Your alarm goes off, and yet again, you reluctantly drag yourself out of bed - feeling the exact opposite of refreshed and ready to go. The likely culprit responsible for your far-from-energetic mood is insufficient sleep. Whether you struggled to fall asleep, tossed and turned throughout the night or barely squeezed in a few hours of rest, your mind and body are certainly feeling the effects of these issues.
It's time to break out of your poor sleeping habits. Try these tactics to get a better night's rest:
1. Establish your sleep schedule
You have a lot to get done each day, but don't forget that sleeping should be one of them. Make sure it's a priority item on your to-do list, giving yourself a chance to follow a designated sleep schedule. The amount of sleep you need often depends on your personal body clock, but the American Sleep Association recommended averages based on age groups. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, while teenagers and children need a few extra hours to support their growing minds and bodies.
This schedule involves not only getting enough sleep each night, but also maintaining consistency. Aim to rise and rest at the same times each day, as your body will fall into a cycle that makes it easier to sleep at night and wake from your slumber in the morning. While it's tempting to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, try to limit the differences in your sleep schedule to avoid tossing and turning during the week. Perfecting your sleep cycle also means avoiding the the urge to snooze the alarm several times each morning. At the very least, try to cap it at one snooze per morning to break the habit.
2. Resist the midday slumber
When you have a rough night of sleep, you may be tempted to take a nap the next day to make up for lost time. However, long or irregular daytime naps can actually negatively affect your sleeping habits. Research published in Physiology & Behavior reported that frequent afternoon naps often leave people feeling sleepier than those who don't indulge in lengthy daytime dozes.
However, if you're really struggling to keep your eyes open, take a quick nap, one that's between 10 and 30 minutes long. According to the Better Sleep Council, these short naps can improve your energy and alertness for about 2.5 hours thereafter. If you do indulge in a catnap, avoid doing so in the late afternoon or evening. When you get sleepy later in the day, especially after dinner, fight the drowsiness with a mildly stimulating activity, such as talking to a friend, preparing lunch for the next day or going for a short walk. This will help you stay awake until your usual bedtime, rather than disrupting your schedule with an after-dinner snooze on the couch.
3. Eat your way to better sleep
Be mindful of the food and drinks you consume, especially close to bedtime. Don't go to bed feeling hungry or overstuffed, as the discomfort may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. In general, try to finish eating about two to three hours before you plan to sleep. That comfort room will give your body enough time to digest, feeling fully relaxed by the time you lay your head down for the night. And of course, reserve your favorite caffeinated beverages for earlier in the day and avoid drinking alcohol right before bed.
When you're feeling restless, you can also lean on some tasty sleep-inducing foods and drinks for help. Almonds, walnuts, kiwi, chamomile tea, white rice and fatty fish are among the best foods for improving the quality of your sleep, according to Healthline. EatingWell further added soy, fiber, yogurt, whole grains, kale and bananas to the list.
If you have time for a full workout, the National Sleep Foundation highlighted cardio, strength training and yoga as the best, scientifically proven exercises to boost the quality of your sleep. If aerobic and cardio training is your preference, aim for about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise each week. Strength training exercises, including push-ups, squats, bicep curls and lunges, can make you stronger, while also helping you stay soundly asleep throughout the night.
4. Get moving during the day
While it's not always a great idea to get your endorphins and heart rate pumping close to bedtime, adding regular physical activity to your daily routine can promote a better night's rest. Even just walking each day or taking the stairs more consistently can get your blood flowing and ensure your body is ready to rest later that day.
If you're having trouble sleeping because you're feeling stressed, worried or overwhelmed, yoga is the exercise for you. Some of these routines can even be beneficial to perform right before bed, as they help the mind and body relax. This quick yoga routine from Fitness Magazine, for instance, is designed to ease your way into sleep. You can even do these moves in bed with your pajamas on!
5. Sleep on clouds
Where you catch your zzz's has a lot to do with the quality of your sleep. Don't settle for an old mattress or flimsy pillow. Instead, indulge in high-quality products and replace them as necessary. This guide from the Better Sleep Council can help you choose the right mattress for your sleeping habits. In general, replace your mattress every seven to ten years and treat yourself to new pillows annually. This upkeep will give your neck and spine the proper support they need to get a fulfilling night's rest.
In addition to sleeping on a comfortable bed, you'll also want to boost the serenity level of the surrounding environment. The more relaxing your bedroom is, the better your sleep can be. That means creating a cozy and quiet place for optimal recharging, focusing on temperature, furniture, lighting and more. Plus, if you need an extra nudge to tidy up your room, think about a better night's rest, as it's often easier to fall asleep in a calm and clean space. When you're ready to refresh your bedroom, get inspired by this guide to designing a room for better sleep from The Spruce.
6. Unplug before bed
We've all heard this one before, but are probably still guilty of scrolling through our phones and watching TV in bed as we try to fall asleep. Unfortunately, the blue light from electronic devices mimics the daylight, making our brains think it's time to wake up. This further reduces levels of hormones like melatonin, which help our bodies relax and fall into a deep sleep, according to research from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
While you can minimize this negative effect by turning down the brightness and applying night mode to your screens, the best answer is to put the electronics away about an hour before you plan to sleep. Instead of plugging into your devices, you can use the time to engage in activities you enjoy that help you wind down for bedtime.
7. Give your nightly routine a healthy boost
Along with putting the electronics away, you can create a nighttime routine that promotes better quality sleep. You can use your technology-free hour before bedtime to clear your head with yoga moves or relaxation techniques, such as calm breathing or face masks. Take a warm and relaxing shower or bath, listen to soothing music or read a book to continue winding down before bed.
If time allows, make your preparations for the next day, such as choosing an outfit and organizing your bag. You may also want to write out a list for the next day, compiling your thoughts and creating a manageable game plan so you won't toss and turn with worry about upcoming responsibilities. Consider writing out your worries as well, working them out on paper rather than in your head as you attempt to fall asleep.
It always helps to give your calming bedroom an extra boost of relaxation, such as burning a soothing candle or incense sticks. You may also want to set up a vapor diffuser by your bed and fill it with calming essentials oils, such as lavender, eucalyptus or chamomile.
8. Talk to your doctor
If the quality of your sleep fails to improve even after honest attempts to diffuse the problem, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor. While everyone suffers from sleepless nights here and there, frequent sleeping troubles can be cause for health concerns. You may have a sleep disorder, or something else may be at play health-wise that's preventing you from getting the quality rest you need. One common disorder is sleep apnea, which causes inconsistent breathing. There are also sleep movement and waking disorders that can affect your natural sleep cycles. Once you identify any underlying causes, your doctor can advise the right treatments, medications or natural methods to help you finally get the satisfying sleep you want.
When you find the tactic that works for you, keep it up to catch the quality zzz's you need for better, more fulfilling tomorrows.