Despite being one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle, sleep often gets short shrift. We sacrifice sleep to get other things done and to enjoy other activities. Some even see inadequate sleep as a mark of how successful you are or how dedicated you are to things that are “more important.”
But lack of sleep takes a heavy toll—beyond simply making us tired. Our bodies and minds rely on sleep to recover from the day, and when we don’t get enough of it, it affects our concentration, memory, energy levels, mood, and overall health.
It’s time to wake up to the facts and accept that sleep is not a luxury we all wish we could get more of. It is essential to our overall well-being, and if you want "feeling great" to be a more regular part of your reality, it should be prioritized.
The good news is that for most of us, improving our sleep is a simple matter of improving our habits. Before you make any drastic changes, make sure you’re following these sleep tips to ensure you’re giving yourself your best chance to catch the zzzz’s you need.
Daytime habits that affect sleep
That’s right, establishing a healthy sleep routine is a day-long endeavor. Fortunately, it’s not as much work as it sounds.
Here are a few things you can do during the day that can help you out at bedtime.
Stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon, or avoid it entirely. You won’t be wanting that energy boost when it’s time to lie down.
Move around. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day can pay dividends later when you’re trying to sleep. It doesn’t matter when you exercise, although some experts say to avoid strenuous exercise two hours before bed.
Go outside. Light exposure during the day can help keep your circadian rhythms on track so you’re able to get tired at the right time of day.
Avoid napping. A short power nap (around 30 minutes) can be beneficial, but try to avoid taking longer naps. Save the heavy-duty sleeping for nighttime.
You may have noticed that most of these tips sound like generic wellness tips. But as they say, things become clichés for a reason—habits that support a healthy lifestyle will support your sleep goals, too.
Invest in the sleep essentials
Human beings spend about a third of their lives asleep. So anything you can do to improve your sleep environment is worth the investment.
This starts with basic sleep equipment, like a mattress, blankets, and pillows. Don’t settle for anything less than that which makes you comfortable.
You’ll also want to make sure your bedroom is designed to support sleep. Are there curtains on your windows to block light? Is your room in a quiet part of your home? Is the temperature cool enough for sleeping? Make whatever adjustments are necessary to create a cozy, comfortable environment for sleeping.
With the basics covered, you can focus on other sleep aids, if needed. These can include:
Your sleep needs and preferences will change as you get older. If you find that you need a mattress with more support or a pillow with less stuffing, make the change sooner rather than later—don’t waste precious sleep time trying to make do.
Preparing for some shut-eye
Sleep is the closing act of your day, so a lot of what you do in the evening should prepare you for it.
A few tips to keep in mind:
Plan ahead to ensure you have a shot at getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Even if this means starting your evening routine sooner or pushing back your wakeup time.
Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time—every day (including weekends). Having a day every now and then when your schedule is disrupted won’t be the end of the world, but the more you can stick to a schedule, the better your sleep is likely to be.
Avoid large meals right before bed. Give your body at least a few hours to digest your food before calling it a night. (If you do intermittent fasting, you're already on the right track!)
On the flip side, don’t go to bed hungry. Eat something small, like crackers or toast, if you need a bit more sustenance before going to sleep.
Avoid electronics at least an hour before bed. This includes your phone and TV.
Just like it’s important to warm up before a workout, it’s important to wind down before snuggling under the covers. A body that is prepared for sleep will sleep better—simple as that.
A night routine that’ll put you to sleep
For many, a consistent bedtime routine is the secret behind their sleep success. That hour or so before you turn out the lights should be spent doing something that relaxes you and helps you shed your worries and frustrations from the day.
What works for you may not work for someone else, but here are some techniques to try that will help prepare your body mentally for restful sleep.
Read a book. Reading is a good way to get your mind off other things and help you relax.
Take a bath or shower. A nice hot bath or shower can physically and metaphorically wash away the grime of the day, perfectly preparing you for a cozy night’s sleep.
Write in your journal. If you’re the type who has trouble shutting your mind off at night, writing out what is bothering you or recapping your day can help put these thoughts where they belong before bed—out of your head.
Meditate. Another way to clear your mind is to meditate. Deep breathing is a great relaxation exercise, as well.
Do stretches or yoga. A little bit of physical activity before bed can help reduce tension and prepare your body for better sleep.
Better sleep, better life
Being well rested doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. And you have more control over how much sleep you get than you might think. Commit today to make sleep a priority, and watch how it improves your life.
*For most people, adopting these sleep essentials tips will be enough to help them get the sleep they need. If your sleep problems persist, we recommend speaking with your doctor, who can help you put together a sleep plan that works for you.