50 Easy Ways to Sleep Better
You can finally rest easy—we asked sleep experts to tell us everything they know about the healthy habits that help you sleep better.
Know your chronotype
Most of us classify ourselves as early birds or night owls. But according to renowned sleep doctor Michael Breus, PhD, people fall into four sleep styles known as chronotypes. You can be a bear, lion, dolphin, or wolf. Understanding your chronotype can help you optimize your sleep schedule, improving your overall health and quality of life. Find out what you are by taking the chronotype quiz here.
Set an alarm at night, too
“We all have good intentions about going to bed at the right time,” says Dr. Breus, “but then we’re folding laundry, packing lunches, and binge-watching Netflix until late.” In order to keep your sleep schedule consistent and sleep better, set an alarm to go to bed just like you’d set one to get out of bed. These are 13 more secrets sleep doctors want you to know.
Get your heart pumping daily
“The single best way to improve the quality of your sleep is to do 20 minutes of cardio per day,” says Dr. Breus. No gym membership? No problem! This can be as easy as parking further away from your house and going for a long walk home. Just don’t take a brisk walk too close to bedtime; cut off exercise about four hours before lights out to sleep better.
Use blackout curtains
“Keep your room as dark as possible—the darker, the better,” says Mary Helen Rogers, VP of Marketing & Communications for the International Sleep Products Association. One way to ensure pitch blackness in your sleep environment is to invest in room-darkening curtains designed to filter out light completely—including street lights that come on at night. Find out the 6 things bedrooms of good sleepers have.
Commit yourself to one wakeup time
“Many doctors only talk about going to bed at a consistent time,” says Dr. Breus. “But when the morning light comes in through your window, it hits your optic nerve and affects your circadian rhythm.” Waking up at the same time each morning can have an incredibly powerful effect on your sleep quality.
Time your alcohol intake
“There’s a big difference between going to sleep and passing out,” says Dr. Breus. Since it takes the body one hour metabolize a drink, he recommends padding your bedtime by one hour for each alcoholic beverage you consume. In other words, if you go out for three after-work cocktails, stop drinking three hours before you plan to turn in.
Sleep with the windows closed
It’s not just light coming in from the street that can disrupt your sleep; noise can, too. “Sleeping with the windows open seems refreshing, but sounds outside can rouse you throughout the night,” warns Rogers. Air out your room in the hours before you go to sleep, then shut the windows before you turn the lights out to sleep better.
Go decaf by 2:00 p.m.
Giving up coffee and soda completely can be unrealistic for most people—and a moderate amount of caffeine won’t have much effect on your sleep. But drinking it too late in the day will: Caffeine suppresses the hormone melatonin, which helps you sleep. Dr. Brues advises cutting out caffeine completely by 2:00 p.m.
Wean yourself off of the snooze button
“How you wake up is just as important as how you sleep,” says Rogers. While hitting the snooze button can be a hard habit to break, it interrupts your sleep cycles, causing fragmented sleep. This can affect your mood, ability to concentrate, and attention span. Instead, adjust your sleep schedule until you don’t need to snooze anymore. Don’t miss these 22 ways you’re probably sleeping wrong.
Get a ‘smart’ lightbulb
If you have to get up before the sun does, replace your current light bulb with a bulb designed to simulate the sunrise, advises Rogers. It gradually lights up to trick your optic nerve and regulate your body’s melatonin production so you wake up and sleep better.
Use a sound machine
A machine designed to create white noise or soothing sounds like running water is a great way to drown out the kinds of sounds that disrupt sleep, like street noise, says Rogers. These sounds can lull some people to sleep even better than silence.
Make your bed before you get in it
Sleep hygiene is all about creating an optimal environment for sleep, says Rogers. One of the best hygiene habits for a good night’s sleep is a comfortable, orderly bed, which is why it’s so important to make your bed each morning. If you don’t get a chance to do it before you leave the house, though, make your bed in the evening right before you turn in.
Invest in cooling sheets
It’s hard to sleep when you’re too hot. Though your body temperature typically lowers when you’re asleep, some people “sleep hot,” meaning their core (internal) temperature while sleeping is warm enough to keep them alert and make them sweat. A set of cooling bed sheets can be the perfect remedy for sweaty sleepers.
Evaluate your mattress
A solid sleep foundation is at the root of a good night’s sleep, but most people hang on to their mattresses for too long. A good rule of thumb is to replace your mattress every seven years. According to the Better Sleep Council, it’s time to get a new mattress if you constantly wake up with aches and pains or your mattress has visible bumps, rips, holes, or sagging. Here are more signs you need a new mattress.
Buy a mattress pad
If you’re not in the market for a full mattress replacement just yet, invest in a less expensive mattress topper instead. Mattress toppers come in memory foam, down, latex—whatever suits your comfort level.
Time your naps
“The recommended daily allowance for a nap is 20 minutes,” says Rogers. She advises respecting your body’s sleep cycles in order to feel refreshed. A longer nap will send you into a deeper, REM sleep, and that can disrupt your natural sleep rhythms at night. Check out the 11 secrets to taking a nap that energizes you.
Wash your pajamas after every wear
People tend to wear their pajamas multiple times before washing them, but Rogers recommends you toss the sleep clothes into the wash as often as you would your daytime clothes. In other words, wear them no more than a couple of times before washing. The reason? They can collect allergens like dust mites that can disrupt your sleep.
Wash your pillows
When it comes to trapping allergens, pillows are probably the biggest offenders of all. They trap dirt, dust, mites, and all manner of irritants. Experts recommend washing your pillows every three months for great sleep hygiene.
Eat well and exercise
“Sleeping well is like a three-legged stool,” says Rogers. The three legs are sleep habits, exercise habits, and nutrition habits. “Without one, all the others get thrown out of balance.” Find out the sleep tricks that really work.
Don’t eat right before bed
Stop eating several hours before hitting the hay, as meals spike your blood sugar and disrupt your sleep cycle. A good rule of thumb is about two or three hours, Rogers says.
When in doubt, sleep 7.5 hours
Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, says Dr. Breus, and you need to complete about four or five sleep cycles per night to feel refreshed. Five 90-minute cycles equal seven and a half hours, so he recommends this as a general guideline—though personal sleep cycles will vary. Check out these bizarre sleep habits of successful people.
Practice discipline on holiday
Vacations are designed to break you out of your routine, but they can wreak havoc on your sleep quality if you’re not careful. Rogers recommends doing your best to stick to your regular bedtime and wake-up while on the road. “The worst thing you can do is disrupt your sleep schedule,” she says.
Place a towel under your hotel room door
This one is a personal trick of Rogers’. Hotel hallways are lit up all night, and that stream of light coming from the bottom of the door can disrupt your sleep. You’re already in an unusual environment, so anything you can do to encourage healthy sleep is important. To this end, Rogers always rolls up a towel and places it at the bottom of the door.
Pack your pillowcase in your suitcase
Another trick for a good night’s sleep while traveling? Bring something familiar to bed with you. Rogers recommends toting along your pillowcase. A cherished blanket works well too. For kids, try a favorite toy to snuggle up with.
Eat the right foods before bed
If you absolutely must have a snack close to bedtime, make sure to eat smart, says Rogers. The best foods to eat before sleep include nuts, lean meats, fatty fish (like tuna and salmon), bananas, oatmeal, and cottage cheese.
If you break your sleep schedule, ease back in
Don’t wait until the night before a vacation ends to get back on your sleep schedule, advises Rogers. If you had a few “cheat” days, start easing back into your regular bedtime and wake-up by 15 minutes each night until you’re back on track. Find out the 8 little changes you can make to sleep better in just one day.
Stop exercising four hours before bed
Regular exercise will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep, says Dr. Breus. But the hours leading up to bedtime should be a wind-down period. He recommends starting your cool down at least four hours before going to sleep.
Rise and let the sun shine on you
“Try to get 15 minutes of sun every morning within 15 minutes of waking up,” says Dr. Breus. This will regulate your production of melatonin and your circadian rhythm. Regular exposure to sunlight will keep your system functioning consistently.
Tell Rover to move over
“If you want to treat a pet like a true family member, get them their own bed,” says Rogers. “Everybody loves their pets, but it’s a bad idea to invite pets into bed. Pets snore, wiggle, and have allergens.” In other words, they’ll sabotage your sleep quality. These other things are wrecking your sleep, too.
Don’t sleep in on the weekend
“You can’t bank sleep,” says Rogers. “People will run hard all week long then sleep 10 or 11 hours on Saturday, and wake up with a sleep hangover.” If you’re guilty of sleep bingeing on your day off only to feel groggy later in the day, you probably have a sleep hangover. Avoid this by getting a consistent number of hours every night.
Get allergy covers for pillows and mattress
“Your pillow is a big sponge that’s going to absorb what’s in the air,” says Rogers. She recommends using allergen covers for pillows and mattresses. Worried they’ll be uncomfortable? Rogers says it’s no sweat, as modern covers are often made with breathable, cooling fabric. Take them off and wash them each week for good measure, she notes.
Take melatonin supplements—with caution
Your body produces the hormone melatonin to regulate your circadian rhythm and control when you feel tired and alert. Synthetic melatonin is available as a supplement, but it’s not regulated by the FDA. According to Dr. Breus, use caution with this powerful hormone: Start with a low dose (.5 to 1 mg.) about 90 minutes before bed. Here’s what you need to know before taking melatonin.
Get your vitamin D level checked
More than a billion people fall short on vitamin D, reports the National Institutes of Health. A vitamin D deficiency can impact your sleep, says Dr. Breus. He advises getting your level checked by a doctor, who will perform a simple blood test and prescribe supplements if needed.
Put away your electronics at bedtime
By now, you’ve probably heard that it’s a really bad idea to bring your smartphone or laptop to bed. Experts even warn against keeping the TV on around bedtime. The trouble comes from the artificial blue light emitted by the gadgets, which can stimulate your brain. The light can delay the release of melatonin, disrupt your circadian rhythm, and even affect your mood, explains Dr. Breus.
Try tracking your sleep
“Sleep trackers are fun,” says Rogers. “It’s cool nowadays to brag about your sleep.” Apps and wearable devices like Fitbit can track your sleep and provide insight into your sleep quality. You can learn how long it takes to fall asleep, how often you wake up throughout the night, and how many hours of sleep you typically get. You can use the information to adjust your habits and environment—but Rogers warns against wearing a sleep tracker if it feels cumbersome or uncomfortable. Find out what your sleep habits are trying to tell you.
Silence your cell phone
It’s not just your phone’s blue light that can sabotage your sleep—it’s also the beeps and buzzes that can jar you out of a deep sleep—even if you don’t notice the disruption. It’s best to silence your phone at night and save the rings, alerts, and push notifications for your waking hours.
Wear a sleep mask
Light is the enemy when it comes to quality sleep, notes Rogers. If it’s not possible to reduce your bedroom to pitch blackness, invest in a sleep mask to block the light from your eyes. But make sure it’s so comfortable you hardly notice you’re wearing it. Amazon’s most highly rated silk sleep mask is a great choice.
Certain scents have natural relaxation properties; among them are lavender and sandalwood. The Better Sleep Council suggests using aromatherapy in your bedroom to lull you into a sleepy state. Pick up an aromatherapy diffuser and essential oils for your bedroom for less than $20 on Amazon.
The Better Sleep Council suggests practicing a form called yoga Nidra close to bedtime to relax your muscles and bring your mind and body to a relaxed state that’s conducive to restorative sleep.
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to fight insomnia, fatigue, and even depression, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Use the right pillow for your sleep position
Do you sleep on your stomach? If so, you’d benefit from a different pillow than those who sleep on their sides or backs. Different pillows provide support in different places—and some pillows are even designed for people with neck or back pain. These are the best sleep positions for different health issues.
Curate a soothing music playlist to listen to at night
Music can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but not just any music will do. In fact, the wrong music can have the opposite effect. The Better Sleep Council suggests sweet, repetitive melodies and a slow tempo. The Council also recommends minimal fluctuations in volume.
Make banana tea
You may already know that drinking chamomile tea is conducive to a restful night’s sleep, but have you heard of banana tea? The Better Sleep Council suggests boiling water in a pot, slicing the ends off a banana, boiling it for ten minutes or until the peel is soft, then putting the water through a strainer to drink as tea. The concoction helps relax blood vessels and muscles.
Dust and vacuum
A little dust couldn’t do much harm, right? Actually, a healthy sleep environment is a clean one, and bedding is not the only thing that can trigger night-time allergies and respiratory problems. Keep your bedroom carpet and furnishings dust-free for a sounder snooze. Don’t miss these things you should never keep in your bedroom for a good night’s sleep.
Get a duvet made to suit couples
Do you sleep cold? Does your spouse sleep hot? Bedding companies are getting on board with cosleeping conundrums by developing bedding that helps bridge the divide. Dual comforters have different warmth and weight levels for couples with incompatible sleep temperatures.
Read a book or magazine
The key to reading before bed to sleep better is making sure your reading material is printed on paper, not emanating from a digital screen. The National Sleep Foundation recommends these books for bedtime.
Bathe before bed
Going to bed clean is a smart strategy for allergy sufferers, says Rogers. But the National Sleep Foundation warns to leave at least an hour between bath time and sleep time, as hot water will raise your core body temperature for a while. Your body needs time to cool down.
Hire a sleep coach
If you’re battling insomnia and it seems beyond your control, Dr. Breus suggests turning to a sleep coach, who might do anything from helping you develop better sleep habits to giving you cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Dr. Breus recommends considering these seven things when hiring a sleep coach. Next, find out the things you should do all day to sleep better tonight.