If you find yourself counting sheep night after night without any luck, no offense to your fluffy friends, but it might be time to take your sleep-inducing tactics up a notch. Mastering the art of a full night’s rest really just comes down to science. Whether it’s changing the temperature in your bedroom or adding another supplement into your routine, these 20 doctor-approved methods will (finally!) let you get some quality Zzzs. And for more on getting your full eight hours, check out these 70 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
Sometimes the only thing you need to doze off until morning is cracking a window. A 2017 study published in the journal Indoor Air analyzed 17 participants over five nights and found those who had a breeze blowing in their bedroom at night had lower levels of carbon dioxide in the air, making them sleep better throughout the night.
While most people think a nightcap helps them wind down for a blissful sleep, that’s unfortunately that’s not the case. According to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol might make you feel tired, but it actually makes it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep due to interrupting your circadian rhythm, blocking REM sleep, and messing with your breathing, making you more prone to snoring. For more on booze, check out This Is Exactly How Much Alcohol You Should Drink.
If you want to sleep like a boss, start getting your body ready for shut-eye first thing in the morning. According to sleep expert Michael J. Breus, PhD, spending 15 minutes soaking up the sunshine every AM is key to passing out come bedtime: “It helps regulate the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone,” he wrote on his website. “Your internal body clock — the circadian rhythm — runs on a 24-hour schedule and functions best when you’re exposed to a regular pattern of light and dark.”
Sometimes it takes drastic measures — like pitch darkness and total quietness! — to reset your body and get you back to quality sleep. In a 2017 study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers found taking a weekend camping trip and sleeping with a natural light-dark cycle — aka the rising and setting of the sun — totally shifted the participants’ sleep schedules, and that continued after their trip was over.
It might seem harmless to grab another coffee to help you get through your mid-afternoon slump, but it might be wreaking havoc on your sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, caffeine stays in your body for much longer than you might think. After 6 hours, only half of what you’ve consumed is gone, so by the time you’re ready to hit the hay, you might still feel pretty wired and get low-quality sleep because of it. For more on caffeine, Here’s Exactly How Much Caffeine You Need to Drink to Overdose.
If your dog has turned into your go-to teddy bear at night, good news. According to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, those who slept with dogs in their bedrooms actually got better sleep than those who didn’t. And it’s not just because they’re so warm and cozy: it also made them feel safe, making it easier to shut down and relax after a long day. The only problem? Having your dog in bed with you doesn’t have the same effect, so get your pup his own spot to sleep, then invite him in for cuddles in the morning.
If you’re not looking forward to the next day, how are you going to get a good night’s sleep before you have to wake up? In a 2017 study published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice, researchers analyzed 800 adults and found those who lived their life with meaning were 52 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome and 63 percent less likely to have sleep apnea. Because they felt good about their lives, they had a better reason to get up in the morning, making them conk out more effectively at night.
If you were going to take a class to learn how to sleep better, would you choose a class on the topic at hand or a class on mindfulness? A class on sleep might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not the best choice: according to a 2015 study published in JAMA, those who took a mindfulness meditation class actually had more improvement in their sleep quality than those who tried to learn better sleep techniques.
Sometimes exercising in the morning just isn’t an option, so you’re left trying to squeeze in a gym session at night. The only problem? Sure, you might get a solid burn, but the Mayo Clinic says exercising later on in the day — particularly within a few hours of bedtime — can affect both your ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep you get once you do.
You might have heard people raving about how well magnesium helps them sleep, and they’re not lying: a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that when taken before bedtime, the natural sleeping pill of sorts can help improve your quality of sleep, making you fall asleep faster and stay asleep until morning.
Nuts don’t just make for a super-healthy snack option — they also contain ingredients that will help you get a full night’s sleep. In a 2017 study published in the FASEB Journal, researchers found eating nuts on a regular basis not only gives your body sleep-inducing nutrients like magnesium and selenium, but also makes the brainwave frequencies associated with sleep stronger — all things that can help you rest like a baby.
OK, this sounds super backwards — but just hear us out. Instead of lying in bed trying to make yourself fall asleep and ultimately failing, the key to a full night’s sleep might actually be trying to stay awake. In one 2013 study published in the journal Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, researchers found when insomniacs laid in bed with the intention of staying awake, they — you guessed it! — conked out quicker and had a more restful night of sleep. Sometimes all you need to do is to trick your body with some reverse psychology.
Why drink regular ol’ coffee when you can drink adaptogenic mushroom coffee? According to Dr. Breus, antioxidant-packed medicinal mushroom coffee contains half the caffeine you’d get in a regular cup of brew. So even if you decide to have a cup in the afternoon, it won’t totally ruin your night of sleep like the regular stuff would. And, it might help it: the ‘shrooms have been found to reduce the effects of stress, so you can rest easy without lying in panic about an unfinished to-do list.
As nice as it is to have an eReader on hand, they could be messing with your sleep schedule. In a 2014 study published in the journal PNAS, researchers found the devices emitted blue light that led to more restlessness and less REM sleep, making it harder to fall asleep and lowering the quality of their sleep in general. So maybe skip the Kindle before bedtime and go with an old-fashioned printed book instead.
Speaking of blue light, this tip is going to make you feel like a real nerd. But hey — you’ll be a nerd who gets awesome sleep. Researchers from the University of Houston College of Optometry found those who sported blue light-blocking glasses a few hours before bedtime had a 58 percent increase in their melatonin levels, which helped their sleep schedule all-around. That means you can still use digital devices — whether it’s your phone or the TV — at night without it messing with your sleep.
If you already sleep with a foot hanging off the bed, you’re in luck: that habit can seriously impact the quality of sleep you get. According to Natalie Dautovich, PhD, the temperature is a huge factor in catching zzzs, and keeping your feet out from underneath your warm covers can make sure your body doesn’t get too hot, which can make it nearly impossible to get true shut-eye. Especially since the surface of your feet — which are hairless and contain special heat-beating vascular structures — are designed to help cool down your body. “I think it’s likely in service of trying to cool our bodies down because we’ve gotten too warm to sleep. [Even] sticking your toe out or your foot out could bring you to a more restorative sleep,” Dautovitch said.
Have you heard of binaural beats? According to Dr. Breus, it’s a technique of “combining two slightly different sound frequencies to create the perception of a single new frequency tone.” And, that creates changes in your brain, slowing down brainwave activity and helping you relax for a better night’s sleep. To reap the benefits, simply use an app like Binaural (β).
Having a quick pre-bedtime snack is tempting, but there’s a scientific reason why to avoid food within two hours before you go to sleep: according to the Cleveland Clinic, avoiding the midnight munchies can help you sleep better because your body isn’t in full-on digestion-mode — which can involve some major uncomfortableness! — once you hit the sheets.
Naps definitely have their perks. They can improve your mood, performance, and memory, but there’s a catch: if you go over 30 minutes, you’ll likely mess up your nightly sleep schedule. According to the Mayo Clinic, napping could not only interfere with your slumber, but also make your insomnia and sleep quality worse. To be safe, stick to a quick 10-minute snooze if you’re feeling tired during the day.
Yep, those sleep masks aren’t just for cute Instagram pictures — they have an important purpose. If you don’t have blackout shades, they can provide a darkness that studies have shown can not only help you get better sleep throughout the night, but also function at your best the next day due to lack of shut-eye, says the Cleveland Clinic. For more advice on sleeping, check out these 10 Best Pillows For A Better Night’s Sleep.
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