There’s one thing we do every night that greatly impacts all aspects of our well-being: sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 30% of adults in the US don’t get enough sleep, and that makes us tired, cranky and caffeine-addicted. The reasons for poor sleep health range from having the wrong pillow and mattress to fighting your natural circadian rhythm.
We can’t forget the role that technology plays in our sleep quality, too. There’s a lot of research that it could be wrecking our sleep, keeping us up too long and preventing us from getting enough quality sleep, night after night.
While tech can help you better understand your sleep patterns and quality, it is also responsible for screwing up your sleep patterns. If you’re staying up too late binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram in bed until the wee hours (guilty), it’s not too late to save your sleep. There are a lot of sleep myths out there, so let’s dive into what really works when you’re wondering how to get better sleep with our expert list of tips and tricks.
1. Address potential health issues first
The reason you might not sleep well at night may have nothing to do with your environment or your phone screen. There are several underlying health issues that could be to blame. For instance, sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that causes you to temporarily (and repeatedly) stop breathing while sleeping.
Perhaps your sleeping position is sabotaging your sleep. If you’re one of the 35% of all Americans who experience sleep disturbances, you know just how frustrating it can feel to constantly wake up at night. It’s a form of insomnia that can be attributed to a variety of factors, including what you’re eating or stress.
Sleep deprivation isn’t something you want to brush off or taut as a badge of honor — it can lead to serious chronic health issues.
Read more: 8 Products to Help You Stop Snoring
2. Track your sleep
You’ve heard that getting eight hours of sleep every night is important, but how do you know if you’re really getting enough sleep, and is it quality? One way to know is by using a sleep tracker to monitor your sleep quality, which is arguably more important than quantity. Everyone has a different number of hours of sleep that they need to keep to feel good, so make it a priority to figure that out and stick to it as often as possible.
Fortunately, these days, there is no shortage of ways to track it so you can be on your way to good sleep. In addition to counting steps, smartwatches and fitness trackers like the Fitbit also track your sleep. Just wear it to bed and it will track you through the night to tell you how much deep sleep you got, how many times you woke up and how long you were restless.
If you don’t sleep well with a gadget around your wrist, sensors like the iFit Sleep HR and Eight Sleep Tracker work with your existing bed and tell you how you slept. There are even all-in-one smart mattresses that can track the quality of your sleep.
Read more: Here’s How to Calculate How Much Sleep You Need
3. Avoid technology before bed
Your body has a natural circadian rhythm that’s loosely based on the daylight hours. You probably wake up within an hour or two of the sun rising and begin to get sleepy after it sets.
That said, blue light from screens (and even overheads) in your home can wreak havoc on your sleep by interrupting your circadian rhythm’s natural go-to-sleep signals. That’s why a key tip for sleeping better is to avoid watching TV or scrolling on your phone right before bed. If you can’t avoid screens, wear blue-light-blocking glasses in the evening. Blocking blue light helps your eyes relax and gives your body a fighting chance to get to bed on time.
For some people, leaving your phone out of the bedroom is the best way to avoid scrolling temptations at night. This can be a problem if you rely on your phone to wake you up. Try switching to an analog alarm clock or, even better, an alarm that wakes you up with light or calming sounds. One of the quickest ways to ruin a great sleep session is to be yanked out of deep sleep by a loud, annoying alarm.
Read more: Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks for 2024
4. Create the perfect sleep environment
Beyond that, your bedroom should be the perfect oasis to encourage sleep. Keep your thermostat low because the best sleep happens in a room that’s about 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Pair this with an upgraded mattress, pillows and a sound machine and you’re well on your way to the best night of sleep you’ve ever had.
Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet: Use blackout curtains to keep the light out and limit sleep disruptions.
Do you wake up with a dry mouth, cracked lips or nosebleeds? The humidity in your home may be too low. A humidifier will add water vapor to the air, which can not only make the ambient temperature in the room feel cooler but also help combat your dry skin and sinuses. Having a humidifier can also remove bacteria and allergens from the air, keeping your throat and sinuses comfortable.
If you see an overabundance of dust collecting in the corners (faster than it should), it may be time to consider an air purifier. You may also consider adding plants to the bedroom. Not only do plants liven up a space to make it feel more homey, but certain plants have anxiety-relieving and air-purifying effects that may help you get a better night’s sleep.
Read more: Best White Noise Machines for Better Sleep
5. Upgrade your mattress
If the temperature in your home is comfortable and you’re not scrolling on your phone before bed but you keep waking up throughout the night, your mattress could be to blame. A mattress that’s too firm, too soft, or just too old could make all the difference to your sleep.
If overheating is an issue for you (even if the room is cool) there’s a smart mattress that automatically adjusts to your body temperature, cooling the bed as your body temperature increases throughout the night. If you need mattress options, you can check out our list of the best mattresses right now, tested by our experts.
Read more: Mattress Buying Guide
More sleep tips
6. Avoid sleeping in to ‘catch up’ on sleep. The phrase “behind on sleep” is a misnomer. Sleep debt, what Scientific American describes as the “difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get,” exists. Sleeping until noon the next day or over the weekend isn’t going to help you get caught up. In fact, it can make matters worse. Consistently adding an extra hour or two of sleep a night is the best way to catch up.
7. Stick to your natural circadian rhythm. Fighting your natural circadian rhythm or inadvertently altering it with your computer or phone can seriously affect the quality of sleep you get. Keeping a regular sleeping schedule prevents disruptions that can occur from staying up too late on the weekends. It can also help maintain your circadian rhythm once you get into the habit, as your body will naturally begin to recognize when bedtime is near and help wind you down.
If you try to wake up early only to constantly snooze your alarms or oversleep, you might need to embrace the fact that you’re not a morning person. It is possible to force yourself to become one, but it’s better just to embrace your natural sleep rhythm. If you feel like your circadian rhythm needs a fix, consider spending an extended weekend in the woods. The technology detox and natural light will help you course-correct.
8. Give it a listen. Instead of looking at your phone, use a smart speaker to listen to an audiobook or podcast. Sleep podcast hosts typically have calm, soothing voices and talk about things that are entertaining but not distracting. Some of our favorites include Sleep with Me, Slow Radio and Sleep Whispers. You can even play games with your Alexa or Google Home speakers, such as choose-your-own-adventure stories, trivia or blackjack.
Try the Sound Asleep Pillow — Not only is this Bluetooth speaker pillow comfortable, but it also connects to your phone and is compatible with apps like Spotify, Audiobooks and Apple Music.
9. Cut back on caffeine. While you might need a boost to power through that mid-afternoon slump, you may want to forgo that extra cup of coffee. The effects of caffeine differ from person to person — it can not only keep you up late at night, but it can also affect the quality of sleep you get. Caffeine can stay in your blood for up to eight hours, so drinking a soda or cup of Joe after lunch may prevent you from falling asleep.
10. Start a journal. If you feel stressed about work responsibilities or an extensive to-do list, journaling is an effective way to release those anxious thoughts onto paper. It helps to process your feelings and keep those anxious thoughts from racing through your mind as you try to fall asleep. Before bed, mentally plan your responsibilities for the next day. You might choose to write a list or journal — whatever it takes to avoid thinking about it when you should be sleeping.
11. Avoid nightcaps. Alcohol can have a sedative effect that helps you fall asleep, but it won’t help you stay asleep and is likely to make you restless or even wake you up later on.
12. Get enough exercise (at the right time). Walking 150 minutes a week helps those with insomnia sleep better, but it’s important to avoid exercising right before bedtime. Exercising regularly can reduce anxiety and stress levels, helping you to sleep better. If you exercise within three hours of bedtime, the endorphins can keep you up.
13. Get natural light. Research has shown that getting enough vitamin D during the day is a part of good sleep hygiene. Time outside is actually clinically proven to help you sleep. If the sun isn’t shining, try a light therapy lamp. These can help to treat sleep disorders and irregular circadian rhythms.
14. Bathe or shower at night. Doing so one to two hours before bedtime can regulate your body’s circadian rhythm which also relies on temperature. A stress-reducing nighttime bath can improve blood flow and induce sleepiness.
15. Eat regular meals every day. Going to bed hungry may keep you up wanting a snack, while too much food can keep you up with indigestion or acid reflux. If you need a bedtime snack, try something light and non-acidic like these Midnight Cookies — they are high in tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps boost serotonin and melatonin to help you sleep better.
16. Eat the right foods. Prioritize foods that are known to help you sleep better such as kiwis, turkey, almonds, fatty fish, walnuts, white rice and protein. A University of Purdue study found adults who consumed more protein daily had better sleep quality.
17. Try golden milk. Studies have shown turmeric suppresses inflammation and can prevent sleep deprivation. Mixing it with milk is delicious and great for bedtime.
18. Essential oils and aromatherapy. Lavender-scented essential oil can be used as a sleep aid due to its calming properties. Apply small amounts directly to your wrists and behind your ears or put it in a diffuser near your bed.
19. Read a book. Studies show that reading before sleep helps reduce stress levels by up to 68%. If you have children, read to them too. Reading a calming bedtime story to your kids is great bonding time, and can be a relaxing bedtime activity to include in your nightly routine.
20. Use a sleep mask. Sleeping with an eye mask can reduce wake disturbances and increase the amount of time you spend in restorative sleep.
21. Try a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets can reduce anxiety and stress levels, helping you to fall asleep quicker. Consider trying one from our best list.
22. Wear the right pajamas. If you’re a sweaty sleeper, wearing moisture-wicking material can keep you comfortable and prevent you from getting up to change.
23. Progressive relaxation techniques. Squeeze and then relax every muscle in your body starting with your toes and working your way up. This technique helps to relieve tension and calm the body.
24. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). These stimuli focus on simple sounds such as water or whispering, which can soothe you to sleep. We recommend checking out these YouTube channels for audio and visual: Gibi ASMR, ASMR Darling and Gentle Whispering.
25. Watch “oddly satisfying” videos. Along the same lines as ASMR, these videos can reduce stress and help you calm down. Popular topics include soap cutting, hydraulic presses and playing with slime.
26. Switch up allowing your pet in bed. Snuggling next to your furry companion could lead to better sleep. Conversely, if your pet normally sleeps with you and you’re not sleeping well throughout the night, consider keeping them out of bed to limit disruption from their movements at night.
27. Face or scalp massage. By yourself or with a partner, practice giving facial massages or scalp massages. Researchers have compared it to meditation, which can help refresh the body and mind and promote relaxation.
28. Change your sleep position. Switching up your sleeping position can help you breathe better and sleep more soundly. Side sleepers usually get the best rest on mattresses with a softer profile, while back and stomach sleepers tend to like firmer beds because they offer more support. You can also try sleeping with a pillow between your legs, which helps reduce back and hip pain and keeps your spine in proper alignment.
29. Relaxing activities. Activities such as art therapy or knitting can calm you down, center your mind and help you sleep. Try some light drawing or painting an hour and a half before bed. Knitting is a great way to relax and can even help you dream better.
30. Don’t just lay there. If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and practice a calming activity before trying to go back to bed.
31. Grounding techniques. To take your focus away from tomorrow’s anxieties, bringing your attention back to the room you’re in can be as simple as touching an object or saying your name aloud to center your mind.
32. Red nightlights. Use red nightlights if you need to get up to go to the bathroom. Red-tinged lights are less disturbing than white or blue lights and can help you get back to sleep.
33. Meditation. Practicing meditation and breathing techniques allows your mind to relax, often leading to a better quality of sleep.
34. Try acupuncture. There are several major acupressure points that, when stimulated, can help you feel more relaxed at night. Acupuncture is a practice that restores the body, relieves pain, and eases stress, making it easier to fall asleep.
35. Visit the chiropractor. They can recommend sleep positions and pillows to help you sleep better for your body’s specific needs.
36. Do not disturb. Use a “do not disturb” sign to let others in your home know when you’re asleep. This is an especially good trick if you work abnormal shifts.
37. Cuddle up. Snuggling releases chemicals that improve your mood, reduce stress and help you sleep.
38. Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Doing so allows your mind to associate your bed with those two activities only, allowing you to sleep more efficiently over time.
39. Trick your brain. Reverse psychology might be the trick, as a Scottish study found insomniacs had better luck falling asleep by trying to talk their brain into staying awake.
40. Sleep medicine. Medications can treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. It’s important to consult with your doctor first before deciding on a treatment course.
41. Supplements. Certain supplements such as melatonin or magnesium can activate the neurotransmitters responsible for helping you sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that can help to regulate sleep, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Be sure to speak to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements or treatments to ensure they’re right for you.
42. Drink tea. Certain herbal sleepytime teas like chamomile or lavender have a calming effect while valerian root can act as a sedative.