Even after three “snoozes” and more than your normal dose of coffee this morning, you’re still drowsy. You’re feeling crabby, rundown, exhausted—and you can’t shake the yawns. Why are you so tired? You probably didn’t get the best sleep last night, and you’re not alone.
How to Get the Best Sleep Ever
Don’t be just another statistic. Give these 11 techniques a try instead and reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep:
1. Give yourself a bedtime.
Pick a time at night when you typically start feeling tired and go to sleep every night at that time—even on the weekends. Sticking to a routine keeps your biological clock in order so you’ll sleep more soundly. If you do have to change your sleep pattern, do so in small increments, such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier or staying up 15 minutes later.
2. Exercise every day.
Did you know regular exercise can help relieve insomnia? According to a Frontiers in Psychiatry meta-analysis, people who exercised regularly reported benefits in their sleep quality and the severity of their insomnia.
Keep in mind that though exercise can help you sleep better, you shouldn’t squeeze your workout into the hours before bedtime. Strenuous activity an hour or two before bed can raise the temperature of your body, which may make it harder for you to fall asleep.
3. Take time to unwind.
Make time for a nightly unwinding ritual such as reading a book, taking a warm shower or bath, preparing for the next day or listening to soothing music. Activities like these will help ease the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness, which makes you feel more relaxed. But be careful not to overdo it with the electronic gadgets. Lights from these devices stimulate the brain and suppress the production of melatonin, making it harder to unwind.
4. Quit smoking and drink less for the best sleep.
Smokers are more likely to experience lower sleep quality and an increased number of sleep disturbances, according to a 2019 BMC Public Health study. Why? Because of the stimulating effect of nicotine, as well as “nocturnal sleep-disturbing nicotine cravings.” The bad habit can also lead to asthma and sleep apnea. So add “quit smoking” to your to-do list.
And while you’re at it, you should consider giving up that nightcap, too. Although alcohol might help you fall asleep initially, studies have found that it can negatively impact sleep quality and benefits and potentially heighten the risk of sleep apnea.
5. Ensure your room is the best sleep environment.
Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet if you want to get the best sleep ever. The temperature should be set at around 65 degrees. If the room is too hot, it can interfere with your body’s natural dip in temperature throughout the night, disrupting your sleep. You also should make sure there is as little background noise and light as possible. Turn off the TV, use low-wattage bulbs in your bedroom and invest in blackout curtains to keep the room dark.
6. Nap—the right way.
Naps help restore alertness, increase productivity and can be used as a sort of mini-vacation, an escape from reality—which is why organizations like Google and The Huffington Post have places for employees to sleep on the job. Although naps are nice in more ways than one, you should try to limit yours to 10-30 minutes per day, preferably around mid-afternoon. If you nap for too long or too close to your bedtime, you will throw off your sleep pattern.
7. Eat smaller meals close to bedtime.
Stay away from consuming large meals—especially ones that are acidic and spicy—before you hit the hay. Otherwise you’ll struggle to fall asleep because of digestion and heartburn. If you must satisfy your grumbling tummy, choose a snack that combines carbohydrates and calcium or a protein and the amino acid tryptophan to boost serotonin levels. Try a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter or fruit with low-fat yogurt.
8. Make it a rule: Your bedroom is for sleeping only.
Your bedroom is where you sleep. It’s not where you watch TV, work or eat. By removing life’s distractions and dedicating the space to slumber, you’ll sleep more peacefully.
9. Reduce your stress.
When we’re worried, our sleep suffers. Manage your stress by meditating and relaxing before you get in bed. Write down your concerns, delegate tasks and create to-do lists for the next day so that you can free your mind.
10. Find the best sleeping position for you.
What’s your go-to sleep position—back, side, stomach? Lying on your back should be your No. 1 choice because it prevents neck and back pain. If you’re a back-sleeper, though, be sure that you have a puffy pillow so that your head and neck are properly supported. What about side-sleeping? That’s also good for overall health, but you’ll need a thick pillow to fill the space above your shoulder. And stomach sleeping is the worst because it prevents your spine from being in a neutral position and puts pressure on your joints and muscles. If you can’t help but sleep facedown, at least get a thin pillow—or avoid using one entirely.
11. Use these techniques to fall back to sleep.
Waking up in the middle of the night is never an enjoyable experience, but it’s not necessarily detrimental to your overall sleep quality. However, no one wants to be left frustratedly trying to count sheep for the rest of the night. Try deep-breathing techniques such as the 4-7-8 method or listening to music. Do your best to avoid screens or clock-watching in order to keep from stimulating your brain or inducing stress about not being able to return to sleep.
This article was published in September 2015 and has been updated. Photo by Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock