A good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep — from work stress and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as illnesses. It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple tips.
Here are 10 evidence-based tips to sleep better at night.
1. Don’t Consume Caffeine Late in the Day
Caffeine has numerous benefits and is consumed by 90% of the US population. A single dose can enhance focus, energy and sports performance.
However, when consumed late in the day, coffee stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
In one study, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality.
Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended — especially if you are sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping.
If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, stick with decaffeinated coffee.
2. Reduce Irregular or Long Daytime Naps
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep.
Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal clock, meaning that you may struggle to sleep at night.
In fact, in one study, participants ended up being sleepier during the day after taking daytime naps.
Another study noted that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can negatively affect health and sleep quality.
However, some studies demonstrate that those who are used to taking regular daytime naps do not experience poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep at night.
If you take regular daytime naps and sleep well, you shouldn’t have to worry. The effects of napping depend on the individual.
3. Try to Sleep and Wake at Consistent Times
Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset.
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality.
One study noted that participants who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep.
Other studies have highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep.
If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.
4. Optimize Your Bedroom Environment
Many people believe that the bedroom environment and its setup are key factors in getting a good night’s sleep.
These factors include temperature, noise, external lights and furniture arrangement.
Numerous studies point out that external noise, often from traffic, can cause poor sleep and long-term health issues.
In one study on the bedroom environment of women, around 50% of participants noticed improved sleep quality when noise and light diminished.
To optimize your bedroom environment, try to minimize external noise, light and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and enjoyable place.
Optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise to get better sleep.
5. Don’t Eat Late in the Evening
Late-night eating may negatively impact both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin.
That said, the quality and type of your late-night snack may play a role as well.
In one study, a high-carb meal eaten four hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster.
Interestingly, one study discovered that a low-carb diet also improved sleep, indicating that carbs are not always necessary — especially if you are used to a low-carb diet.
Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, certain meals and snacks a few hours before bed may help.
6. Relax and Clear Your Mind in the Evening
Many people have a pre-sleep routine that helps them relax.
Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia.
In one study, a relaxing massage improved sleep quality in people who were ill.
Strategies include listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, meditating, deep breathing and visualization.
Try out different methods and find what works best for you.
Relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, may help you fall asleep.
7. Take a Relaxing Bath or Shower
A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better.
Studies indicate that they can improve overall sleep quality and help people — especially older adults — fall asleep faster.
In one study, a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped people get more deep sleep.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to take a full bath at night, simply bathing your feet in hot water can help you relax and improve sleep.
A warm bath, shower or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
8. Get a Comfortable Bed, Mattress and Pillow
Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.
Apart from the relaxing environment, bed quality can also affect sleep.
One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days, revealing that it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60% and back stiffness by 59%. It also improved sleep quality by 60%.
Other studies point out that new bedding can enhance sleep. Additionally, poor-quality bedding can lead to increased lower-back pain.
The best mattress and bedding is extremely subjective. If you are upgrading your bedding, base your choice on personal preference.
It is recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years.
If you haven’t replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick — although possibly expensive — fix. You can even buy mattresses online.
Your bed, mattress and pillow can greatly impact sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high-quality mattress and bedding every 5–8 years.
9. Exercise Regularly — But Not Before Bed
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health.
It can enhance all aspects of sleep and has been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia.
One study in older adults determined that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and provided 41 more minutes of sleep at night.
In people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30% and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%.
Although daily exercise is key for a good night’s sleep, performing it too late in the day may cause sleep problems.
This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline. However, some studies show no detrimental effects, so it clearly depends on the individual.
10. Set Your Bedroom Temperature
Body and bedroom temperature can also profoundly impact sleep quality.
As you may have experienced during the summer or in hot locations, it can be very hard to get a good night’s sleep when it’s too warm.
One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality more than external noise.
Other studies reveal that increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness.
Around 70°F (20°C) seems to be a comfortable temperature for most people, although it depends on your preferences and habits.
Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 70°F (20°C) is best for most people.