20 Secrets You Need To Know for Your Best Night’s Sleep

20 Secrets You Need To Know for Your Best Night’s Sleep

  / Shutterstock

1. Keep the same bed schedule, including on your days off

Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Try to stick to the same sleep-wake schedule even when you don’t have to get up early for work. Getting up at 6 a.m. every day, and then suddenly sleeping until 1 p.m. on weekends, disrupts the body’s internal clock. “The time you wake up determines the ability to fall asleep at night,” Dr. Doghramji says. If you wake up late, falling asleep may be a problem.  The bigger the difference in shut-eye time, the more jetlag symptoms you’ll experience.

2. Embrace natural light

Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

A study examined 49 people who work during the day –27 of them were in windowless workplaces and 22 in workplaces with windows. The conclusion was that more natural light exposure during the day resulted in more restful sleep at night. Employees with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.

3. Your bedroom should be really, really dark

Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Light disrupts the pineal gland’s ability to produce melatonin. Light can pass directly through your optic nerve to your hypothalamus, which controls your biological clock, signaling your brain that it’s time to wake up. To prevent that from happening, get rid of night lights and don’t turn on any lights if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night.

4. Forget about phones, laptops, iPads before your bedtime

  / Shutterstock

“Evening light of shifting your biological rhythm in the wrong direction,” Dr. Doghramji says. Your body needs darkness to produce melatonin, which puts you to sleep. The brightness from the screen of your smart phone or tablet prevents that from happening.

5. Don’t watch late-night TV

Televisions emit blue light, which affects the levels of the sleep-inducing melatonin more than any other wavelength, Dr. Doghramji says. Another problem is what you’re watching. Chances are a movie or a late show that you find will be more stimulating than relaxing, keeping you awake.  

6. Exercise on a regular basis

Lee Torrens / Shutterstock

People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, a study, cited by the National Sleep Foundation, has found. The results of a nationally representative sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, show that people who exercised 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week (the national guideline) had a 65 percent better sleep. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.

7. Reduce caffeine intake

  / Shutterstock

Caffeine, a stimulant, is a “bad idea for a lot of people because it affects sleep adversely,” Dr. Doghramji says. It stays in your body for more than seven hours, though some people can process it faster than others. “My recommendation is no caffeine after lunch, just to be on the safe side,” he adds. Even if you are able to fall asleep, you may not enter the deep sleep phase, which is when your brain really rests.

8. No big meals during and after dinner

Darasp Kran / Shutterstock

Eating causes secretion of acid in the stomach which then goes to the esophagus. “Unfortunately, the body has to be awake to get rid of it, Dr. Doghramji says. “That’s just how physiology works. He recommends not eating at least four hours before bedtime.

Don’t eat a big dinner and avoid heavy, rich foods, especially those high on sugar or grains. Your stomach takes time to digest fattening foods and that will keep you awake for a while. Same goes for spicy and acidic foods, which can also lead to heartburn.

9. Don’t drink too many liquids

Robert Przybysz / Shutterstock

You may have some water but avoid liquid at least four hours before bed, Dr. Doghramji says. The acid from the stomach reflexes into the esophagus, just like food. Also, less fluid means fewer overnight trips to the bathroom.

10. Consider a light snack rich in protein

Martin Georgiev / Shutterstock

The protein can provide the L-tryptophan, an amino acid that’s needed for melatonin production. A small piece of fruit can help you fall asleep as well. It can help the tryptophan pass your blood-brain barrier. Also, research from Purdue University has shown that overweight and obese adults who are losing weight with a high-protein diet are more likely to sleep better.

11. Alcohol before bed is a big no-no

gpointstudio / Shutterstock

Alcohol is eliminated from the body rapidly and causes withdrawal symptoms two or three hours later, Dr. Doghramji says, which have a negative reaction. Studies have shown that in healthy people, acute high alcohol doses disturb sleep, whereas in insomniacs, lower doses may be beneficial. People fall asleep quicker after drinking, but alcohol reduces rapid eye movement (REM), which won’t occur until about 90 minutes after falling asleep. REM sleep is when we dream and actually rest.

12. Meditate

A Stock-Studio / Shutterstock

One study has found that a mindful mediation practice can help fight insomnia and improve overall sleep quality. “Many times it’s anxiety, worry, or regret that causes overthinking and tension in the body that keeps us from being able to fall asleep,” according to Dina Proctor, a Mind-Body Coach and creator of the 3x3 Meditation Method. “Meditation is the most powerful antidote I know of to reduce stress and quiet the ‘voice’ in our heads.”

13. Take a warm bath

Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

A study has shown how the body temperature naturally dips at night, beginning about two hours before sleep, reaching its lowest point around 4 a.m. That’s why artificially raising your temperature by taking a bath, hot shower, or going into a sauna may be a good idea. It will fall around bedtime, encouraging rest. The drop in temperature is a signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.

14. Stretch

Sebastian Gauert / Shutterstock

Stretching is a good idea in general,” Dr. Doghramji says. “Whatever relaxes the muscles is a good idea before bed,” he adds. Consider low-impact exercise and yoga as well. Breathe in and out through your nose for a relaxing effect on the nervous system.

15. Wear socks

Nikolaev Mikhail / Shutterstock

Sleep.org, powered by the National Sleep Foundation, cites research saying that heating cold feet causes vasodilation—dilation of the blood vessels—which may indicate to the brain that it’s bedtime. After the blood vessels open in the hands and feet, heat is redistributed throughout the body to prepare for sleep. Some data suggest the more vasodilation in the hands and feet, the less time it takes to fall asleep.

16. Keep the room temperature cool

scyther5 / Shutterstock

“The ideal temperature is what you are comfortable in,” Dr. Doghramji says, “But we find that people sleep better when the temperature is on the cooler side.” Temperature levels affect melatonin level, but experts are not sure why exactly, he adds. The optimal room temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

17. Smell some sleep-inducing herbs

Oksana Mizina / Shutterstock

Chamomile preparations such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy have been used to treat insomnia and induce sedation, according to research. Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer. Other smells that may help you sleep better are lavender and ylang ylang. Mix these essential oils with some water and spray the bedroom.

18. Ban electrical devices from the bedroom

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

By keeping electronics in the bedroom, you are promoting wakefulness. Studies show that exposures to electro-magnetic fields obstruct the production of melatonin. Only keep an alarm clock in the room but cover it until you have to shut it off in the morning. Keep it at least a few feet away.

19. Reserve bed for sleep and sex

santypan / Shutterstock

Don’t use your bed as an office for answering phone calls and responding to emails, according to Harvard Medical School. And avoid watching late-night TV there. The bed has to play the role of a sleeping stimulant, not restlessness. The body gets used to not being at rest in bed which will eventually make it harder and harder to fall asleep.

20. Stop smoking

Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

As if you needed another reason to quit the nasty habit, you consume many toxic chemicals when you smoke. Nicotine will keep you awake to and damage your sleep cycle. Research shows that circadian clock function is disrupted by environmental tobacco, hurting your sleep. Smoking decreases the levels of SIRTUIN1, a molecule that alters the levels of the protein that control the body clock.