HomeSleep Science10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Help You Sleep Better Tonight

10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Help You Sleep Better Tonight

By - Last Updated: July 17th, 2019

Not all of us are getting good quality sleep. A lot of times, this is due to our own bad habits during the day.

Below I’ve created a list of simple lifestyle changes you can immediately make to get better sleep.

1. Get out of bed and stay out until it’s time to go back to sleep.

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For a lot of us, myself included, getting out of bed in the morning is a real bummer. Nothing feels better at 7:00 am than the warm embrace of my comforter.

Just because your bed seems more magical than Disneyland doesn’t mean you should stay tucked in.

Your brain is really good at making connections between the things you like and the environment you’re in. The more you engage in the activity you enjoy, the stronger the association with the location becomes.

So, if you’re doing activities in bed other than sleep or romance, your brain will start making a strong connection between the bedroom and those activities.

For example, if you use your bed to watch TV or play games on your phone, your brain will expect you to do those things instead of sleep. It’s super difficult to relax if your mind links your bedroom to more stimulating activities.

So, if you want quality sleep, stay out of bed until it’s time for shut-eye!

2. Exercise in the morning.

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We all know the amazing benefits of exercise. It keeps us healthy, makes us feel great, and helps us live longer.

But did you know a good fitness routine can also lead to better quality sleep?

Exercise improves mood and reduces anxiety and depressive symptoms. It also lowers the two major stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Improving mood and reducing stress is super beneficial for your sleep.

Consistent cardiovascular fitness out also helps prevent health conditions that affect your sleep such as heart disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea.

But how do you get the most benefit for your sleep out of your workout?

There is no definitive answer on whether exercise late in the day affects your sleep. Some may benefit while others might find it detrimental.

Working out is very stimulating for your brain and body. An increased level of stimulation at night might affect your ability to relax and fall asleep.

On the other hand, scientists found that to improve sleep, the best time to exercise is in the morning. People that regularly exercise before noon not only fall asleep faster but also spend more time in the deep sleep restorative stage.

As an added bonus, the morning is when you get the best access to sunlight. Sunlight helps you better regulate your biological clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. Exercising outdoors in the morning helps maintain a natural circadian rhythm.

3. Don’t consume caffeine after 3:00 pm.

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I don’t know about you but coffee is by far my favorite beverage. Is there anything better than that first sip of liquid gold in the morning?

The reason coffee tastes and feels so good is that its main active ingredient is caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, helping us stay awake and alert.

While caffeine is super beneficial during the day, it can negatively impact our sleep when we consume it too late.

One of the ways caffeine perks us up is by blocking a receptor in our brain that binds to a sleep-promoting molecule called adenosine. If adenosine can’t bind to its receptor, we find it extremely difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Discontinuing caffeine consumption at 3:00 pm will keep you alert into the early evening while still giving you enough time for the effects to wear off before bed.

Caffeine affects everyone differently. It takes on average 6 hours for it to stop blocking your adenosine receptors and leave your system. For some extra sensitive individuals, it can take longer.

By discontinuing all caffeine intake by 3:00 pm, you’ll have plenty of time to get it completely out of your system before going to bed.

If you find that you need a warm beverage before bed as a comfort factor, try drinking non-caffeinated tea instead.

I personally like having a cup of herbal tea an hour before bed to help me relax. I particularly like the sleep tea range from Hey Girl because it’s delicious and contains three different sleep-promoting herbs including Valerian Root Extract, Chamomile, and Lemon Balm.

Last updated: 2020-04-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

4. Stop eating three hours before you go to bed.

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When you go to sleep it’s important to be neither too hungry or too full.

If you eat more than three hours before you sleep, you’ll likely go to bed feeling hungry. Scientists discovered that hunger suppresses sleep.

When we haven’t eaten in a while our stomach releases a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin signals to the brain and body feel hungry and start searching for food. This drive to locate food suppresses your sleep until you’ve eaten.

On the other hand, being too full can also make it difficult to sleep. Not only does going to bed on a full stomach make most people feel uncomfortable but it can also increase your risk of heartburn (acid reflux).

Lying down makes it easier for stomach contents to flow backward into the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat and stomach. When acid enters the esophagus, it leads to the uncomfortable sensation we call heartburn.

In addition to heartburn, eating increases the activity of your metabolism. In order to sleep properly, our metabolism needs to slow but eating keeps it working at full speed.

Giving yourself a two or three-hour window between eating and sleeping will prevent you from going to bed too hungry or full.

5. Stop using screens two hours before bed.

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Most of us are guilty of using our electronic devices right up until the moment we shut our eyes.

I get it, it’s hard to resist staring into our laptop when binging The Office on Netflix for the third time. But screens are causing major sleep problems for nearly all of society and seriously affecting our health.

What’s so bad at looking at your mobile before bed?

Electronic screens from your TV, computer, or phone emit blue light that closely mimics the light of the sun. Receiving light input into our eyes during the day is healthy because it sends a signal to your brain to stay active and alert.

At night when the sun goes down, the light we receive into our eyes diminishes. When this happens, our brain creates a sleep-promoting hormone called melatonin. Without melatonin, our brain gets confused about what time of the day it is and doesn’t properly initiate the sleep process.

Because blue screens mimic sunlight, they inhibit our production of melatonin and makes it much harder to fall asleep.

Some companies offer products that filter blue light. If you absolutely must use screens before bed, try using blue light blocking glasses made specifically for night time use.

I personally like the BioRhythm Safe(TM) nighttime blue light blocking glasses. Not only do they filter out most incoming blue light but their tint is made to help relax your eyes before sleep.

Last updated: 2020-04-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

Of course, shutting down all screen activity two hours before bedtime is always the best options will allow your brain to produce enough melatonin to initiate the sleep process.

6. Lower the lights one hour before bed.

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Just like the light from electronic screens, the lights in your house can also keep you from getting enough sleep.

While light bulbs aren’t nearly as detrimental to your sleep as your smartphone, it’s best to dim your lights to an absolute minimum to prepare your brain for rest.

I always recommend using a small lamp with a dimmer switch and a light bulb that doesn’t emit blue light.

There are many brands of blue-light-free bulbs but I personally recommend SORAA Healthy Light Bulbs because they are dimmable which is a big advantage right before bed. They’re also completely blue-light free and energy-efficient.

Last updated: 2020-04-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

7. Take a hot shower or bath.

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Here’s a neat fact – in order for your brain to initiate sleep, it has to undergo a cooling process and drop by around 1°F.

You would think that reducing by 1°F would be simple but your brain uses a surprising amount of energy. Energy creates a lot of heat!

It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking a hot shower or bath right before bed can help your brain with the cooling process.

When you take a warm bath, you trigger your body’s natural thermoregulation process. The heat of the water warms your core temperature quickly.

When you get out of the tub, the water on your skin evaporates, cooling you down at a rapid pace. This quick cooling of your core temperature signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep!

8. Turn your bedroom temperature down.

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For the same reasons as taking a bath before bed, you should reduce the temperature of your bedroom.

Scientists suggest that the optimal sleep temperature is between 64 – 71°F (18 – 22°C). Not only will the cool temperature make you feel sleepy but it will also help your brain enter into the restorative deep stage of sleep.

9. Block all ambient light coming into your bedroom.

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Again with the light! I’m sure you’re starting to see how important it is to eliminate light before sleep.

While we can control the lighting inside our house, blocking light coming from outside can be difficult.

The best way to eliminate light pollution is by investing in heavy-duty blinds or curtains. If this isn’t an option, you can always try wearing a sleep mask.

If you’re going to wear a sleep mask, try to use one that contours around the eyes for maximum light blockage. I own the HOMMINI Sleep Eye Mask, which is made out of comfortable memory foam and blocks out more light than masks I’ve used previously.

Last updated: 2020-04-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

10. Do a relaxing activity by candlelight.

glasses blinking GIF by truTV’s I’m Sorry

Not everyone has the ability to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. Many find it difficult to switch off once they get under the sheets.

If you’re one of these unlucky individuals you can try doing a relaxing activity before trying to sleep.

I recommend taking a half hour to do non-stimulating activities like reading by candlelight, listening to soothing music in the dark, or meditating.

Anything you can do to help clear your mind will lead to a better night of sleep.