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How to Get Better Sleep

Young woman sleeping in bed
Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock

Sleep is vital to your physical and mental health, but there’s more to getting a good night’s sleep than how many hours you get. The quality of your rest matters as well.

Why Sleep Is Important

While your body rests, your brain continues to be quite active during sleep. In the time you’re sleeping, your brain is helping you sort long and short term memories learned during the day. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you won’t retain as much.

During sleep, your body is boosting your immune system. That means that a lack of sleep can lead to illnesses. Not getting enough sleep can also make you moody and irritable.

That’s just a little bit of what goes on while you sleep, and what can happen when you’re not sleeping or getting a restful sleep that takes you into the REM stage (which stands for Rapid Eye Movement).

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Now that you have some ideas why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, you need some tips that will help you get to bed at night and sleep better until the alarm goes off. Here are some things that may help.

Get On a Regular Sleep Schedule

The human body thrives on a good night’s sleep, as you’ve learned. Because of this, you should have a proper sleep schedule which may help you sleep better, feel more refreshed each time you get up in the morning, and help you get through the day with the right amount of energy and no need for a nap.

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day: The healthiest and more rested people out there have a scheduled bedtime. They also get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Sleeping in isn’t doing anything good for your body. Altered sleep schedules can give you a feeling similar to jet lag.
  • Know How to Nap Properly: Naps can be healthy, and sometimes you need one, but you also need to be smart about them. Don’t use a nap to make up for lack of sleep—Doing that will only make you feel more tired and add to your low energy. When you do nap, just sleep for 15 to 20 minutes, and don’t nap too late in the day or you’ll mess up your regular sleep schedule.
  • Don’t Let Post-Dinner Drowsiness Win: It’s too late for a nap after dinner. If you’re sitting around feeling sleepy, get up and do some light activity (like walking around the block or washing the dishes). Don’t get overstimulated either—that can keep you energized too much and unable to go to bed on time.

Get Some Exercise

Getting some exercise during the day will help you sleep better at night. The key is to not work out too close to bedtime. Regular exercise, even ten minutes a day, has many health benefits. Not only does exercise help boost your metabolism (which will keep working to burn calories while you sleep), it also fights stress and depression (both things that can lead to insomnia). Your workouts will also help you be tired and ready for bed when it’s time to hit the sack.

Follow a Healthy Diet (and Watch the Stimulants)

Coffee cup and coffee beans on table

What you eat and drink, and when you partake in such things, may affect the quality of sleep you have. If you want to get to bed in time, skip caffeinated drinks at night. Caffeine use during the day depends on your tolerance and how long it lasts for you. Some people have trouble sleeping if they consume any caffeine after lunchtime. Some people can drink an espresso after dinner and still get a great night’s sleep. It’s worth experimenting to see how it affects you. 

Sugar, like caffeine, is a stimulant. Nix nighttime sugar. Carbs may keep you awake as well. Eating too much at night, or too soon before bed, may also make it hard for you to get to sleep comfortably. Alcohol is another item that may mess with your sleep schedule and your ability to get a full night’s sleep.

If you need a nighttime snack, choose something soothing. Don’t drink a lot of water or you’ll be getting up to go to the bathroom every hour. A couple of good options include some yogurt or a banana—they’re easy on the stomach.

Leave the Electronics Out of the Bedroom

The artificial light from your television, tablet, laptop, and even your smartphone can trick your brain into thinking the sun is still shining—which can make it hard to get to sleep at night. This is why you shouldn’t have a TV in the bedroom (or at least, not watch it right before you sleep), and you should leave your tech in the living room if it tempts you during the night.

Not only is it important to leave these light emitting sources out of the bedroom, but you may also want to stop using devices an hour or so before bed so that your brain can adjust and get ready for sleep.

Note that if you do like reading before bed and prefer eBooks to physical books, Kindles and other eBook readers don’t use the same kind of backlighting as your tablet. Instead, they use white LEDs that shine light from above the reading surface—much like how a lamp would on a regular book.

Change Your Lighting

Speaking of lights, consider using dimmer lighting in your bedroom than you do in other rooms of your home. If you like to read books in bed to wind down, or you write in a journal at night, use a dim bedside lamp rather than one you’d use at a work desk.

Take Some Time to Wind Down

Maybe you had a busy and stressful day, or perhaps you argued with a friend. You’re probably lying in bed ruminating about all the things that happened and the stuff you wish you’d have said or done.

There are things you can do before bed that will help you de-stress and wind down.

  • Take a hot shower: A warm shower or bath will help you relax and will take the stress out of your body. That warmth will also help relieve tension, which is another culprit in the case of insomnia.
  • Start journaling before bed: Write down the things you need to deal with tomorrow, rather than tonight while you’re trying to sleep. You can also use your journal to vent or to list things you’re grateful for.
  • Take up meditation: Meditation may help you relax and get to sleep faster (and may even help you stay asleep). You can imagine yourself on a warm sandy beach, flexing and relaxing your muscles, starting at your feet and moving up. Or you can find a guided meditation online that is directed toward your specific need—Help with insomnia, help to get deeper sleep, relaxing, etc.

Create the Ideal Sleep Environment

happy woman wearing sleep mask waking up
Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

While not everyone is the same, there are some key elements needed to create the ideal sleep environment. You need comfort (which includes your mattress and pillows), you need the right temperature, and you need the right sounds. Smells can sometimes help or hinder, as well.

  • Pick the right mattress: If you’re having difficulty getting comfortable at night, it could be your mattresses fault. Take a trip to the bed store and test out the firmness options that are available to find out what it is you need for optimal comfort.
  • The right pillows: Some people need multiple pillows; some people only need one. If you wake up with a sore neck each day, you may need a special pillow. Firmness also matters with pillows.
  • The right temperature: It’s uncomfortable to sleep in a room that is too hot, but a room that is too cold may cause issues for some people. You want your room to be a nice, steady 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Blankets can alter the warmth or coolness of a room, and they can help you get warm in colder months.
  • The right sheets and blankets: For many people, there is nothing worse than trying to sleep under scratchy blankets, or trying to sleep on sheets that are made from synthetic fibers. Invest in good cotton sheets for coolness and comfort. Pick blankets that are also comfortable.
  • The right sounds: Some people need complete silence to sleep; others need music or white noise. Pick what works best for you. Music can sometimes change beats and wake you up, so a steady white noise may be better if you can’t sleep in silence.
  • The right smells: Bedrooms should smell clean and refreshing. If your bedroom doesn’t do some dusting and cleaning, wash the sheets, and think of investing in an air purifier. Some aromatherapy scents, like lavender, can help with sleep too.
Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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