Do you spend your nights half-awake, just waiting to get some rest and drift off?
You’re not alone. The pervasiveness of sleeping problems is evident by the number of advertisements pushing sleep aids on television and the Internet.
It can be frustrating: tossing and turning, thinking about how much you have to do tomorrow, knowing how exhausted you’ll be in the morning. But a bad night’s sleep isn’t only frustrating – it can lead to health issues.
Learning how to sleep better is important because it is crucial to maintaining job performance and a positive outlook; on top of that, many medical studies have found links between a lack of sleep and various health problems, including depression.
However, I have good news: you can learn how to sleep better, without relying on prescription pills that can have nasty side effects. Check out these four simple ways you can sleep better naturally.
You Can Sleep Better with These 4 Tips
1. Create a sleep schedule
One of the most important factors is making sure you are setting aside enough time for snoozing in your schedule. If you set your alarm for six o’clock in the morning, but you don’t even get in bed until after midnight, you are immediately setting yourself up for a drowsy morning.
While everyone needs a different amount of sleep to function, many doctors believe that between seven and eight hours a night is ideal; be sure that you are in bed at least that long before your alarm goes off.
The Mayo Clinic recommends establishing a regular sleeping and waking time and sticking to it every day, even on weekends, to drill the routine into your body’s rhythm. If you lay awake for 15 minutes without nodding off, get out of bed and try a relaxing activity for a few minutes, and then try to again. The relaxing activity will help you sleep better.
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2. Establish a before-bed routine
Aside from just setting aside the time for nightly rest, establish a before-bed routine to “set the mood.” Put aside work, bills or other stress-inducing tasks at least an hour before bedtime and focus on relaxation.
For some, a hot bath and a cup of chamomile tea might do the trick, or maybe reading for an hour. Find ways to de-stress before you actually get in bed so that your mind can shut down more easily for the night and you’ll be able to sleep better.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests trying yoga, deep breathing, or tai chi as relaxation techniques before you plan on laying down. It also recommends having a light snack including foods high in tryptophan, like bananas, close to the sleeping hour, so that waking up in the middle of the night hungry is less likely. However, stay away from heavy, sugary, or spicy foods late at night!
3. Create your ideal sleep environment
Not everyone needs the same type of surroundings to get a full night’s rest, but there are a few factors that seem to be constant for most people. Having a dark, quiet room that is free from distractions is key; many doctors warn against keeping televisions or computers in the bedroom.
Limiting noise is an obvious necessity to sleep better, but different people require different levels of quiet. If you can’t eliminate all noise, or if you have a hard time quieting your mind in perfect silence, try to create ambient white noise, perhaps with a noise machine.
WebMD recommends keeping a fan on low in the bedroom to help create a relaxing, consistent noise. The constant whirring of a fan or the sound of waves produced by an artificial noise machine can all help drown out not only outside sounds, but also the thoughts and worries running through your mind at the end of the day.
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4. Live a healthy lifestyle
Getting your body ready for rest does not start merely at bedtime. Your actions and habits throughout the day help dictate how well you will sleep at night.
Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine advises getting plenty of natural light and fresh air during the day, as well as keeping the bedroom dim so that your body knows the distinction between active time and rest time. Exposure to sunlight and regular exercise also helps tire the body out, making it more likely for you to sleep better.
Managing stress is another huge component of falling and staying asleep, as worries about work, bills and other parts of our days tend to make it harder for us to quiet our minds. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
The Mayo Clinic suggests keeping tasks organized and writing down whatever unresolved issues you still face at the end of the day, so that you can set them aside for tomorrow and sleep better tonight.
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Although sleeplessness is frustrating, it is important to be patient while implementing changes in your sleeping habits. It may take a while to learn how to sleep better, certain new habits may work better than others, and it may take your body a while to adjust. Be patient, pay attention to what is working and what is not, and try not to lose sleep over losing sleep!
Angie Picardo is a writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance site where you can find advice on topics ranging from health to retirement success.
Featured photo by thejbird
Originally published May 21, 2013 and updated June 3, 2014.