It seems like sleeping well through the night should be a simple thing to accomplish, however, surveys show that many adults struggle to either fall asleep easily or sleep through the night.
For example, the Sleep Foundation reports that up to one-third of adults live with some form of insomnia, and other surveys show that up to 77 percent of adults struggle with stress that is periodically severe enough to impact their sleep.
Getting consistently good sleep comes down to a number of factors — including your stress level, the quality of your diet, your use of electronics at night, and your habits during the day, such as whether you exercise or spend time outdoors where you're exposed to sunlight.
It can take some trial and error to pinpoint which obstacles might be standing in the way to you getting sufficient sleep. Below are tips for doing just that, plus suggestions for tweaking your schedule, diet, and nighttime routine in order to get the rest you need.
8 Tips For Getting Better Sleep
1. Get Sunshine Exposure During the Daytime
Your circadian rhythm, aka your "internal clock," is what makes you sleepy at certain points in the day and alert at other times because it dictates how much and when you produce melatonin. Melatonin primarily has the job of allowing your body to distinguish day from night so you feel tired enough to sleep.
Your circadian rhythm relies heavily on daytime light exposure to stay regulated, which is why it's important to get outside and away from artificial lighting each day.
Ideally, try waking up around the same time each day (and going to sleep at the same time too) and exposing your eyes to sunlight early in the day for at least 5 to 10 minutes, such as during the first hour of being awake.
If you mostly work outdoors, take breaks to get outside periodically. Then at night, keep the lights dim in your home to help you feel sleepier, especially when bedtime approaches.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever, plus it can help you to feel more tired at night so you doze off more easily.
Staying active is also important for circulation, digestion, immune function, and preventing chronic aches and pains, which can make you toss and turn all night due to discomfort.
3. Eat Foods High In Magnesium, Omega-3s, and Tryptophan
Certain nutrients that you obtain from your diet, and/or from supplements, help your body to produce melatonin and other hormones such as serotonin that allow you to feel calm and to sleep well.
Several nutrients that are linked with enhanced sleep include the mineral magnesium (which can help promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension), omega-3 fats (which help fight inflammation and boost serotonin production), and the amino acid tryptophan (which helps your body create calming chemicals). Vitamin D and potassium may also have some calming effects.
Some of the best sources of these nutrients include oily fish such as salmon or sardines, milk, leafy greens, bananas, turkey, avocado, walnuts, almonds, whole grains like oats, and wheat germ, and seeds.
4. Turn Off Electronic Devices 2+ Hours Before Bed
Electronic devices such as your phone, TV, computer, and tablet all emit the type of light called "blue light," which sends signals to your brain that you should stay awake and alert rather than feel sleepy. This is why it's best to avoid electronics within a couple of hours leading up to bedtime.
If you do use blue light-emitting devices at night, try putting on filter settings that tone down the brightness, or even wearing blue-light-blocking glasses if you're very sensitive to its effects.
Other relaxing things to do, besides scroll on your phone or computer at night, include reading, board games or puzzles, journaling, yoga, meditation, taking a warm shower, or even a slow walk outside.
Considering that stress is such a common impedance to getting good sleep, it's not surprising that studies show meditation can help to prevent insomnia, in addition to anxiety, chronic pain, jet lag, and depression.
Mediating at night can support healthy sleep patterns because it can help you feel more relaxed and calm. In fact, studies have found that meditators actually experience changes in certain brain regions including the thalamus and amygdala, which play a role in one's perception of fear and discomfort.
A meditation habit seems capable of decreasing worrying, ruminating, and even physical discomfort, which are things that can contribute to trouble sleeping.
6. Keep a Journal to "Brain Dump" Your Worries
Journaling — which involves writing down whatever is on your mind, whether good things you're grateful for or things you're anxious about — can lift your mood, calm your nerves and keep your mind from racing when you're trying to sleep.
There are lots of different ways to establish a journaling practice, such as keeping a daily gratitude list, to-do lists to feel more in control, or jotting down your worries so you can look at them with a new perspective more realistically.
Try keeping a journal by your bedside and writing for about 10 minutes before shutting the lights off for the night.
7. Upgrade Your Sleep Environment
Bedrooms that are most conducive to getting good sleep are those that are dark, slightly cooler than room temp, quiet or with some white noise playing in the background, and comfortable. Here are some ways to adjust your bedroom so you can most easily stay sleeping through the night:
Lower the temp — Keep your room cool, such as in the mid-60s by using an open window, fan, or AC.
Try white noise — A sound machine or fan can help your mind to feel more rested, and prevent noises from disturbing your sleep.
Keep it very dark — Black-out shades and removing any artificial lighting can be helpful.
Upgrade your mattress and pillows — Make sure both are not very old or unsupportive, or causing you any discomfort.
8. Change Locations
Experts say if you find yourself laying in bed unable to fall asleep for a while, get up and go to another room for a little bit to relax before trying again, rather than staying in bed worrying. This helps to prevent an association from being formed that links your bed with feeling anxious.