When I was young, I was always a good sleeper—make that a great sleeper! My family still teases me about how easily I was able to fall asleep—and stay asleep—just about any time, anywhere, no matter what was going on around us.
But as I got a little older and had kids of my own, everything changed. Getting to sleep—and staying asleep—became much more challenging; it was no longer as easy as just closing my eyes. And while my youngest is now 11 years old, with more stress and increased demands on my time from work, family, and competing priorities, I found I was fighting a losing battle against sleeplessness many nights. Apparently, counting all you have to do tomorrow isn’t nearly as restful as counting sheep…
I was at a point where I would have done virtually anything to crack the code on how to sleep better. Maybe you can relate. Fortunately, there are small changes we can make to get to sleep faster, enjoy a deeper night’s sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed and energized to take on the demands of the new day. Here are three simple tips on how to sleep better.
How to Sleep Better: 3 Hacks
1. Drink Water
I’m a big fan of hydration. After all, what doesn’t enough water help with—from healthier, younger looking skin to removing toxins to maintaining healthy weight to, yes, better sleep at night.
An estimated 75% of Americans fall short of the Institute of Medicine’s daily recommendation for water (9 cups for women, 13 cups for men). That means that 3 out of 4 people are chronically dehydrated, which can interfere with proper sleep.
At night, our brains are busy sorting through the day’s experiences, and a hydrated brain does this work best. Plus, dehydration can negatively affect your body’s ability to produce a natural chemical called melatonin, which is important for initiating sleep and regulating circadian rhythms (wake-sleep cycles).
Although the body naturally decreases urine output at night (via antidiuretic hormone), it’s a good idea to drink water throughout the day (rather than getting your entire fill at night), so your bladder doesn’t keep you up. On top of that, some research suggests that dehydration may be the #1 cause of daytime fatigue.
2. Keep it Cool and Dark
It’s no secret that a dark, cool room leads to better sleep. But why does it help to think of your bedroom as a cave?
Keeping your room dark sends the necessary signals to your body that it’s sleepy time. Our bodies are biologically designed to release the “sleep hormone” melatonin in response to dark. For most of human evolution, this wasn’t an issue. Then came the invention of electricity and the capability to keep the lights on late into the night, which is highly disruptive to natural sleep-wake patterns.
It turns out that the ubiquitous blue screens (on mobile phones, tablets, computer screens, and televisions) may be some of the most disruptive of all because they increase both mental activity as well as (blue) light exposure, again negatively affecting the circadian rhythm.
You’ll also fall asleep faster and sleep better at the appropriate temperature. If it’s too hot or cold, sleep can be disrupted. Experts suggest that the ideal bedroom temperature range between 60 and 67 degrees. Because your body temperature naturally cools to initiate falling asleep, keeping the bedroom cooler can help facilitate sleep.
3. Not Necessarily Quiet
Some people sleep best when it’s completely quiet, and if you’re that type of person, a set of earplugs designed for comfortable sleep may do wonders for you.
Others, like me, however, do better with a little background noise, which can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Perhaps it’s from when my parents used to read me to sleep when I was but a wee one, but a bedtime story (in the form of an audio book) has become one of my best secrets for falling asleep fast. Others prefer calming music, a fan, a white noise machine, or nature sounds to calm the mind for a more restful night sleep.
Experiment with one type of background noise at a time (for about a week) to find what works best for you. Remember, you want this to be ambient noise—something that is soothing and consistent, not too loud or mentally stimulating. Finding the right background noise could be just the ticket for sounder sleep—pun intended!
Now That You Know How to Sleep Better…
The proper amount of sleep (seven to nine hours per night) is critical to a long, healthy life. It can help boost memory, attention, and creativity; promote immunity and regeneration; enhance school and sports performance; improve carbohydrate metabolism and metabolic function; help regulate hunger hormones; and help maintain a healthy weight. But getting to sleep and staying asleep isn’t always easy in today’s busy world. Give the suggestions above a try to see if they don’t help you get to sleep faster, better, deeper!