Favorite Tips for Better Sleep

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Young man sleeping in bed at home

    If sleep is a struggle for you, you may have already tried tons of tips to help you rest. There are recommendations that range from the perfect sleep environment to what you eat (or don’t eat) before bed. It’s hard to know what actually works, so we’d like to know what tips you use to sleep better.

    Vote up the sleep suggestions that help you snooze like a champ and vote down the ones that leave you tossing and turning.

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    Stay cool.
    setting-air-conditioning-temperature

    There’s a lot of advice about how to make your bedroom the perfect environment for sleeping. One of the quickest tips to try is adjusting the thermostat. Sleeping in a room that’s too warm or too cold can keep you awake. Experts say around 65 degrees is ideal. Another tip suggests regulating your temperature by taking a warm bath before bed. It seems counterintuitive, but heating your body actually makes it cool down faster to reach an optimal sleeping temperature.

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    Keep a consistent bedtime.
    Close-Up Of Alarm Clock By Bed On Table At Home

    Achieve better sleep by getting up and going to bed at the same times every day of the week, even on the weekends. It can take some time to adjust to this habit, so make small adjustments over time. Set your sleep schedule so you get at least seven hours of sleep and no more than eight. Then shift your wake up and bedtime by 30 minutes each day for two weeks until you reach your optimum sleep window.

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    Limit meals and snacks.
    Chips and Salsa

    Eating a large dinner or snacking at night keeps your body busy digesting at bedtime and makes it hard to sleep soundly, especially if you have digestive issues. Drinks can be a problem, too. Caffeine stimulates your brain too much for proper sleep, and alcoholic beverages, which may make you feel sleepy at first, actually disrupt your sleep patterns. Your best bet is to eat a light dinner with a big glass of water, then fast until morning.

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    Avoid bright lights and electronics before bed.
    Woman reading and texting on smartphone in bed

    Studies show that exposure to the bright light emitted by electronics and overhead lighting can disrupt your normal sleep rhythm and make it hard to nod off. Remove TVs, computers and, yes, smartphones from your bedroom and stop using electronic screens in your house at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Try using low wattage lighting in your living areas and bedroom or install dimmer switches for your lighting, so you can make it darker after dinner.

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    Exercise early in the day.
    Man running with Boston skyline in background

    Physical exertion can help your body release extra energy so you feel tired at the end of the day. The secret to sleeping well is to make sure you exercise early in the day. You should finish exercising at least three hours before bed, so your mind and body have time to wind down from being stimulated. If you feel energized at night and need to move, stick with gentle movement like stretching or relaxing yoga.

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    Cuddle up with a good book.
    Open book on a bed

    Since electronics before bed are a bad idea, buy yourself some good books. Reading yourself a bedtime story can help you relax. Research shows that even six minutes of reading can reduce your stress level by 68%. It also engages your brain, so you’re focused on reading instead of sleep anxiety. Just remember to keep the lights low or get a small book light. As an alternative, you can turn off the lights and listen to an audiobook.

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    Wait until you’re sleepy.
    Woman Making Cross-Stitch

    Experts say you’ll sleep better if you wait to go to bed when you’re yawning and can’t keep your eyes open. You’ll fall asleep faster when you get in bed and feel like a successful sleeper, which helps banish sleep anxiety. If you find you’re still awake after 20 minutes in bed, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again. Another trick: Practice reverse psychology and try staying awake as long as possible.

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    Fall asleep to soothing sounds.
    Man sleeping in bed with headphones

    If music and meditation isn’t helping you sleep better, listening to relaxing noises can reduce distraction and help you focus on relaxing. Popular sleep-inducing sounds include a dishwasher, dryer, lawn sprinkler, and even sizzling bacon. You can also DIY your relaxing sounds with the bumblebee breath technique. You inhale normally and then buzz like a bee when you exhale. Humming a pleasing tone also works. Do it for 10 minutes and see if you fall asleep.

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    Use relaxation techniques.
    Women meditating on bed

    Focused relaxation is a great way to help your mind unwind without the anxiety of trying to sleep. Progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditations for sleep are all effective tools for placing your mind and body’s attention on relaxing, instead of sleeping. Some meditation apps even offer sleep music or soothing bedtime stories to help you relax and drift off to sleep. Traditional classical music is also a good choice, since it’s known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

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    Throw on a weighted blanket.
    Women soundly sleeping under weighted blanket

    Swaddling is a common technique that helps babies fall asleep. Now adults are trying this childhood practice to help them nod off. The theory is that being wrapped tightly in a blanket reminds you of the comfort of your mother’s womb. A weighted blanket mimics this safe feeling and helps your brain release serotonin, which regulates sleep. Using a heavy blanket also provides more touch points on your body which is soothing to the nervous system and promotes relaxation.

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    Review your day.
    Women smiling asleep in bed

    Counting sheep is for the birds. Modern sleep experts say replaying your day in your mind is one of the best ways to relax and fall asleep. Just lie back, relax, and start from the beginning. Walk yourself through your day trying to remember as many details as possible. If this doesn’t put you to sleep, try counting your blessings. List all the things you’re grateful for at the end of the day and enjoy a peaceful rest.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 16
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  6. Successful aging: 10 tips for better sleep. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/successful-aging-10-tips-for-better-sleep
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