The average person spends more than one third of his/her life asleep. But don’t be fooled — just because the body is sleeping doesn’t mean it’s slacking off. During sleep, the body repairs itself so that when the alarm clock goes off, our bodies are renewed and refreshed. Tossing and turning all night can affect judgment, productivity, and the ability to retain information the next day. Over time, it can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and — of course — a chronic bad attitude. (Did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?) So check out our list on how to sleep better tonight — and thank us in the morning.
Disclaimer: While factors like stress or big life changes can bring on a few sleepless nights, prolonged trouble sleeping could be a sign of another issue like depression or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. If these are worries, schedule a doctor’s visit to get things checked out. A medical professional might suggest a hormone test or another kind of evaluation to make sure everything’s okay.
1. Establish a bedtime routine. This lets the body know it’s time to unwind from the day’s stress and chill. Figure out a schedule and stick to it every night of the week — even weekends!
2. Journal. Thinking about or doing stressful activities can cause the body to release stress hormones, leading to alertness. But writing out stressful thoughts in a journal can help us avoid restlessness once we hit the sheets. Studies suggest certain types of journaling allow us to focus on the positive instead of the negative aspects of our day .
3. Munch on magnesium. Research suggests magnesium plays a key role in our ability to sleep through the night . Try chowing on magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and swiss chard . Or pop a ZMA supplement, another form of magnesium, about half an hour before bedtime.
4. Try a cup of chamomile tea. This herbal drink can reduce anxiety that might make it more difficult to fall asleep .
6. Work out earlier in the day. While exercise can help improve sleep quality, it’s important to schedule workouts that end at least two hours before hitting the hay so that post-workout adrenaline boost doesn’t keep you up.
7. Take a power nap during the day. Ten to 30 minutes in the mid-afternoon is best to ensure a good night’s sleep. Any longer and we risk falling into deeper stages of sleep, which can leave us feeling groggy when we wake up.
8. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep. While many of us don’t get nearly that much, sleep deprivation has been linked to high cortisol levels (aka more stress) . Recent research also suggests not sleeping enough is linked to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can’t process insulin efficiently and a risk factor for diabetes .
10. Create a comfortable environment. Whether that means picking the perfect mattress, splurging on 800-thread-count sheets, getting heavy-duty curtains to block out light, or keeping a fan in the room for background noise, make sure it’s comfy before climbing into bed. Share a bed? Work with your partner to make any changes necessary so everyone sleeps well.
11. Keep the bedroom slightly cool. Between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. A room with extreme temperatures leads to more frequent awakenings and lighter sleep.
13. Set a daily wakeup time. Just like it’s best to go to bed at the same time every day, it’s a good idea to keep a consistent wakeup time — even on the weekends. Irregular bedtime and wake-up hours can lead to poor sleep patterns .
14. Make up for lost sleep. Stayed up too late the past few nights? Tack on an extra hour tonight to repay sleep debt and get back on track.
15. Keep caffeine fixes to mornings and early afternoons. Drinking it too late in the evening can lead to an unwelcome bedtime boost. For some people, the effects of caffeine can last the whole work day — up to 10 hours after that last venti macchiato.
16. Don’t toss and turn. Can’t fall asleep? If you’ve been lying in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and try a relaxing activity like reading or listening to mellow music. Thinking about not sleeping will bring on even more anxiousness — it’s a vicious cycle.
17. Check the medicine cabinet. Certain medications might be interfering with sleep. Think a prescription is the culprit to a sleepless night? Talk to a doctor about potential side effects and how to deal with them.
18. Leave Fluffy on the floor. Sleeping with pets can interfere with sleep. Snuggle before bedtime and then let them get comfortable elsewhere.
19. Face the alarm clock away. Watching the time tick by can actually cause more stress and make it harder to fall asleep. Plus, artificial light from electronic gadgets can mess up our circadian rhythm, making our bodies think it’s time to stay up and party.
20. Get techy. Check out the variety of smartphone apps and other gadgets designed to help usher in a better night’s sleep. Tracking sleep over a long period of time can also help us pinpoint what’s helping — and hurting — our snooze time.
23. Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with the feet, tense the muscles. Hold for a count of five and then relax. Do this for every muscle group in the body, working up from the feet to the top of the head . A nightly meditation practice that involves focusing on the breath can also help prepare the body for sleep.
24. Dim the lights. Bright lighting, in particular the “blue light” emitted by most electronic devices, might contribute to sleep disturbances. Tech-savvy insomniacs might want to check out the special glasses designed to block blue light and help us snooze through the night .
25. Get some fresh air. Exposure to daylight helps regulate the body’s internal clock and with it, sleep timing. Getting some sunlight also keeps daytime fatigue at bay, leading to more sleepiness at bedtime.
26. Establish an “electronic curfew.” The artificial lights from computers, TVs, and cell phones might make it more difficult for the body to understand when it’s time to wind down. And one study suggests limiting TV at bedtime can reduce sleep debt .
27. Drink something warm. While a glass of warm milk might not be medically proven to bring on sleep, the relaxation that comes with sipping on a mug of a “comfort drink” like warm milk, hot chocolate, or tea can make those eyelids a bit heavier.
Special thanks to Dr. Eugene Babenko for his contributions to this article.
What’s your go-to way to get a solid night’s sleep? Share your tips in the comments below or tweet the author directly at @Kissie326.
This article originally posted August 2011. Updated March 2013 by Shana Lebowitz.