According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than one-third of Americans usually get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep can have serious consequences, including fatigue, decreased productivity, moodiness, and impaired attention and memory. If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, try these tips from sleep experts to get better sleep at night.
1. Follow a regular sleep schedule as much as possible.
Creating and sticking to a regular sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do for yourself if you’re having trouble sleeping through the night. The body craves routine, so it goes to bed and wakes up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays. After a few weeks of following a regular sleep schedule, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep—and stay asleep—through the night.
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays. If you can’t do that, at least try to keep the times you go to bed and get up within an hour of each other every day. Some people find it helpful to set the alarm for bedtime.
2. Rules out medical conditions that could be disrupting your sleep.
Many medical conditions can cause insomnia or make it worse, such as anxiety, depression, heartburn, and pain. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping for a long time, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend medication, therapy, or other treatment options.
For example, bruxism is a condition in which people grind or clench their teeth. It’s been linked to insomnia, and orthodontic splints are often used to treat it. If you think you may have bruxism that’s disrupting your sleep, talk to your dentist. They can help you find the proper treatment.
3. Avoid caffeine before bedtime.
You might think drinking coffee or another caffeinated beverage will help you stay awake longer so you can get more done before bedtime, but caffeine has the opposite effect. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you feeling wired long after you’ve finished your cup of coffee—so avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening if you want to improve your sleep at night.
Many people are sensitive to caffeine and need to avoid it entirely to get a good night’s sleep. If you cannot completely eliminate caffeine, try to consume it only in the morning. You should also avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime. Although it may make you feel sleepy at first, alcohol actually disrupts sleep later in the night.
4. Avoid nicotine before bedtime.
Like caffeine, nicotine is also a stimulant that can keep you feeling alert and awake when you should be winding down for the evening. If you smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products, try not to use them within several hours of your desired bedtime. This will give your body time to flush the nicotine out of your system, so it doesn’t keep you up at night.
But avoiding nicotine before bedtime isn’t enough—you also need to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Studies have shown that people exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have sleep problems. If you live with someone who smokes, ask them to smoke outside or in another room, so you’re not exposed to the smoke. This will help you breathe easier and sleep better at night.
5. Get some exercise during the day.
Finally, exercise is not only good for your overall health—but it can also help improve your sleep at night. Just be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime, as this can make it harder to fall asleep. The best time for a workout is early in the day so that your body has time to wind down before lights out. You should also avoid eating a large meal before bedtime, as this can lead to indigestion and disrupt your sleep.
When exercising, make sure to do some deep breathing exercises. This will help you relax your body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Some people find it helpful to meditate or do yoga before bedtime. Many relaxation techniques can help you sleep better, so experiment to find what works best for you.
If you’re having trouble sleeping through the night, there are things you can do to improve your sleep quality and quantity. Try following a regular sleep schedule and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine; avoid caffeine and nicotine in the hours leading up to sleep, and get some exercise during the day (but not too close to bedtime). With these tips from experts, you should be well on your way to getting better rest at night!