Next year, make getting better sleep the cornerstone of your wellness program. When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, sleeping never gets the fanfare of dieting or working out, but consistently getting a good night of sleep improves every other aspect of your life. When you’re well-rested, it’s easier to keep all of your other resolutions: your workouts will be better, your stress levels will be lower, and you’ll feel more in control of your life and better equipped to stick to your diet, quit smoking, or conquer any of the other goals you’ve set for 2019. Of course, that might sound easier said than done. How exactly does one “get better sleep?” Here are seven tips for better sleep that can help you do just that.
Kill the noise. This is an obvious one. We all sleep more soundly in the absence of disruptive noises. But the best answer isn’t always to try to completely eliminate all sound, because a totally silent sleeping environment can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep, especially for the estimated 1 in 5 people who suffer from tinnitus. Often, a better tactic is to utilize white noise to mask disturbing outside sounds. The white noise is soft and consistent, creating a blanket of soothing sound that covers up intermittent noises, like a dog barking or a partner snoring. You can purchase a dedicated white noise machine, or just run a small fan. The Bose Sleepbuds are one of the more innovative products we’ve seen this year. These tiny wireless earbuds play a continuous loop of soothing soundtracks that mimic the sounds of falling rain, a crackling campfire, crashing waves, and more.
Get the light right. Our bodies’ sleep behavior is governed by a natural process known as the circadian rhythm. It’s a roughly 24-hour cycle that controls when we begin to feel sleepy and when we are ready to wake up. It happens automatically in our brains, but is greatly affected by things like our exposure to light. When sunlight hits your face in the morning, that’s your body’s cue to wake up. And when your body stops being exposed to a certain type of light, specifically the blue wavelength, it signals your brain to begin producing melatonin, the hormone that helps your body fall asleep.
But exposure to artificial forms of blue light—like those in smartphones, computer monitors, and many LED lights—throws off that natural rhythm and and can prevent you from falling asleep. To combat this, first try to simply avoid using any screens for the final hour or two before you go to bed. If that’s not an easily-accomplished goal, consider using an app like f.lux, which reduces the amount of blue light put out by your devices later in the day, lessening their adverse effects. And by changing the light bulbs in your home for adjustable white LED bulbs like the Philips Hue, you can mimic the natural light cycle anywhere in your home.
Adjust your environment. The atmosphere in your bedroom—its temperature, humidity, and the air quality—strongly impacts the quality of your sleep. An ideal sleeping environment should be cooler than what you would keep your home during waking hours. Most experts recommend a temperature between 60° and 67° F. Running an air purifier year round and a humidifier in the winter months can keep dry nose at bay and help snorers sleep more peacefully. Plus, they can both act as white noise machines for that extra bit of sleeping comfort.
Cut the caffeine. Coffee is your best friend when you’re trying to wake up in the morning, but your worst enemy when it’s time for bed. Caffeine will stay elevated in your bloodstream for five or more hours, so its rousing effects stick around long after you’re done sipping. To be safe, try not to consume any coffee, tea, or energy drinks in the 6-8 hours before bedtime.
Work it out. Get regular physical activity at some point every day. Numerous studies have shown that regular physical activity leads to better sleep, especially for middle-aged and older adults, and those with insomnia. The jury’s still out as to whether or not working out late at night can keep you up, so it’s probably best to get your workouts in as early in the day as you can.
Clear your mind. An oft-heard complaint from problem sleepers is “I just can’t turn my brain off.” Racing thoughts can keep you lying awake at night, even when you feel tired. Work to relax before settling into your bed, and you may find sleep easier. Studies show that relaxing tactics like meditation, massage, and breathing exercises can all improve your the quality of your sleep. If you’re the type that lies away thinking about things you have to do the next day, take some time before bed to write out a to-do list so you don’t have to dwell on those tasks once the lights go out.
Have a good foundation. Finally, one of the key tips for better sleep is to make sure you’re sleeping on a good mattress. It’s no secret that it’s more difficult to fall asleep on an uncomfortable surface. But even when you do find sleep, a bad mattress can keep you tossing all night, preventing you from entering REM sleep, the deep stage of sleep where your body recovers and rebuilds itself. When buying a new mattress, try out a variety of types before buying. For most people, the perfect mattress is a balancing act between soft enough to be comfortable but firm enough that it provides adequate support. Hybrid mattresses—which combine aspects of foam and inner spring mattress construction—are great at providing the best of both worlds.
As a bonus tip, remember to stay hydrated. Going to sleep without enough fluid in your system will diminish the quality of your sleep. This tip is especially important for individuals who breathe through their mouths at night. With every exhale, the air passing through your mouth brings a bit of moisture with it. This can leave your throat dry and hoarse by morning. Dehydration can also contribute to painful muscle cramps, which are one of the worst ways to wake up. To avoid these issues, sip on water throughout the day. Men should drink roughly a gallon of water a day (128 ounces) and women should shoot for around 100 ounces. Use the same cup or bottle throughout the day and remember how many times you’ve needed a refill. Keeping a full cup on your bedside table is also a great idea.