Even your shower temp could play a role.
If sleep doesn’t come easily to you, it might feel like you’ve been “cursed” with some virus that leaves you wired at 12:13 AM. About 30 percent of U.S. adults report dealing with short-term insomnia, according to the American Sleep Association (and 10 percent struggle with chronic insomnia).
Some people *do* have circadian rhythm sleep disorders that may require other medical treatment. For others, managing your stress and tweaking your routine might be enough to ease insomnia and sleep better.
Unless you’re waking up at night to tend to a two-month-old baby or have to deal with your partner’s snoring (or worse, kicking), you might actually have more control over your sleep habits than you realized. Researchers have found that these successful snoozers tend to have these 12 good habits in common.
1. They wake up at the same time. (Every. single. day.)
A consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy night’s sleep. If you need to wake up at 6:30 AM on weekdays, you’re not doing yourself any favors sleeping in until 10 on Saturday.
Waking up at about the same time every morning will keep your circadian clock in a regular pattern (and make it easier to wake up on Monday morning). Find out how much sleep you need every night here.
2. They make the bed.
Smoothing out the blankets and fluffing the pillows the moment you get out of bed will set the stage for a cozy bedroom free of chaos later on. This might help you feel more relaxed when you hit the hay that night, allowing you to fall asleep more easily. Learn more about setting up your bedroom for good sleep.
3. They get fresh air and sunlight in the morning.
So you wake up and trudge around the house to get dressed, eat breakfast, and sip some coffee. You’re in full zombie mode, until you step outside to head to work. Suddenly, your eyelids feel less heavy, your skin is warm from the morning sun, your lungs feel more full, and your energy levels are rising. Fresh air feels so good.
You know sun and crisp morning air make you feel a bit more alive, so take advantage of it. Try to work outdoor time into your morning routine. Eat your cereal on the back patio or drink your coffee on the front stoop. Take your dog for a walk first thing. Or just step outside and do a good stretch. This signals to your circadian clock that it’s time to wake up.
4. They don’t nap later than 3 PM—or longer than 30 minutes.
Either don’t nap, or time your nap carefully. It’s obvious, but snoozing too late in the day is most likely going to make going to bed at 10:30 pretty challenging. Find out the best time of day to take a nap here.
5. They say no to caffeine after 4 PM.
A 2015 study in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that caffeine continued to disturb sleep for participants even when consumed six hours before bedtime. Yep: six hours.
It’s best to contain caffeine consumption to your mornings only, but at the very least, give up the mug after 4 PM.
6. They exercise mid-day, if possible.
There’s a lot of controversy about the best time of day to exercise, and ultimately, it’s a personal preference. Experiment and see what works for you.
However, if your schedule allows it, you might benefit from signing up for that 2 PM yoga class. Waking up at 5 AM to work out might cause you to cut your sleep short, and working out at 9 PM might energize you too much to fall asleep afterward. Bonus: A midday workout might refuel you better than your afternoon coffee.
7. They dim the lights at night.
One of the modern inventions that disrupts our body’s instinct to sleep at night is all those bright lights. The light may confuse your circadian clock and trick your body into staying awake longer than it should.
You don’t need to break out your candles, but try to avoid bright overhead lights, and use dimmer lights if possible. This signals to your circadian clock that bedtime is approaching, which helps to trigger the body’s natural melatonin production.
8. They suds up in warm water.
Take a warm bath or shower before bed. Your body temperature naturally drops as you fall asleep, which then causes slower heart rate and breathing. By increasing your body and skin temperature before bed, your body will then have to cool down afterward. This sneakily mimics the drop in temperature that promotes sleep.
Just don’t crank up the heat too much. Check out how hot water affects your skin health here.
9. They put down the fork long before bedtime.
Late-night meals (especially large and indulgent ones) can do a number on your digestive system, and your sleep may pay the price.
Of course, if you’re ravenous, that could upset your sleep, too. So if you must eat close to bedtime, stick to light and healthy snacks like yogurt and fruit. Here are more foods you should and shouldn’t eat before bed.
10. They go tech-free at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Perhaps no modern invention sabotages your body’s nighttime instincts more than digital screens. Blue light from your phones, tablets, and TVs has a shorter wavelength than standard household lights—even white fluorescent lights—and a 2011 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that shorter wavelengths suppressed melatonin production more than longer wavelengths.
In addition to the blue light, the noise and general flashiness from your TV and iPhone stimulate your brain and confuse your circadian clock. Cat videos may help manage stress, but they don’t help your sleep if you watch them right before bed.
11. They soothe their minds before bed.
It’s popular to browse your social media feed in bed to “wind down,” but you’ll have more luck if you log off. Stretching, meditation, coloring, and reading are all calming activities that can help you relax before bed. Check out this bedtime yoga routine to help fight insomnia.
12. They hit the pillow at the same time every night.
Yes, even on weekends. It’s all about that consistent sleep schedule (see #1).
Falling asleep with ease, but waking up in the middle of the night? Here are tips to fall back asleep at 3 AM.
A day that leads to your best night’s sleep. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Medicine. (Accessed on July 27, 2018 at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-better/a-day-that-leads-to-your-best-nights-sleep.)
Avoid eating just before bedtime, study recommends. PubMed Health, 2017. (Accessed on July 27, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2017-09-12-avoid-eating-just-before-your-bedtime-study-recommends/.)
Dhand R, Sohal H. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2006 Nov;12(6):379-82.
Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Nov;9(11):1195-1200.
Healthy sleep tips. Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation. (Accessed on July 27, 2018 at https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips.)
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Sleep and sleep disorder statistics. Lititz, PA: American Sleep Statistics, 2017. (Accessed on July 30, 2018 at https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/.)
Twelve simple tips to improve your sleep. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Medical School. (Accessed on July 27, 2018 at http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips.)
West KE, Jablonski MR, Warfield B, Cecil KS, James M, Ayers MA, Maida J, et al. Blue light from light-emitting diodes elicits a dose-dependent suppression of melatonin in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2011 Mar;110(3):619-26.