How To Sleep Better – The Ultimate Guide to Catching More Z’s

Last updated: March 29, 2019

Getting regular and high-quality sleep is a crucial factor in maintaining and improving one’s health. Sleeping is your body’s way of restoring lost energy.

Sleeping is also a way for your body to heal itself. Losing quality sleep can lead to daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, difficulty in concentrating, mood swings, and forgetfulness. These may lead to decreased performance in school or at work, accidents, troubles in professional and personal relationships, and decreased quality of life.

Many factors may affect one’s sleeping ability. There are also a variety of things that we can do to get better sleep each night. This article will teach you how to sleep better and avoid sleep deterrents. We will also teach you some tricks and techniques that will help you get regular and quality sleep.

Quick Overview

  1. Stop all caffeine 12 hours before sleep
  2. Stop alcohol completely or at least cut drinking 5 hours before sleep
  3. Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle (obey your Circadian Rhythm)
  4. Mentally prepare yourself for sleep
  5. Get proper exercise
  6. Avoid big meals before bed
  7. Control your bedroom temperature
  8. Take a second look at your sleeping environment
  9. Try Melatonin, CBD or magnesium
  10. Use a blue light filter and be mindful of your eyes
  11. Teach yourself how to go back to sleep

#1. Ditch the Caffeine 12 Hours Before Bed

Avoid taking caffeinated drinks close to your sleeping time. Caffeine can affect your body up to 12 hours after drinking it. The half-life of caffeine can be up to 6 hours. This means that the cup of coffee that you drank late in the afternoon can still keep you wide awake when you’re about to go to bed.

Drinking more water can flush out the caffeine from your body. However, lots of fluids may cause you to wake up several times during the night to relieve yourself.

Smoking can also act as a stimulant and disrupt your sleep if you smoke before bedtime. If you are trying to quit smoking and use a nicotine patch, you should remove the patch several hours before bedtime. This is to make sure that the effects of the patch have worn off before your bedtime.

Hidden Sources of Caffeine:

  • Tea (green and black)
  • Chocolate
  • Pain killers
  • Coffee flavored ice cream

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, there is no way to pinpoint the exact amount of sleep that people need at different ages. However, sleep experts were able to come up with a chart featuring the minimum and maximum ranges of healthy sleep hours that each age group should strive for.

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range is 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range is 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 – 5 years): Sleep range is 10 – 13 hours
  • School-Age Children (6-13 years): Sleep range is 8-10 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 years): Sleep range is 8-10 hours
  • Young Adults (18-25 years): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Adults (24-64 years): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Older Adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours.

#2. Stop Alcohol: It Completely Ruins Your Sleep

Even though alcohol can make you feel drowsy, the effects of alcohol can be felt even when you are sleeping and disrupt your sleep cycle. Alcohol interferes with the sleep homeostasis, the mechanism that regulates sleep.

Alcohol is a popular somnogen or sleep inducer but studies show that alcohol changes a person’s Circadian Rhythm and may eventually lead to Insomnia.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, which increases your need to go to the bathroom, resulting in multiple interruptions in your sleep.

What About Sleep Medication?

Doctors can prescribe medication to help treat your insomnia. The treatment and medication will depend on what is causing your insomnia. There are also instances when what needs to be treated is an underlying medical condition that results in sleep deprivation. Sleeping pills can make sleeping easier or make you stay asleep longer.

Before you take sleeping pills, be mindful of the side effects of such drugs. Sleeping pills may cause dizziness or lightheartedness. It may also cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or nausea. Medical conditions such as kidney disease, low blood pressure or abnormality in heart rhythm can prohibit you from taking sleep medication.

Even if your physician recommends taking sleeping pills, weigh all the pros and cons of taking the said medication. It is also vital that you provide your doctor with your complete medical history and truthfully answer all of their questions so that they can determine if sleeping medications won’t do you more harm.

#3. Maintain a Regular Sleep-Wake Cycle

This is one of the most effective approaches toward achieving better sleep quality. Our bodies undergo a 24-hour physiological cycle called Circadian Rhythm. One of the things that are influenced by the Circadian Rhythm is our sleep-wake cycle.

Our bodies function better if it regularly performs activities at a particular time. This is one reason why we feel more energized when we sleep for just 4 hours during our regular bedtime compared to sleeping for the same number of hours at a different time.

Sleeping and waking at the same time every day also helps your body set an internal clock so that you feel sleepy or awake at a regular time. To assist your body, designate a bedtime when you usually feel sleepy. If you feel sleepy when the clock strikes 9 PM, set that as your bedtime. If you choose a time when you’re sleepy, there’s also less chance of you just lying in your bed waiting for sleep to come. If you get enough sleep, you will wake up without the need to waken or without the aid of an alarm. You may need to sleep earlier if you require an alarm to wake up naturally.

Stick to your Sleep Schedule

Make sure that you stick to your sleep schedule. Deviating from your set bedtime for even just an hour will affect your Circadian Rhythm. If you need to pay a sleep debt because you slept late or if you had to wake up earlier, take a short nap instead of going to bed earlier. This way, you can regain some strength without disrupting your sleep schedule.

Heavy meals can induce sleepiness. You need to fight off food-induced drowsiness. Do something that will keep you awake but not too energized. Try something mildly interesting like cleaning the contents of your bag or doing the dishes. If you sleep early because of a heavy meal, you might wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep.

#4. Mentally Prepare Yourself for Sleep

Sleeping is also a mental activity, and it is difficult for your brain to focus on sleeping if you are thinking hard about other activities. Stress, anger, and other problems can result in poor sleep. A brain that is overworked during the day can be hard to slow down during the night.

What you need to do is get your mind to set aside specific times when to think about specific tasks. If you have work-related tasks that you need to take care of, make sure that they are completed before you go to bed.

A couple of hours before you need to retire to bed, list down all of the tasks you need to accomplish for the next day. This way, you don’t have to organize your schedule while you’re trying to sleep.

Breath-work and Falling Asleep

There are exercises that you can do to relax your body and prepare itself for sleep. You can integrate these exercises into your sleep routine to increase your chances of achieving deep sleep.

Breathing exercises can help calm your body and initiate sleep. Take deep, slow breaths and make each breath deeper than the last. You can also prepare yourself by thinking of a place where you feel the calmest. If you feel that your body is too tense for sleep, slowly relax your body.

Starting with your extremities, tense your muscles tightly and then completely relax them. Work upwards until you have relaxed your body from your toes to your head.

Having regular sleep habits can also set the mood for sleep. If your body gets used to performing an activity before sleeping, the said activity subconsciously becomes a signal that you are about to sleep.  You can take a warm bath before sleeping. Warm baths can adjust your body temperature induce sleep. Just be sure that there is still enough time for your body to cool down before you sleep. You can also try listening to soft music. Doing some light stretching can also help relax your body.

#5. Get Proper Exercises: It Does Wonders for Sleep

Exercising regularly can help you get better sleep at night. It can also make you feel energized and less sleepy during the day. The more intense your exercises are, the more benefits it can give to your sleep. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to force yourself to exercise vigorously. Even light exercises can improve the quality of your sleep. If you have no time to hit the gym for exercises, there are simple activities that you can try. Walk as much as you can throughout the day.

No time for the Gym? No Problem!

You can also skip the elevator and use the stairs. If you are bound to your desk during office hours, you can try simple exercises that won’t require you to leave your desk. While sitting on your chair, lift one leg and fully extend it. Hold it in position for 2 seconds, lower down your foot and hold for a few seconds, then switch leg. Do 15 repetitions. You can also do a simple one-legged squat while waiting for an email or for a web page to load. These won’t make you fit enough to qualify for the Olympics, but they can help promote better sleep.

Exercises can take months before they entirely affect your sleeping pattern so be patient. If you’re doing vigorous exercises, make sure that you finish them at least 4 hours before bedtime. This way, your body can slow down and prepare for sleep. If you experience trouble going to sleep, move your exercises to an earlier time.

#6. Avoid Big Meals Before Bed

And regulate what you eat and drink…

Diet plays a significant role in determining the quality of sleep that you get. For starters, avoid heavy and rich food close to bedtime. Burgers, dark chocolate, curry, and chicken are just some of the foods that you should avoid late in the night. Chicken and other proteins are slow to digest. Your body would focus hard on digesting them instead of focusing on sleeping. Aside from the protein in the patty, burgers are rich in fat that stimulates the production of production of acid in your stomach. These acids may spill into your esophagus and result into heartburn that can make sleeping difficult. Curry, on the other hand, has rich spices that can keep you awake. You should also avoid eating foods that are rich in sugar or refined carbs.

Get Adequate Magnesium

Although known as energy-boosting food, bananas contain magnesium. Magnesium relaxes your muscles and can help you sleep easier. They also contain sleep-enhancing chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Taking one teaspoon of honey before sleep can also help release melatonin. Another property of honey is it can suppress orexin which causes wakefulness. If you want to enjoy a night full of sweet dreams, eat sweet potato. This root crop is rich in potassium that acts as a muscle relaxant. They also provide complex carbohydrates that help promote sleep. Other foods rich in potassium include papaya, lima beans, peas, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli. Tart cherry juice is also an excellent natural source of melatonin. Health care providers recommend drinking this juice to people who need help falling asleep.

#7. Control Your Bedroom Temperature

Keeping your room cool can also help make you sleep better. Just make sure that the temperature is not too cold or too hot because extreme temperatures can disrupt your sleep. The ideal temperature for optimal sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are a lot of things that you can do to keep your bedroom cool enough for you to sleep better. Use cotton for your bed sheets. Satin and silk look luxurious and fancy, but they also trap heat. Cotton is a breathable material and can promote air circulation to cool you down. You should also use clothes that are loose and made of soft and breathable fabric like cotton.

If you don’t have an air-conditioning unit, your fan can still do wonders even during hot summer nights. Crack your window a bit and point your fan towards it. This way your fan can push hot air out of your room and lower your bedroom temperature. You can also create a do-it-yourself air cooler. Place a shallow bowl full of ice in front of your electric fan. The breeze coming from your fan will pick up the cold coming from the ice and create a cooling effect.

#8. Take a Second Look at your Sleeping Environment

Your body can sleep better if you are resting in a peaceful environment. Being in a tranquil environment conditions your brain that it is time to wind down and go to sleep. The first thing that you need to do is to maintain a quiet bedroom. Good blackout curtains not only help darken your bedroom, but it can also dampen the noise coming from outside your room. You can do this even if you live in an area where the noise coming from your neighbors, traffic, or commercial establishments cannot be avoided. You can soundproof your room to eliminate outside noises. There are available commercial soundproofing materials that you can install to achieve this effect. You can also invest in a white noise machine that can mask disruptive noises and help you get a good sleep.

Another thing that you can do is mask the outside noises. Play soft music or use your fan to try and mask the noises. You can also use earplugs so you can eliminate these noises.

Take a Second look at your Mattress and Pillows

Make sure that you are comfortable in your bed. The level of firmness of your mattress is a huge factor in ensuring that you get a good night’s rest. We all have different preferences, so there is no ideal firmness when it comes to mattresses. But there are other factors that you should consider while choosing a mattress. Select a mattress that allows air to circulate properly. This will help cool down your body while you sleep. When selecting bed sheets or blankets, select those that are one size too big for you. This is to allow air to get under the blanket and cool you down. A blanket that fits your body won’t allow proper ventilation and trap heat around your body.

It is also essential to have a mattress or pillows that are hypoallergenic or dust mite resistant. These allergens can cause sneezing, runny nose, or itchy skin that can result into premature waking. Bed bugs are parasites that can also disrupt your sleep. They prefer to bite the exposed areas of human skin like the face, arms, and neck. Their bites can result in skin irritations and rashes that may make sleeping difficult.

Lastly, make it a point to use your bed just for sleeping and sex. This is a way of conditioning your mind that you’re only doing one of two things when you got to bed. If you use your bed to catch up on some office work, your brain may associate your bedroom for work and keep you awake and alert when you hit the sack.

#9. Try Melatonin, CBD or Magnesium

Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces. The primary job of Melatonin is to regulate the sleep and wake cycle of the body. Your body produces more melatonin when it is dark, and this instructs your body to prepare for sleep. On the other hand, exposure to light decreases melatonin production.  This tells your body to prepare to wake up. There are several things that you can do to use melatonin to help your body get better sleep.

During the day, expose yourself to as much light as possible. Upon waking up, open your curtains or windows to expose yourself to sunlight. You can also take your breakfast or your morning coffee outside or in an area where there is plenty of light. Take your lunch or work breaks outside. When at the office, open your blinds or curtains. If you can move your office table, place it near a window so you can get more natural light while working. You can also walk your dog in the morning or when it is still light outside.

Before you get to bed, make sure that your room is dark. You can use blackout curtains that prevent light from coming in. You can also try using sleeping aids like a sleeping mask.

There are also melatonin supplements available in the market  that may be able to ease their sleep problems.These supplements are recommended for those whose work schedules are on a shifting basis. People whose work schedules continuously change are unable to establish a consistent sleep-wake cycle.  

Aside from melatonin, other supplements that can help aid with sleep disorders are CBD, Magnesium, Tryptophan and L-Theanine. Learn more about natural sleep aids here. However, supplements should be taken sparingly and only after proper consultation with a medical professional.

#10. Use a Blue Light filter and be Mindful of your Eyes

During the night, avoid getting exposed to bright lights before bedtime. The blue light from your mobile devices, TV or computers can affect your sleep patterns. If you need to use them, lower down their level of brightness. You can also try switching to devices with smaller screens that emit less light. Stay away from bright screens within 2 hours of your sleep time so you can prepare your body for bed.

If you have devices that emit light, like clocks, cover them during the night. Place your mobile phone face side up so you won’t see the screen’s light. You can even place your mobile phone in a drawer so you can avoid looking at it before sleeping. Most mobile phones now have a setting where you can activate a Blue Light Filter. This will be a great help towards reducing the amount of blue light that negatively affects the quality of our sleep.

#11. Teach Yourself How to go Back to Sleep

Going back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night is something that most of us struggle to do. Most of the time, that late night trip to the bathroom turns into half a night of tossing and turning in bed.  Train your mind to think about relaxing when you’re in bed. Close your eyes, take slow deep breaths and let your mind drift into sleep.

Have a pen and paper within reach of your bed. If you happen to wake up because of something that you forgot, write it down as something that you need to attend to the following day. If it is something urgent and cannot be put off, get out of bed in a slow and deliberate matter. Jolting yourself out of bed will only cause your body to release adrenaline which may prevent you from going back to sleep.

Sleeping Disorders

There are different types of sleeping disorders. These are Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, and Restless Leg Syndrome.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. It is defined as having poor quality sleep because of difficulty going to sleep. Insomnia can also manifest itself by the inability to go back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night or waking earlier than planned.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the disorder that most sleep clinics treat. Sleep Apnea is a condition wherein a person stops breathing for a few seconds during the night as a result of a blockage in the upper respiratory system. Due to this non-breathing, the brain awakens from sleep to force the respiratory organs to breath harder and get past the blockage. When this occurs multiple times during the night, the brain cannot enter the deeper phases of sleep like Rapid Eye Movement or REM Sleep. These deep phases of sleep are when our bodies restore bone, tissue, and cognitive functions to prepare you for your day ahead.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder wherein our brain is unable to control the sleep-wake cycle. Those afflicted with narcolepsy have episodes throughout the day where they fall asleep unexpectedly. These “sleeping fits” can occur even when a person is engaged in lively activities like playing sports, exercising, or eating.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome is another neurological disorder where a person gets an overwhelming need to move his/her leg. They experience creeping, pulling, itching, throbbing, or burning sensations which can only be relieved by moving the affected leg. This need to move a leg while sleeping can be detrimental to get and maintain quality sleep.

Back Pain & Sleep

It will depend on what is causing your back to ache. Consulting a doctor is the best way to determine the cause of the pain and treat it.

If you experience back pain only while you are sleeping, there are changes in your sleeping environment that you can implement on your own. Some mattresses can help alleviate back pain. Choose a mattress that can provide ample support to your back, shoulders, neck, and head. These mattresses are made to ease the contact with the pressure points of your body while you sleep.

You can also choose a pillow that will help you fight back pains. The level of firmness of a pillow can also affect the pain in your back. Pillows that can support your head and neck can also help you avoid experiencing soreness of muscles or stiff neck upon waking.

Sleep is a barometer that reflects our overall health and well-being. A third of our life is spent sleeping, and we won’t be able to maximize the restorative powers of sleep if we don’t practice it regularly.  Although it is common knowledge that getting a good night’s rest is essential, many of us struggle to make those eight or so hours of sleep that we need. This article aims to help you get that much needed quality sleep that you need.

There is no reason for you to live a life deprived of sleep all you have to do is to remember the factors affecting your sleep cycle, and you can be sure that you’ll get the quality rest that your body needs.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.