9 Tips To Spur Healthy Sleeping Habits: A Roadmap To Better Sleep

By Rosie Osmun Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On August 22nd, 2023
9 Tips To Spur Healthy Sleeping Habits: A Roadmap To Better Sleep

For some lucky people, sleeping comes as easy as breathing. For the rest of us, the occasional refresher on how to get healthy sleep helps make falling asleep a little easier.

If you’ve been experiencing less than restful sleep or occasionally have trouble drifting off, think of it as a check engine light. Your body or mind is telling you something in your routine isn’t working and that it’s time to review what you’re doing to get a good night’s sleep. Much of the time, a little maintenance can help diffuse the problem and you get your sleep back on track.

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Over the past decade, quite a bit of research has looked at what differentiates good sleep from poor sleep, and what people can do to help themselves get better rest. Though the term may remind you of cleanliness, the phrase “sleep hygiene” actually refers to these best practices for improving sleep quality.

Luckily, many of these factors are things that we can largely control, such as the conditions of our sleeping environments and our behaviors. If you’re ready for sweeter dreams, we’ve collected ten of the most influential ways you can help yourself plan for better sleep and develop healthier nighttime habits.

1. Support Your Circadian Clock

Most animals and even plants are regulated by internal clocks that tell our systems when we should be doing certain things.

Our circadian clocks govern arousal, sending our bodies signals on when we should be awake and when we should be drowsy. When functioning optimally, we get tired about 30 minutes before our normal bedtimes, take about 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep and wake around seven to nine hours later.

Circadian rhythms take their cues from different sources, including light and your habits. One of the best ways you can support your body is to wake up and go to sleep at the same times every day, even on the weekends. Make sure your schedule gives you enough sleep to feel well-rested the next day. Some research shows Verified Source Medscape Serves as a resource for doctors and other healthcare professionals, providing updates on medical breakthroughs and expert pieces. View source that wake time is the most important one to keep consistent, so if you do need more sleep from time to time, heading to bed earlier may be better than sleeping in.

Making gradual changes can be helpful if your current bedtime isn’t in where it needs to be. Ensuring you get direct sunlight exposure during the day can also help support your internal sleep clock, making it easier to foster healthy sleep habits.

2. Establish a Regular, Relaxing Bedtime Routine

If you want to get good sleep on the regular, than a regular bedtime routine is important.  Following a similar pattern of activities at night (in addition to keeping a regular bedtime) helps prepare your mind for sleep. For the parents out there, routines are also helpful for getting kids to bed.

A good bedtime routine avoids arousing activities like working, exercising, paying bills, overly stimulating media or games, arguments, social media and other potential sources of stress or sleep-stealing thoughts.

Warm baths are one helpful thing to include if you have difficulty getting drowsy, as the temperature drop from warm to cool supports the body’s natural process of drowsiness. Baths work better than showers, but a warm shower or just a warm foot soak could do the trick. Ideally, baths and showers should be one to two hours before your bedtime.

Other sleep-friendly activities include scanning an book, writing in a journal, gentle bedtime stretches, herbal tea or other activities that you find help bring calmness and reduce stress. If self-help techniques aren’t working, you may want to consult with a professional therapist specializing in relaxation techniques.

3. Keep Bedrooms Comfortably Cool

Sleep is a biological activity, and one of the processes taking place as we doze involves body temperature. As your body signals it’s ready for sleep, your internal temperature dips slightly, Verified Source National Sleep Foundation Nonprofit focused on educating about sleep health. View source hormones and neurotransmitters are released, and you get drowsy.

Recent research has shown that external temperatures also play a role in sleep quality. Particularly, findings show that cooler rooms result in deeper, higher quality sleep. Though individual comfort preferences will vary, ideal room temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees so mind the thermostat before bed.

Using weather-appropriate bedding made with breathable materials can help you achieve the right balance. If you feel too warm or too cool, evaluate room temperature, bedding and your pajamas, too. For partners with dramatically different ideas of comfortable climes, a device like the ChiliPad can help optimize sleep environments without compromise.

4. Embrace Digital Detox and Darkness

Another thing going on within your body that supports sleep is the release of melatonin, which usually begins a little before your normal bedtime, peaks at the midpoint of your sleep, and tapers off close to wakeup time.

However, a lot of light exposure late at night can delay melatonin release and affect your sleep quality — keeping you up later and leaving you tired the next day.

Research has focused on blue light sources Verified Source Harvard Health Blog run by Harvard Medical School offering in-depth guides to better health and articles on medical breakthroughs. View source in particular, which are believed to be most disruptive. The biggest culprits? Your television, tablet, e-book, smartphone and computer. It’s best to power these devices down at least an hour before bed, keep smartphones away from your nightstand, and keep indoor lighting dim close to bedtime.

5. Sleep With a Comfortable Mattress and Pillows

A comfortable place to sleep is an important part of the equation. The best mattresses are those that reduce tossing and turning and doesn’t trigger pressure points, all while keeping you cool. If you wake up with more pain, feel pressure points, or see noticeable wear and damage, your mattress may have exceeded its lifespan. A quality mattress typically lasts eight to ten years; after that there’s a good chance you’ll get better sleep on a newer model. If you think existing pain is being exacerbated by your bed, read our guide on what makes a mattress good for back pain.

If pressure points are a major concern, look into investing in memory foam. While foam was once considered a heat trap, the best memory foam mattresses now feature advanced cellular technology which helps cool you cool and comfortable all through the night.

Pillows are also important, and generally have a much shorter lifespan than beds. If you’re experiencing neck or shoulder pain, make sure your pillow is keeping your head at a natural, neutral angle relative to your spine. Opt for hypoallergenic pillows or wash them regularly to limit allergens and bacteria.

6. Use Your Bedroom Only for Sleep

Using your laptop, working, studying or channel surfing from bed can be comfortable, but it can also break the mental association between your bed and snoozing. It’s best to reserve the bed for sleep only, that way your body and mind are on the same page come bedtime.

If there any other objects in your bedroom that give you anxiety, try nixing them from your sleep space, too. If staring at your textbooks or work files leaves you thinking about your to-dos, check them in study. If your alarm clock causes you to worry about when you have to wake up, turn the display off or face it away.

7. Finish Eating Well Before Bedtime

Eating or drinking too much may make you less comfortable when settling down for bed. The energy of digestion from eating before bed can raise your core body temperature, spicy foods can cause heartburn, and greasy foods can give you indigestion.

Meals with healthy carbs and lean protein are thought to be best for sleep, but one study says dinner should be four hours before bedtime Verified Source Oxford Academic Research journal published by Oxford University. View source to see positive effects. A light nighttime snack is fine, but again, keep portions small and skip potential stomach irritants.

Also, try to focus your water intake earlier in the day and reduce fluids close to bedtime so you aren’t waking up often for the bathroom.

8. Get Cardio Exercise Regularly

Exercise and sleep have somewhat of a symbiotic relationship. If you’re getting good sleep, you’ll have more motivation and energy to exercise, and healthier body weight is associated with less risk of problems like sleep apnea.

In the other direction, getting regular exercise can actually help you get more sleep at night. In one study of middle-age insomnia sufferers, the benefits of regular, moderate cardio mirrored the effects seen from pharmaceutical sleep aids. After four months, people were sleeping 45 minutes longer.

National Sleep Foundation surveys Verified Source National Sleep Foundation Nonprofit focused on educating about sleep health. View source also found that people who reported regular exercise were more likely to also report good sleep, while non-exercisers were most sleepy.

Ideally, it’s thought that exercise is best earlier in the day. If you are an evening exerciser, try to work it in at least a few hours before bed to give your body time to wind down if you feel wired come bedtime.

9. Avoid Caffeine Close to Bedtime

We all know that caffeine gives us energy, but it’s easy to underestimate or overlook it’s impact. Caffeine can linger in the body for hours — it takes about six hours just for your body process half of a caffeine dose. Researchers Verified Source American Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM) Monthly medical journal focused on sleep medicine. View source  found significant effects on sleep even after six hours, and it can affect some people for up to 12 hours.

If you are having a lot of trouble sleeping, cutting out caffeine completely at least temporarily may help. Those who regularly consume caffeine in the evening could be experiencing effects without realizing it, as one study Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source documented changes to sleep patterns and quality even with low doses. At the very least, switch to decaf coffee, herbal teas, and decaf soda after lunchtime.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes a lack of deep sleep?

Lack of deep sleep can be caused by various factors. Common ones include stress, anxiety, irregular sleep schedule, sleep disorders, excessive caffeine intake, certain medications, and unhealthy sleep environment. Identifying and addressing these factors can help improve the quality of your sleep.

Can I use melatonin every night?

While it is generally safe to use melatonin supplements as a sleep aid, it’s essential to use them responsibly. It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before using melatonin regularly. They may have other suggestions for improved sleep that they want you to try first, or dose recommendations for best results.

How can what I wear to bed improve sleep?

What you wear to bed can impact your sleep quality by minimizing sleep interruptions. Choose comfortable, breathable fabrics like cotton or bamboo that help regulate body temperature. Avoid tight-fitting clothes that may restrict movement or cause discomfort. Wearing the right sleepwear can contribute to a more restful night’s sleep.

Is it better to sleep with or without a pillow?

The need for a pillow largely depends on individual preferences and sleep positions. Pillows can provide support and alignment for the head, neck, and spine, promoting better sleep posture. However, some people may find sleeping without a pillow more comfortable, primarily stomach sleepers. Other sleep styles will likely appreciate the support of a proper pillow. Experiment with different pillow types and positions to find what works best for you.

What is the best position to sleep in?

The best sleep position varies from person to person. For most individuals, side sleeping with a pillow between the knees can be beneficial. Sleeping on the back, with a pillow to support the neck and head, also promotes good spinal alignment. Stomach sleeping is usually the only sleep position criticized as actively unhealthy.

However, the most crucial factor is to find a sleep position that feels comfortable and doesn’t cause pain or discomfort.

What sleep tips and tricks help you get a better night sleep? What techniques seem to work the best for achieving better rest in your experience?

About the author

Rosie Osmun, a Certified Sleep Science Coach, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the health and wellness industry. With a degree in Political Science and Government from Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Rosie's academic achievements provide a solid foundation for her work in sleep and wellness. With over 13 years of experience in the beauty, health, sleep, and wellness industries, Rosie has developed a comprehensive understanding of the science of sleep and its influence on overall health and wellbeing. Her commitment to enhancing sleep quality is reflected in her practical, evidence-based advice and tips. As a regular contributor to the Amerisleep blog, Rosie specializes in reducing back pain while sleeping, optimizing dinners for better sleep, and improving productivity in the mornings. Her articles showcase her fascination with the science of sleep and her dedication to researching and writing about beds. Rosie's contributions to a variety of publications, including Forbes, Bustle, and Healthline, as well as her regular contributions to the Amerisleep blog, underscore her authority in her field. These platforms, recognizing her expertise, rely on her to provide accurate and pertinent information to their readers. Additionally, Rosie's work has been featured in reputable publications like Byrdie, Lifehacker, Men's Journal, EatingWell, and Medical Daily, further solidifying her expertise in the field.

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