Quick Advice for Better Sleep
Getting better sleep is a common goal, but it can be hard to know where to start. Too often suggestions for sleep improvement and proper sleep hygiene require these sweeping life changes that just aren’t realistic for most people.
It’s time to move away from one-size-fits-all recommendations. You have your own personal needs when it comes to sleep and your own daily life that affects what you can and can’t do. Real sleep improvement plans have to start by meeting you where you’re at, with enough flexibility to help you build actual change.
We’ve put together a quick list of sleep tips that you can use when you’re out and about or when you’re winding down for bed. We’re not asking you to boil the ocean here, just look for a few things on our list that feel right and easy for you to try. Start small with what you can do, build them into a routine, and try adding new tips as you get comfortable. Little changes can add up to big improvements over time if you stick with them.
What You Can Do During the Day
- Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise a day.Being active on most days promotes better health and can make it easier to sleep at night. You don’t have to push yourself at the gym—just going for a walk can bring meaningful benefits.
- Avoid or limit caffeine in the late afternoon and at night.Caffeine stays in your system for hours, so it can still have a stimulant effect when you want to go to bed. Just reducing the amount you drink can help even if you can’t completely cut out caffeinated drinks in the afternoon and evening.
- Plan out meal times.When you eat can affect how well you sleep. Try to eat meals at consistent times each day, which helps regulate sleep and the rest of your daily schedule. It’s best to avoid heavy meals within two to three hours of bedtime.
- Get bright light exposure early in the day.Light, especially natural light, is the key driver of your circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep-wake patterns. Exposure to daylight in the morning and early afternoon supports more consistent and high-quality sleep. Raise the blinds to let in daylight or try to take a quick break outside. Even on cloudy days, natural light has a much stronger effect than indoor lighting.
What You Can Do Before Bed
- Avoid screen time for as long as you can before bed.Electronics provoke mental stimulation that makes it more difficult to fall asleep. They also emit blue light that can throw off the body’s system for inducing sleep. An hour without screen time before bed is ideal, but you can first try with 10 or 20 minutes and build up from there.
- Establish a sleep schedule.Start by making sure that you’re budgeting enough time each night to get at least seven hours of sleep, and then attempt to keep the same bedtime and wake-up time every day. It’s alright if you can’t follow this schedule perfectly or if you want to sleep a bit extra on the weekend, but aim to keep variations within a one hour difference of your planned schedule.
- Don’t drink alcohol at the end of the night.Although alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it disrupts your sleep cycle and can make sleep less restorative. If you really enjoy a nightcap, try to limit it to one drink that you have at least an hour before bed.
- Create a sleep-friendly bedroom.A bedroom that is cool, dark, and quiet is most conducive to sleep. Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature, and if you can’t eliminate the sources of light and noise, consider blocking them out with ear plugs and a sleep mask.
- Try a white noise machine to wind down when the lights go out.White noise provides a steady, balanced sound that can help put the mind at ease. As an added benefit, white noise can block out bothersome external noise.
In-Depth Sleep Habits
If you’re looking for even more information about tips for better sleep, we’ve put together a deeper library of sleep tips you can actually use. We explain the big picture for each tip and help you dive into details, including what steps you can take, why they work, and how to adapt them to your life.
Remember that these tips are not universal. The steps that help the most can vary from person to person based on what is most practical and best addresses their specific sleep problems. Keep your personal sleep needs in mind to help you find the tips that will help you the most.
Alcohol & Caffeine Use
Alcohol, caffeine, and other substances can alter sleep patterns and may contribute to sleep problems, so certain sleep tips involve changing how and when these substances are consumed.
- What to tryBe cautious with coffee after lunchWhy it can helpCaffeine is a stimulant, and it can take as many as seven hours for just half of a dose of caffeine to be cleared from your body. This means that drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks in the afternoon and evening may cause you to be less sleepy at bedtime.Making it workThe strength and duration of caffeine’s effects are not uniform, so you can adjust the timing and amount of your caffeine intake to match your situation. The more sensitive you are to caffeine, the more careful you should be about when you consume it. The effects of caffeine on sleep are also affected by the dosage, so if you can’t completely avoid caffeine late in the day, you can try reducing how much you drink.
- What to tryWatch for overdependence on caffeineWhy it can helpBeing conscious of your caffeine intake can alert you to potentially bigger sleep problems. Because it provides a jolt of energy, many people use caffeine to try to overcome daytime drowsiness. While this may help get through the day, it can mask more serious sleep problems, including sleep disorders.Making it workNo immediate change is necessary, but you can start by just trying to notice whether you are relying on caffeine to stay awake and alert on most days. If drinking coffee or energy drinks is the only way you can avoid excessive daytime sleepiness, consider talking with your doctor about your sleep and energy levels during the day.
- What to tryLook out for hidden sources of caffeineWhy it can helpWhile many people primarily associate caffeine with coffee, it can also be found in other products like some teas, many soft drinks, and even chocolate.Making it workNot everyone needs to worry about small amounts of caffeine, but people who are highly sensitive to its effects may benefit from accounting for caffeine intake from unexpected sources.
- What to tryAvoid alcoholic beverages late in the eveningWhy it can helpAs it is being processed by the body, alcohol throws off the normal structure of sleep. This can cause sleep fragmentation and lower-quality sleep.Making it workIf you’re accustomed to having alcohol at night, you can start by reducing the amount you drink and attempting to finish your drink at least one hour before bedtime. While there may be nights when you can’t stick to these suggestions, it’s still helpful if you can cut back on most nights. If you rely on a nightcap to help you feel sleepy, check out other tips for winding down before bed.
- What to tryReduce nicotine intake before bedWhy it can helpLike caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant. Smoking near bedtime has been associated with more difficulty falling asleep, unwanted awakenings, and reduced amounts of restorative sleep.Making it workQuitting smoking is difficult, and it may not be feasible to cut out nicotine entirely. However, you can try to gradually increase the time between smoking or vaping and the time you go to bed. Keep in mind that nicotine withdrawal can also interfere with sleep, so it may help to talk with a health professional about the best approach to help reduce or stop smoking or vaping.
- What to tryBe aware of other medications that affect sleepWhy it can helpA number of common prescription medications as well as many over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements can alter sleep patterns. These drugs may have a stimulant or sedative effect or may otherwise impact your normal sleep cycle.Making it workIf you are having sleep problems, prepare a list of all the medications and supplements that you take and review it with your doctor. If anything on the list is known to interfere with sleep, your doctor may be able to suggest changes to the drug, dosage, or the time of day when you take it. Don’t stop taking any medication without first talking with your doctor or pharmacist.
Habits and routines can be a key factor in how well you sleep. Developing healthy nightly routines can provide a foundation for more consistent and restful sleep.
- What to tryBudget time for sleepWhy it can helpA full schedule of activities can eat away at time needed for sleep. If you don’t dedicate enough time to rest, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up getting insufficient sleep.Making it workMake sleep a priority by setting aside seven to nine hours in your daily schedule for sleeping. A sleep calculator can help determine the best timing so that you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, but give yourself some margin for error in case other activities take longer than expected. If your planned schedule is a major departure from your current one, try to shift gradually by adjusting your sleep time by 15 to 30 minutes per night.
- What to tryFollow a fixed pre-bed routineWhy it can helpPoor pre-bed habits are a major contributor to insomnia and other sleep issues. How you get ready for bed can set you up for better sleep. Habitual actions are tied to specific cues, so having the same sequence of steps to prepare for bed can signal that it’s almost time to sleep. Your routine can also include steps to put you in a sleep-friendly state of mind.Making it workTailor your nightly routine to suit your own needs and preferences. This routine can include things like putting on comfy pajamas, brushing your teeth, doing something to wind down, and finally turning out the lights. While it may be hard to remember each step when you first get started, over time the habit will build and can make getting ready for bed feel almost automatic.
- What to trySeek out stress reductionWhy it can helpDecreasing stress can help settle your mind and body so that you can transition smoothly into sleep. Knowing how to put your mind at ease may also make it easier to get back to sleep if you wake up during the night.Making it workStress reduction means different things to different people, so there’s no single method that is best for everyone. You can test out various approaches like deep breathing, journaling, stretching, yoga, reading, mindfulness meditation, listening to ambient music, or whatever else helps you feel calm. Many of these stress-busting methods can be done in under a few minutes as you get ready for bed.
- What to tryRestrict non-sleep activities in your bedWhy it can helpIt can be helpful to create a strong mental connection between being in bed and sleeping. Too much time spent awake in bed can exacerbate sleeping problems.Making it workAs a general rule, use your bed only for sleep and sex. Try not to eat, watch TV, study, or work in bed, and wait until you’re feeling tired before getting tucked in for the night.
- What to tryGet out of bed if you can’t sleepWhy it can helpIt’s best to avoid tossing and turning, which can lead to frustration and an association between being in bed and sleeplessness.Making it workGet up if you’ve been in bed for 20 to 30 minutes without falling asleep. The timing doesn’t have to be exact, but if you start to feel upset or anxious about falling asleep, that’s a good signal to get out of bed. Once you’re up, keep the lights low, avoid electronics, and do something calming for at least a few minutes. Head back to bed when you start to feel sleepy.
- What to trySilence mobile devicesWhy it can helpPhone calls, text messages, and other notifications can be a source of distracting noise and vibration that also keep your mind too wired for sleep.Making it workIf possible, keep phones and tablets out of the bedroom entirely. If that isn’t an option, you can use airplane mode or a “do not disturb” option offered by most devices to silence notifications during the night.
- What to tryDon’t check the timeWhy it can helpClock-watching can exacerbate anxiety about sleep that makes it harder to doze off.Making it workTry not to keep your phone or an alarm clock right next to your bed. Instead, put them in a drawer or out of reach so that you aren’t constantly tempted to check the time.
What you do during the day can have implications for your sleep at night, so trying out tips for daily wellness may pay off at bedtime.
- What to tryAvoid late naps if you struggle to fall asleep at nightWhy it can helpA nap in the afternoon or evening can reduce how tired you feel at night, which may make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.Making it workThe impact of napping on nightly sleep can vary from person to person, so changing your nap habits is only necessary if you have problems getting to sleep at night. In that case, try to avoid naps in the late afternoon or evening and keep naps to a maximum of 20 minutes.
- What to tryEat a balanced dietWhy it can helpVitamins and nutrients enable the body to function properly, and studies have found an association between sleep problems and nutrient deficiencies.Making it workThere is no diet that works for everyone, but a balanced diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat, such as the Mediterranean Diet, may support better sleep health. Remember that you don’t need to make wholesale dietary changes. You can slowly adjust what you eat and should always seek specific advice about your diet from your doctor or a nutritionist.
- What to tryExplore relaxation techniquesWhy it can helpStressful moments are inevitable, but whether they affect sleep depends on how we respond to them. Learning relaxation techniques can improve resilience and limit the impact of stress on sleep. Practicing these techniques during the day can also prepare you to utilize them at bedtime.Making it workExperiment with different relaxation methods to see which ones work best for you. It can take some time to get the hang of these techniques, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to master them immediately.
- What to tryGet exposure to daylightWhy it can helpNatural light is the most potent influence on your body’s circadian rhythm, which directly affects when you feel sleepy. Even short periods of daylight exposure can help align your sleep-wake pattern to make it easier to sleep at night.Making it workWhenever possible, try to spend some time in the daylight in the morning. Even if it’s just during your commute to work, early daylight exposure may be beneficial. If you can’t get outside, let natural light come in through nearby windows.
- What to tryShoot for a standard daily scheduleWhy it can helpA consistent schedule has been linked with improved sleep, and the timing of everyday activities, such as meals, can impact sleep patterns.Making it workIt’s impossible for most people to keep the exact same schedule every day, so see if you can normalize the timing of just one or two activities, such as when you work, eat, or exercise. Even if your schedule gets thrown off on some days, return to your typical schedule when you can.
Turning your attention to optimizing your bedroom environment can help set the stage for distraction-free and high-quality sleep.
- What to tryReduce or block out noiseWhy it can helpA quiet environment is better for sleep. Lots of noise can make it hard to fall asleep and cause unwanted awakenings. Excess noise can also decrease sleep quality even when you don’t consciously notice it.Making it workIn the best case scenario, you can eliminate the source of unwanted noise. In reality, though, noise levels may be beyond your control. In that case, try using ear plugs or a white noise machine that can drown out disruptive sounds.
- What to tryReduce or block out lightWhy it can helpIt’s easier to sleep well in a dark bedroom. Exposure to light at night can cause shallower sleep and a greater chance of unintentionally waking up.Making it workMake your bedroom as dark as possible by turning out the lights and using blackout curtains to keep out external ight. If you can’t stop light from entering your bedroom, an eye mask may keep it from bothering you during sleep.
- What to trySet your bedroom to a comfortable temperatureWhy it can helpSleep disruptions are more likely if your bedroom is either too hot or too cold.Making it workIn general, a cooler bedroom is best for sleep, but the ideal temperature is subjective. If you have a thermostat, set it to a level that feels comfortable to you. From your sheets to your duvet cover, use bedding that matches any tendency you have to either sleep hot or cold. Having layers that you can easily add and remove makes it easier to adjust your temperature during the night.
- What to tryUse a supportive and inviting mattressWhy it can helpYour mattress provides both comfort and support for your body, so the best mattress is one that suits your individual needs and preferences. It’s a critical component of creating a sleep-friendly bedroom.Making it workReflect on whether your current mattress feels comfortable and if you are able to wake up free of aches and pains. If not, it might be time to look for a new mattress. You can also consider a lower-cost option like a mattress topper to boost your bed’s comfort level.
- What to tryExperiment with aromatherapyWhy it can helpCertain types of smells, such as lavender, have been associated with a calming effect that may positively impact sleep.Making it workTry out lavender or other essential oils to see if any of them add a degree of relaxation to your bedroom. Don’t feel like you need to keep using aromatherapy if the smell is too strong or bothersome.
- What to tryChoose a good pillowWhy it can helpYour pillow provides fundamental support for your neck, so having a quality pillow can contribute to good sleep.Making it workIt may be worth trying a new pillow if your current one isn’t quite the best pillow option for you. Many types of pillows are available, and finding the right one for you can depend on your sleeping position, body shape, and preferred pillow height.
- What to tryImprove bedroom ventilationWhy it can helpVentilation in your bedroom contributes to better indoor air quality, which can have a beneficial effect on sleep.Making it workThe simplest way to improve ventilation is to open a window, but you can also try an air filter. Some air purifiers may reduce certain allergy symptoms as well.
Implementing These Sleep Habits
To actually benefit from sleep tips, you need to work them into your daily life. Making these changes isn’t always easy, but here are some basic ideas that can help you make real progress toward better sleep.
- Work together with a partnerIf you have a bed partner, it’s important to discuss any sleep-related changes with them to make sure that you’re on the same page. While your sleep preferences may differ, look for ways to compromise and support each other.
- Start smallBuild momentum and confidence with small changes. Starting small lets you try new habits and see how well they work without getting overwhelmed. As time goes on you can build upon these gradual changes to keep improving your sleep.
- Be patient and stick with itWhen trying out different sleep tips, you may not see the benefits right away. Keep in mind that it may take weeks or months before you get used to a new habit, but sticking with your plan can pay off over time.
- Be kind to yourselfNo one is perfect, and there will be days when you may not be able to carefully follow your plan for better sleep. Set realistic expectations, and try not to be too self-critical if you have difficulty sleeping.
- Consult with your doctorSome sleep problems can’t be resolved with sleep tips alone. If your sleep difficulties are persistent, severe, or significantly affect your daytime alertness or performance, you should talk with a doctor who can provide specific guidance for your situation.