Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to stay physically and mentally healthy. But too many adults don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep every night. Even if you manage to stay in bed for that long, you might be tossing and turning and not getting enough high-quality sleep.
Sleep issues, such as insomnia, can take time to fix, especially if you’ve been struggling for some time to fall asleep or stay asleep. Depending on the severity of the sleep issue, a doctor might recommend taking an over-the-counter or prescription sleep aid. But before you go that route, there are several things you can do to reset your sleeping habits and get back to sleeping well.
Stick to a schedule
Your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, functions better on a regular schedule. That means going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time. It’s important to keep your regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends and during vacations. Staying up late and oversleeping can leave you feeling like you’re jetlagged.
Make your bedroom a sleep haven
Your bedroom should be a place of relaxation. Try to avoid using your bedroom for anything other than sleeping. Using your bedroom as a home office, for example, can add to the stress and anxiety that can keep you awake at night.
Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Some room-darkening shades and curtains can also offer noise reduction, keeping outside noises from disturbing your sleep.
Lower the temperature on your thermostat. When it’s time for sleep, your body’s core temperature drops slightly. Making your bedroom cooler can prime your body for sleep. For most adults, 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the preferred sleep temperature, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which polled Americans on their sleep preferences. Your ideal temperature might be slightly lower or higher.
Get regular exercise
Exercise improves both how long you sleep and how well you sleep. You can even exercise in the evening. As long as you stop at least an hour before your bedtime, evening exercise doesn’t interfere with sleep in healthy adults.
Follow the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Each week, aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking), 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging), or a combination of the two.
Caffeine is a stimulant. What can get you going in the morning can also keep you up at night. Avoid caffeinated products, such as coffee, teas, sodas, and chocolate, for four to six hours before bedtime.
Avoid electronics before bedtime
The blue light emitted from electronic devices like your smartphone or reading tablet disrupts your body’s production of melatonin, the chemical that signals to your body that it’s time to fall asleep. You should give yourself at least two hours free from electronics before your scheduled bedtime, according to Harvard Medical School.
Because LED bulbs also emit blue light, switch the lightbulbs in your bedside lamp to orange-hued or soft-glow bulbs.
Eat a healthy, light dinner
It takes a lot of energy for your body to digest food. So, avoid a heavy dinner. Spicy and greasy foods can also cause acid reflux, which gets worse when you’re lying down.
Skip the nightcap
Drinking alcohol before bed can actually make insomnia worse, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While alcohol can initially make you feel drowsy and fall asleep, it can lead to rebound wakefulness during the night. That’s because you may wake up after your body is done processing the alcohol. And sometimes, too much alcohol before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place.
Reduce fluid intake before bed
Fluid intake before bed can cause nocturia – waking up in the night to urinate. If you wake up frequently to use the bathroom, the Urology Care Foundation recommends limiting the amount of water and other fluids you drink for two to four hours before bedtime.