. Sleep Foundation. (2020). How to Design the Ideal Bedroom for Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/how-to-design-the-ideal-bedroom-for-sleep
Danielle Pacheco. Sleep Foundation. (2020). The Best Temperature for Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/best-temperature-for-sleep
Daniel Noyed. Sleep Foundation. (2020). How to Choose a Mattress. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mattress-information/how-to-choose-a-mattress
Logan Foley. Sleep Foundation. (2020). Caffeine and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/caffeine-and-sleep
Danielle Pacheco. Sleep Foundation. (2020). Alcohol and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep
Eric Suni. Sleep Foundation. (2020). Sleep Aids to Treat Insomnia. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/treatment/safe-use-sleep-aids
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