19 Ways To Improve Your Sleep, Ranked From Least to Most Effective
Few things are worse than getting a bad night's sleep. Not enough zzzs can leave you groggy, disoriented, and unproductive—not to mention it can up your chances of getting sick and packing on pounds. But there are ways to combat it. Here, we've ranked them from least to most effective.
Say ‘no’ to the snooze button
Many of us hit “snooze” at least once before we (finally) roll out of bed, but those extra few minutes of bliss may mess with your sleep cycle, according to AsapSCIENCE. Every time you fall back asleep, you’re most likely sleeping more deeply than before. Your body is therefore confused when your alarm goes off again and again, delaying the time it takes to become bright-eyes and bushy-tailed. So go ahead and pass on those short bouts of not-so-great dozing.
Swap your alarm from a more natural wake-up call.
Even better than jumping out of bed at the first alarm chime is waking up naturally—a tip that sleep queen Arianna Huffington swears by. For her, rising alarm-free means rising stress-free.
Declutter your sleeping space
The scientific evidence here is somewhat limited (a June 2015 study that linked clutter with poor sleep focused solely on people at risk for hoarding disorder), but it does make sense—a cluttered space can often lead to greater stress or anxiety, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to sleep easy. So tidy up! It definitely can’t hurt.
Brush your teeth in the dark.
This simple tip might seem strange, but according to a neuroscientist at Oxford, it might just be the secret to falling asleep a little bit faster: Russell Foster, Ph.D., says fluorescent bathroom lights mess with our circadian rhythms. To avoid disruption our natural sleep cycles, we should therefore skip ‘em altogether and brush those pearly whites before bed in the dark.
Get under a weighted blanket.
Although these blankets likely won’t work for everyone, Dr. Oz says they might work for restless sleepers or those with anxiety, ADHD, or autism. A small September 2008 study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that weighted blankets helped 75 percent of participants fall asleep, so if you’re game, it might be worth a shot.
Fill the room with sleepy scents.
For some snoozers, natural scents such as lavender help to reduce heart rate, relax the body, and encourage restfulness—which sounds like a pretty good deal to us. If you’re into these sleepy scents, try essential oils or scented candles. And if they’re not your thing, don’t worry—smelly stimuli aren’t crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.
Nap the smart way.
Yes, you can nap and still get good sleep. Just ask Ariana Huffington, a self-proclaimed “napper”: She’s a big proponent of catching some afternoon zzzs, just as long as you keep your snoozes to 30 minutes or less. Short naps will help you sleep off the midday slump without waking up groggy and disoriented or disrupting your sleep patterns later that night.
Journal your worries away.
If worries about tomorrow are weighing on your mind, it can be tricky to drift off to dreamland. That’s why the University of Arizona’s Ruben Naiman, Ph.D., recommends journalism or talking about fears that arise pre-bedtime. For some people, this is an effective way to ditch nighttime anxieties: Once you’ve dealt with problems, they’re less likely to keep you up.
If your mind is still racing come bedtime, paying close attention to your breathing can help bring you back to the present moment and help you relax, says Nancy Collop, M.D., director of the Emory Sleep Center. You might also try progressive muscle relaxation (a.k.a. tensing and relaxing your muscles from head to toe one by one) or meditation.
Set two bedtimes to give yourself a wind-down period.
The struggle to actually fall asleep by your intended bedtime is real. That’s why Naiman suggests setting two bedtimes, one of which is 30 to 60 minutes before you actually want to be asleep. When your first bedtime hits, crawl into bed with a good book, and then simply switch off your bedside lamp once you get sleepy.
Adjust your dinner.
Turns out, some snacks might be to blame for your restlessness. According to Eat Clean, food that are difficult to digest (such as red meat, broccoli, and cauliflower) might leave you tossing and turning as your body tries to process them hours later. You don’t need to completely cut out broccoli, but avoiding it close to bedtime can help.
Invest in a white noise generator.
You probably have at least one friend who swears by a white noise generator, and for good reason: These devices produce a steady sound that gives your brain something predictable to focus on until you fall asleep. If you want to give it a try, buy a generator, download a white noise app, or simply switch on this soothing video.
Let the light in ASAP.
Here’s even more proof that getting a good night’s sleep starts as soon as you wake up: “Exposure to natural sunlight in the morning has been clinically proven to help you sleep better at night by encouraging a normal cortisol rhythm,” Stevenson says. So get up and open the curtains—the ideal time for light to help wake you is between 6 to 8:30 a.m.
Keep a consistent dinner time.
Eating gives us energy, so it’s important to deliver that energy at opportune times. Naiman recommends eating plenty of energising protein and complex carbs to keep you going throughout the day, and avoiding heavy or sugar-filled meals, which can increase daytime drowsiness.
Get sweaty in the a.m.
Squeezing exercise in every day is important, but so is the timing of it. Moving in the morning has been shown to improve sleep the following night, says Shawn Stevenson, creator of The Model Health Show. The best part: Even a five- or 10-minute morning workout can have a positive effect on your zzzs.
Keep your bedroom cool.
Believe it or not, there’s actually an ideal bedroom temperature for scoring the best sleep. The ideal range recommended by the National Sleep Foundation is a cool 60 to 67 degrees because this helps lower your body temperature faster as you start to fall asleep.
Cut back on the booze.
Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, meaning you might fall asleep faster after drinking. But when the booze wears off, your system rebounds. If that happens at night, chances are you’ll either wake up or get some seriously restless sleep. Want a glass of wine with dinner? That’s totally fine—just be sure to finish it at least one hour before bedtime.
…and the caffeine.
Making a habit or late afternoon coffee is a bad idea, no matter how sleepy your midday slump is. Much like alcohol, caffeine can disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycles—but rather than depressing your nervous system, it stimulates it. To be safe, switch to decaf six hours before your usual bedtime.
We know, we know: You’ve heard this one about a million times, but eliminating blue light from the bedroom is arguable the best thing for better sleep. The light emanating from your gadgets disrupts your circadian rhythm, making it way harder for you to doze off. Try stepping away from your smartphone, table, and TV an hour or so before bed, Naiman suggests. (And maybe swap your iPhone alarm for a real clock.
This story originally appeared on Dr. Oz The Good Life.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.