There’s no one foolproof formula for getting a good night’s sleep, but there are several steps you can take that have been associated with better sleep overall if you’re struggling to clock the recommended number of hours of sleep you know you need — or if you wake up feeling less rested than you want to be.
It’s important to check with your doctor or a sleep medicine doctor if you think you do have a more serious problem, or of another medical condition is interfering with your sleep.
consistent sleep-wake schedule. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time in the morning, including on the weekends — and try not to vary it more than an hour or so. The times that you regularly go to bed and wake up are the signals you give your body’s natural clock, and when they’re consistent, that clock helps you wake up and fall asleep. If those signals are out of whack, your body clock gets thrown off and you experience the same drowsiness associated with jet lag. You also may struggle to fall asleep at night or wake up when your alarm rings.
Watch caffeine intake. Be especially careful with this later in the afternoon. Pelayo suggests avoiding caffeine within six hours of when you want to sleep.
Exercise regularly. Research shows that regular exercise (at least 150 minutes of activity per week) is associated with better sleep, (22) though it’s worth noting you should try to avoid intense exercise too close to bedtime, as it may make it tougher for some people to fall asleep. That’s because a workout sends signals to the body that tend to wake you up, such as your heart rate and body temperature increasing. (23)
Avoid bright lights and bright screens right before bed. Blue light — the kind that comes from fluorescent bulbs, LEDs, and computer and cellphone screens — has been shown to actually send the same signals to the brain as sunlight, and block production of the hormone melatonin that tells the brain to go to sleep. (24)
If you can’t sleep, don’t linger in bed. This means at night if you’re having trouble falling asleep for 20 minutes or longer, get out of bed and do something to make you tired, such as reading or some gentle stretching. Staying in bed makes your body associated in-bed time as awake time, and it will actually be harder to fall asleep.
Don’t linger in bed in the morning either, and don’t hit snooze. It can be tempting to wake up slowly, but that drowsy sleep (after you’ve initially woken up) is fragmented, light sleep. If you did get a poor night’s sleep, your best remedy is getting up, going about your day, and hitting your pillow at bedtime that evening, at which point your sleep drive will be strong and you’re more likely to actually reap the benefit of the deep restorative sleep you need.