Improving Sleep Habits: 10 Natural Ways to Get a Good Night Sleep

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If you are looking for natural ways to get a good night sleep, consider improving your sleep habits. Here are 10 ways you can get started today!

    Think of the ideal sleeping environment as a cave. It should be dark, quiet, and cool.

-Dr. Jason  Holland, Lifespark

1. Do Something that Relaxes You Before Bed.

Are you someone who at night replays the events of the day and makes checklists in your head? If so, it could be interfering with your sleep. Compared to good sleepers, people with sleep problems are more likely to report having engaged in activities that are emotionally upsetting and/or demand a high level of concentration. To improve your sleep, try doing something to unwind and relax an hour or two before bedtime, like deep breathing or guided imagery.

READ RELATED: Thoughts about Thinking: How to Worry Less by Developing ‘Metacognitive Awareness’

2. Limit Waking Activities in Bed.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try as best you can to only use your bed for sleeping and other ‘bedtime activities.’ Spending long hours reading, watching television, or lounging around in bed can interfere with sleep. Ideally, your bed should serve as a trigger for sleep, not too unlike Pavlov’s dogs salivating at the ring of a bell that signals food. If night after night your bed is paired with sleeping, it sets up an expectation of sleep when you hit the sheets, which ultimately can help you to rest better.

3. Develop a Regular Sleep-Wake Schedule.

People with more variable sleep-wake schedules have been shown to have greater daytime drowsiness and sleep disturbance. Sometimes it can be difficult to go to bed and wake up at the same time, particularly for shift workers. Still, good sleepers tend to have schedules with regular sleep/wake times and incorporate routine activities into their day that often involve social interaction. If you feel sleepy during the day or have difficulty sleeping at night, look for ways to get on a more consistent sleep-wake schedule. And draw on the people in your social network to help keep you on track. Want to meet for coffee tomorrow morning, anyone?

4. Avoid Caffeine within 6 Hours of Bedtime.

Speaking of coffee, cutting back on caffeinated beverages can also help improve your sleep. Caffeine, particularly when ingested before bedtime, can make it harder to go to sleep, stay asleep, and rest soundly. But even 6 hours before bedtime, caffeine has been shown to substantially disrupt sleep, beyond the effects of a placebo. So, if you’re looking to get more zzz’s at night, stay away from sodas, energy drinks, and coffee at least 6 hours before bedtime.

5. Stop Drinking Alcohol 3 Hours Before Bedtime.

Drinkers aren’t necessarily at risk for more sleep problems than non-drinkers. But alcohol can still contribute to poor sleep. If you have sleep apnea or are a snorer, alcohol near bedtime can increase the frequency and severity of breathing problems at night. And even though a night of heavy drinking may put you to sleep, later in the night it can prompt a rebound effect that wakes you up and makes you feel groggy the next day. So, if you are a drinker and have sleeping problems, try abstaining from alcohol 3 hours before bedtime and see if it improves your sleep.

6. Avoid Cigarettes and Nicotine Products Near Bedtime.

Smokers generally have more sleep problems than non-smokers. Because of the stimulating effects of nicotine, use of cigarettes or chewing tobacco close to bedtime can be particularly disruptive to one’s sleep. So, even if you aren’t ready to quit nicotine products all together, try to avoid using them 2 hours before bedtime to get a good night’s rest.

READ RELATED: How to Change a Bad Habit: 5 Behavior Modification Strategies to Get You on Track

7. Invest in a Comfortable Mattress.

Replacement of an older mattress with a newer one that has updated features, such as memory foam or a ‘coil-on-coil’ design, can improve sleep. If buying a new mattress is an option for you, check out this mattress buying guide and tips on finding the best mattress. Or if you’re on a budget, consider a mattress topper to make your current setup more comfortable.  

8. Sleep in a Cooler Environment.

Your body temperature fluctuates somewhat during the day and decreases at night to initiate sleep. If the room you sleep in is too hot, it can interfere with this process and contribute to sleep problems. An ideal ambient temperature for sleep ranges between 60-68°F (16-20°C), but anything you can do to cool a warm sleep environment can help.

9. Create a Quiet and Dark Environment for Sleep.

Think of the ideal sleeping environment as a cave. It should be dark, quiet, and cool. See what you can do to make your bedroom as cave-like as possible at bedtime. Ensure window coverings adequately block any light coming from outside. Silence all electronic devices and make sure there isn’t screen light peeking out from your phone, tablet, or computer. In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid checking these devices shortly before bed or during the night, as the blue light emitted from them has been shown to alter the body’s natural rhythms and wreak havoc on your sleep. If you live someplace where it isn’t possible to block all noise and incoming light, consider investing in comfortable ear plugs and/or eye-mask.   

10. Keep Your Napping in Check.

Experts often give conflicting advice on naps, and depending on who you ask, it may be characterized as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for your health. The truth is that it really depends. Napping is more common among older adults, and in some cases, brief naps have even been prescribed to improve seniors’ sleep quality and mental health. Short naps (10 to 90 minutes) taken in the early- to mid-afternoon have been shown to promote alertness and mental acuity. However, long naps (particularly when taken later in the day) can interfere with one’s sleep schedule and make it more difficult to get to sleep at a regular bedtime. So, if you’re have trouble getting to sleep at night, consider skipping the nap or at least keeping it to 90 minutes or less.

Changing long-standing sleep habits can be hard, and if you need some help along the way, you’ll want to read about Making Change Happen to help guide you through the process. Let us know how it goes in the comments below. Good luck!

RETURN TO QUIZ: What is Good Sleep Hygiene? Take the Quiz and Learn How to Stop Bad Sleeping Habits

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