Drift off to dreamland with these science-backed tips. (Photo: Getty Images)
If you get a perfect night’s sleep every night of the week, congratulations! But for the rest of us, there are a number of tweaks we can make during our waking hours that can help us improve our Zzs come nighttime. Read on for 20 research-backed tips that can help your slumber tonight.
1. Get in a sweat session. Research shows that people who describe themselves as “exercisers” report better sleep than non-exercisers, even though both groups get the same amount of sleep in a night. Plus, intense exercisers are least likely to report sleep problems, like insomnia and problems falling asleep.
2. Keep your bedroom an electronics-free zone. We’re talking phones, laptops, e-readers, the whole enchilada. There’s evidence that the blue light emitted from these gadgets keep you alert — thereby hindering sleep.
3. Skip the nightcap. While you may feel sleepy after drinking alcohol, it ultimately will hurt your Zzs more than help it. University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers found that alcohol has effects on the brain’s regulation of sleepiness and wakefulness — but this effect can mess with sleep quality.
4. Splurge on nice bedding. Here’s an excuse to get some nice new sheets and plush pillows! According to the National Sleep Foundation, treating your bedroom as your sleep sanctuary can actually help change the way you think about sleep, in a positive way — and can therefore help you get better Zzs.
5. Make your bed. A National Sleep Foundation poll showed that people who make their beds regularly report getting a good night’s sleep every day, or almost every day, more often than those who don’t tidy up after waking up.
6. Realize that bedtimes aren’t just for kids. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help your sleep because of the effect on your body’s internal clock. Your body will learn to feel tired at the same time each night — and your sleep will improve because of it.
7. Keep Fido out of the bed. Your dog or cat may be cute and cuddly, but your pet could actually be sabotaging your Zzs. Research shows sleeping with your pet is associated with waking up at least once at night.
Related: The Exact Time You Should Go To Bed
8. Don’t sleep in on the weekends. It has to do with the previously mentioned internal clock. When you allow yourself to sleep in on those glorious Saturdays and Sundays after late nights out, your body clocks get all out of sorts — thereby impacting your sleep later on in the week.
9. Make your dinner reservations for 6 p.m. — not 9 p.m. Eating a big meal late at night and going to bed on a full stomach can spell disaster for your sleep.
10. Eat foods that are good for sleep. Believe it or not, there are certain foods that contain nutrients that can actually promote sleep. Fish, for instance, contains vitamin B6 — a necessary nutrient for making the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Or pick foods high in the sleep-enhancing amino acid tryptophan, like walnuts or dairy products (there’s a reason why warm milk helps your sleep!),
11. Nap if you must – but not too close to bedtime. Keeping your naps before 5 p.m. can help ensure you’re sleepy enough to drift off to dreamland come bedtime.
12. Get the right curtains. Ensure light is kept out of your bedroom when you’re trying to fall asleep by investing in light-blocking curtains or shades.
13. Make sure your caffeine habit is a morning/early-afternoon thing, not a late-afternoon/evening thing. It takes around six hours for half of the caffeine you consume to be eliminated, according to the National Sleep Foundation. To ensure you don’t have trouble falling asleep at night, make a point to stop your caffeine consumption when it’s getting closer to bedtime.
14. Train yourself to become a morning person. Research suggests that larks have the best sleep: They’re least likely to have sleep problems and can fall asleep without the use of sleep aids. Specifically, 75 percent of these “larks” surveyed in a 2005 poll said that they have a good night’s sleep every night, or almost every night, compared with 49 percent of all people surveyed.
Related: How To Become A Morning Person
15. Resist the urge to eat that giant slice of chocolate cake right before bed. It’ll cause your blood sugar levels to spike, having effects on your energy levels. Your sleep will suffer as a result.
16. Take a relaxing soak. A nice, hot bath a couple hours before you hit the hay helps relax you for sleep. The science behind it: When you take a bath, your body temperature rises and then cools down right afterward. That cooling down makes you feel relaxed — and can help send you into a deep sleep.
17. Get in that it’s-almost-time-for-sleep zone. Sure, you have your morning routine down pat — but it’s time you made a bedtime routine, too. “We suggest that people establish regular nightly routines before they get into bed, to help their brain shift into sleep mode,” Gary Zammit, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Institute in New York, told Health.com. “Laying out your pajamas, brushing your hair or your teeth—these habits can be very sleep-conducive.”
18. Limit your liquids right before bed. If your sleep is constantly being disturbed because of waking up and needing to pee, then consider better timing of your fluid intake. Avoiding drinking water (or other fluids) right before bedtime could help.
19. Repeat after us: “The work emails can wait.” Research shows that using your smartphone for work purposes after 9 p.m. is associated with sleeping less at night — and feeling more depleted in the morning.
20. Figure out a de-stressing method that works for you. Research shows that 43 percent of adults lie awake at night due to stress — which is all the more reason to figure out some de-stressors that work for you!