8 Tips on How to Get More Sleep
A good night’s sleep should not be hard to come by. But for millions of Americans, getting enough sleep each night is a struggle. Swings in sleep temperature, mattresses that are too firm or too soft, pressure points causing poor circulation, sleep apnea… these are just a handful of the reasons why you might not sleep through the night as well as you should. What’s worse, most Americans don’t know how to get more sleep when it’s needed.
In most cases, the secret of getting more sleep lies not in staying in bed more hours, but in getting a night of better quality sleep. When your sleep is continuous and uninterrupted, you will wake up feeling refreshed and well rested. Wake up several times during the night, and you’ll feel as if you’ve only slept half that time…because, in reality, you have.
So what are some of the best ways to get the sleep you need, and better sleep, without resorting to drugs?
1. Get educated
You don’t have to take a course to find out what the best tips are for good sleep… and what the urban myths are. So take some time to find the facts and maybe do a little myth busting. For example, the idea of catch-up sleep? A myth. Or that you can fall asleep by counting sheep? Also a myth. But the below tips have been borne out by scientific research, and there might be others out there!
2. Have a relaxation routine and follow it to sleep well
Some small children can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, but for adults, it takes much more. Adults sleep better when they have a “wind down” period where they let go mentally of all the events of the day, relax their bodies, and get prepared for sleep.
To wind down properly, you need to train your body to anticipate and prepare for sleep. You should create a relaxation routine for yourself and try to follow it every night. This routine will look different for everyone. For example, some people find a warm shower relaxing, while others might read for half an hour. Some people will light an aromatic candle, giving their bodies another cue that it is time for bed.
The important thing is to find a short routine (30-45 minutes) that works for you and to follow it religiously.
3. Cut down on screen time before bed
The blue light from screens, including laptops, tablets, phones, and flat screen TV’s, registers in your brain as daylight. This means that it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural sleep-activity cycle.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology further found that this disruption caused by the blue light from a screen has further effects on working memory, attention, and timing. In other words, having your devices on before you sleep, or while you are trying to sleep, impairs our brains almost as much as not sleeping at all!
4. Find a mattress that works for you
There are quantitative scientific studies showing that a more comfortable mattress is associated with deeper sleep and better sleep efficiency. Why? A lot has to do with the temperature and comfort that a mattress provides an individual.
A great deal of tossing and turning we do at night happens because either our mattress fails to support us correctly, or because it “sleeps hot.” Both of these conditions can lead to disrupted sleep. Unfortunately, the level of firmness and “cushioning” each person needs is different, as is how hot or cool they feel.
So, if you want to sleep well, there are two choices: Either do a lot of research into mattresses or choose a customizable mattress (like our own Select Sleep) that will let you try out different combinations to find the level of firmness and coolness that work for you.
5. Make your bedroom a place to relax
The average American bedroom is not the best place for sleep. Most people make choices that would make their bedroom ideal for a magazine cover, but not fit for the #1 activity they do in that room every night: Sleep.
The ideal sleeping area should be dark, quiet, and slightly cool (between 62 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.) Reduce outside noise and ambient light as much as you can, and turn off electronic devices at least 20 minutes before bedtime. If looking for how to get more sleep, these are some of the easiest initial steps you can take.
6. Try Meditation
Just a little mindfulness and calm can do wonders for your sleep. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a simple class in mindfulness, along with at-home exercise, significantly improved the quality of sleep in adults, compared to people who simply took a “sleep hygiene” class. Meditation has also been proven to lessen the body’s reaction to stress and bring awareness to “problem areas” that might need to be unclenched and relaxed for the best sleep.
So, try meditating for 20 minutes or so in the evening, just as you are getting ready to wind down for bed. You’ll find that you will sleep better and need fewer hours overall.
7. Exercise regularly
We all know that exercise has a number of health benefits. But did you know that exercise can help us relax at night, improve circulation, and generally help us to get the most out of our sleep? An extensive literature review in Clinics in Sports Medicine found a lot of converging evidence that exercise improves the quality of sleep and helps fight insomnia.
Just don’t exercise right before your bedtime routine, as this might “amp up” your body and make it more difficult to get to sleep at night.
8. Avoid naps and caffeine after 3 p.m.
Naps, in general, are a good thing. But when we nap too late in the day, it can send a signal to our brains that it’s time for bed… and so, waking up from a nap can feel like starting a new sleep cycle. If you do a power nap, it is important to do so before mid-afternoon so that you can stick to your regular sleep cycle.
Caffeine is another culprit that can keep us up. Our sensitivity to caffeine changes as we age and an evening cup of joe or cold soda can end up keeping us awake long past when we would naturally be “sleepy tired.” So look for no-caffeine alternatives, or skip those beverages entirely and replace them with caffeine-free green tea.
What about sleep medications?
Sometimes, you just have a restless night. It can’t be helped. In these cases, is it OK to turn to medications (over-the-counter or prescription) to fall asleep?
The medical consensus seems to be that, for the occasional sleepless night, they are OK to help you get the sleep you need, but they are not meant for extended use. If you have recurring problems getting the sleep you, this indicates that there is a deeper problem that your average sleep medications cannot fix.
Before taking any sleep medication, you should consider the following:
- Drug interactions. Sleep medications often have interactions with other drugs, many of which can be harmful. Check with your doctor if you are taking other medications before taking any sleeping aids.
- Side effects. Most sleep medications come with side effects. It is not unusually to experiences drowsiness or grogginess the next day, clumsiness, forgetfulness, blurred vision, and even constipation. While these effects might not be as bad with some of the newer medications, they are still worth looking into, especially if you need to drive or pay attention to workplace safety.
- Dosage. It is very easy to take too many sleeping pills. Follow the dosage exactly as it says on the package or prescription bottle. Do not take more during the night if you wake up; not only will this leave you feeling bad the next day, but it also very dangerous.
Best ways to get the best sleep?
Most people will follow one or two of these tips. You might even be doing some of them already! If not, start with some of the ones that are easy to do at home, like remaking your bedroom and cutting down on screen time. We also suggest starting the process of buying a new mattress, as this can make many of the other steps that much easier.
If you would like to try out several different styles of mattress, consider getting a Select Sleep 8-in-1 mattress. This allows you to try up to eight different “feels” of bed, allowing to explore which works for you, your body, and the way you sleep.