I don't have to tell you what you already know—but I will. Sleep is important. It's essential for your body to function. Sleep lets your body reset and recharge and helps you stay alert and energized the next day. So when your sleeping patterns are off, it can really disrupt a lot of things. You might feel cranky or moody. You're less alert, so you might make more mistakes at work. Your immune system could be lowered. Your memory could be impaired. And those are just some of the problems you might encounter.
Good sleep hygiene is the key to, well, better sleep. And there are plenty of things you can try to make sure you're doing your best to get a good night's rest. "Good sleep hygiene means having a bedroom environment and daily routines that support consistently high-quality sleep," explains Erica Zellner MS, CNS, LDN, senior health coach at Parsley Health. "Good sleep hygiene means you are positioning yourself to sleep well each and every night."
1. Get Outside
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Zellner recommends getting outside in natural sunlight early in the day, ideally within 30 minutes of waking up. "In one study, people with insomnia improved sleep quality, duration, and reduced time to fall asleep drastically simply through bright light exposure for 12 consecutive days."
2. Avoid Blue Light Exposure
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Think twice before you scroll or watch Netflix before bed. "Avoid blue light exposure in the evening. Light from electronics after the sun goes down tricks your brain into thinking that it's still daytime," Zellner says. "This can delay melatonin production and keep you from getting quality sleep. Ideally, we should be preventing blue light exposure completely after dark, but for most of us, it's more realistic to avoid electronics for 60 minutes before bedtime."
3. Maintain Consistent Sleep/Wake Cycles
"Studies have shown that irregular sleep patterns can alter our circadian rhythm and melatonin production, causing suboptimal sleep," Zellner says. "By having a consistent (plus or minus 30 minutes) bedtime and wake time, you're supporting your circadian rhythm and increasing long-term sleep quality."
4. Consider Supplements
When trying to align your circadian rhythm, Zellner says you can consider taking some supplements that are beneficial for sleep. "Magnesium is one of the best supplements to start with. Many people are deficient in magnesium, and it's a critical cofactor for over 400 processes in the body! For sleep, try magnesium glycinate. This form of magnesium works in the muscles, resulting in a physically calm and relaxed feeling."
5. Create a Pre-Bedtime Routine
"Spend some time before bed engaging in stress reduction," Zellner says. "Having a pre-sleep routine that relaxes you can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly throughout the night. Try to take at least 15 minutes to wind down. This can include listening to calming music, meditating, journaling, stretching or self-massage, or even taking a hot bath or shower."
6. Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
That afternoon cup of coffee might help you get through your meetings, but it won't help you at night. "So many people falsely believe that their afternoon coffee isn't affecting their sleep, when in reality, it's a major factor," Zellner says. "The half-life of caffeine is five hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Half-life is the amount of time it takes for a quantity of a substance to be reduced to half the original amount. I recommend a cutoff by noon to ensure that caffeine is not disrupting sleep."
7. Get Some Exercise
8. Avoid Large Meals and Alcohol Before Bed
Skip the four-course meal right before you go to sleep. If you're hungry, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests eating a light, healthy snack. And the same goes for that nightcap—it might seem like a good idea and could put you to sleep faster, but that doesn't mean you'll get quality sleep. According to The Cleveland Clinic, when the alcohol starts to metabolize, the sedative starts to wear off, and you probably won't sleep for very long or very deeply, or you might sleep on and off. That means it can prevent you from getting REM sleep.
9. Use Your Bed for Sleep Only
Well, sleep and sex, but nothing else, the AASM recommends. This will help your brain realize your bed is a place for rest.
When to See a Doctor
Some people might try all of these different sleep strategies and still find out that they can't get a good night's rest. That's when you probably want to see a doctor or healthcare professional. Zellner says there are more than 80 known sleep disorders that can affect your ability to get quality sleep, so it's important to know when sleep disruptions need professional attention.
"If you are dealing with chronic insomnia, meaning you have trouble falling asleep at night, trouble staying asleep, or are waking earlier than needed and unable to get back to sleep, then it is time to talk to your doctor. Additionally, if you find yourself falling asleep at odd times during the day, you should seek professional help," she says.
Regular, loud snoring is also a symptom you want to pay attention to. Zellner explains that it may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which means that the soft tissue in your throat is constricting, which pauses in breathing. And if you find that you're always tired, even after getting enough sleep, you might want to check that out too.
Products That Could Help You Sleep
A white noise machine might be useful to keep in your bedroom. This one has 14 sleep soundtracks, including white noise, lullabies, and natural sound options. It comes equipped with a nightlight and auto-off timer settings.
Just spritz this deep-sleep spray onto your pillow to help you calm down before bed. It's a blend of lavender, vetiver, and chamomile.
Some people find weighted blankets very comforting, like a nice, warm hug. This one from Casper is made with microbeads and 100% cotton.
This supplement stimulates the production of melatonin. It's formulated with 5-HTP (which converts to melatonin), valerian root (to reduce anxiety), and GABA (to help you stay asleep).
You can get so many different uses out of this device. It helps you set a sleep and wind-down routine through the companion app. And it acts as an alarm, sound machine, and reading light.
Use this on your body and linens to help you drift off to sleep. It's a blend of calming essential oils like vetiver, chamomile, and sandalwood.