Difficulty sleeping is something that plagues us all at one point or another. For some, it's a common complaint and something that interferes not only with our energy levels but also with our quality of life. But we're here to help! In this guide to a good night, we're going to tell you everything you need to know about how to sleep better.
And if you are currently struggling with sleep woes, know you're not alone. Studies show that adults need anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, over one-third (35.3%) of Americans report they usually get less than seven hours.
But why is it that we don't always get the shut-eye we so desperately need? There are a variety of reasons, and we're going to discuss many of them in today's post. From different strategies to help you have a better night, the reasons people wake up in the night, to how you can wake up feeling more rested than ever, this post is packed with tips you won't want to miss!
How To Sleep Better: A Guide To A Good Night
We're going to start by discussing a variety of things that could be causing issues that are waking you up at night. Then, we'll move on to different strategies for how to sleep better.
What's Stopping You from Sleeping Through the Night?
There are many reasons why people have trouble staying asleep at night, some include technology, and others may have sleep disorders. Luckily, there were many ways to solve sleep problems to achieve a healthy sleep schedule and accomplish more throughout the day.
One common reason is that people are not following a regular sleep schedule. When you don't stick to a regular sleep schedule, your body's natural sleep rhythm (part of your circadian rhythm) is disrupted, and it becomes more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Before we move on to other reasons people have trouble staying asleep at night, it's worth taking a moment to discuss circadian rhythms: understanding what this term means can help you understand your body and your sleep habits better.
So, what exactly is a circadian rhythm? It's your body's internal clock that tells you when to sleep and wake up, along with other physical, mental, and behavioral factors on a 24-hour cycle. It's controlled by a small region of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is sensitive to light, which means it can detect when it's daytime and nighttime. When it starts getting dark outside, the SCN signals the release of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
Remember: your circadian rhythm isn't just about sleep, though. It also affects your mood, energy levels, appetite, and more. That's why it's important to keep it on track!
There are a few things that can throw off your circadian rhythm (many of which we'll discuss in greater detail in this post):
- Working night shifts
- Traveling across time zones
- Having irregular sleep patterns
- Exposure to artificial light at night (like from your TV or phone)
Other factors that can lead to poor sleep
Many people find themselves waking up in the night to use the bathroom as well, they have trouble falling back to sleep. If this is you, try to cut down on fluids in the evening and avoid caffeine after lunchtime.
Some wake up in the night because of pain or discomfort. If you're dealing with chronic pain, talk to your doctor about treatment options that can help you get a better night's sleep.
Another common reason people have trouble sleeping is that they are not winding down before bedtime. It's important to create a relaxation routine you do every night before going to bed. This helps your body and mind relax so you're more likely to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. (We'll share some strategies for creating this relaxation routine later in this post)
Finally, another common reason people have trouble sleeping is because of distractions like noise or technology.
If you're trying to sleep in a noisy environment, it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. And if you're using technology right before bed, the bright light from the screen can disrupt your natural sleep rhythm and make it tough to fall asleep. So, it's important to limit noise and technology in the bedroom and create a calm, dark, and quiet environment for sleeping.
How to Sleep Better Naturally
Next, let's talk about these (and other) strategies to help you have better sleep in greater detail.
But first, it's also worth noting that feeling tired isn't the only sign you're not getting enough sleep or enough good quality sleep.
Other signs your sleep could use some work
You may also feel:
- Anxious or irritable
- Tense or stressed
- Unable to focus or concentrate
- Easily agitated or angered
- Slow to react
If any of these sound familiar, it’s time to take action and learn how to sleep better with the following tips.
Getting on a regular sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Most people need around eight hours of sleep per night. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps train your body to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.
Here are some helpful tips for getting into, and staying on, a sleep schedule:
- Set an alarm for bedtime and wake time, and stick to it as much as possible. Consider placing the alarm just outside of your room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
- Don't take naps during the day. These can throw off your natural sleep rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- If you can't fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and do something else in another room until you’re feeling tired again. Try reading or doing a puzzle but avoid watching television or working on the computer, as the blue light from these screens can interfere with falling asleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. For many people, these substances can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Make exercise part of your routine, but not right before bed, as it can be stimulating.
Increase bright light exposure during the day
Did you know light exposure helps regulate your body's sleep-wake cycle? Exposure to bright light during the day can help you feel more alert and energetic. This works by resetting your body's internal clock. In turn, this can help you feel sleepy at night and wake up feeling more rested in the morning.
There are a few easy ways to get more light exposure during the day:
- Go for a walk outside during lunchtime or in the evening.
- Sit near a window when working or relaxing at home.
- Take a break to step outside during your commute.
If you work nights or don't have the chance to get to natural light, try using a special lamp that emits bright light. These lamps are available for purchase online or at some retail stores.
Conversely, avoid exposure to blue-light emitting screens (phones, laptops, etc.) for at least an hour before bed.
The blue light from screens suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you feel sleepy. So, looking at your phone or working on your laptop in the hours leading up to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep when you finally turn in for the night.
This is a big one, so let's talk more about blue light and technology next.
As much as we love it, technology might also be a culprit behind your sleep struggles. It isn't necessary all technology, though, just the screens on our devices. The blue light that’s emitted from these screens can trick our brains into thinking it's daytime and cause us to have a more difficult time falling asleep at night.
If you’re someone who struggles with falling asleep, try cutting out screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.
This means no TV, no scrolling through social media, and no playing games on your phone. Instead, opt for a calming activity like reading or taking a bath to help you relax and prepare for sleep.
If you work long hours or often find yourself working late into the night, try to take regular breaks throughout the day to rest your eyes and give your mind a break from staring at a screen. Even if it's just for a few minutes, stepping away from your work will help you feel more refreshed and less drained when it's time to clock out for the day.
Some great phone and computer apps can help reduce the blue light emitted from your devices. Many phones have a "night mode" or "blue light filter" option that you can enable in the settings. And there are also apps like f.lux and Twilight that can be installed on your computer to dim the screen and remove blue light as well.
Nightly eating habits
Another factor that keeps many people up at night or causes sleep disruptions is their nightly eating habits. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most commonly overlooked factors!
But there are plenty of reasons to carefully reconsider your nightly eating habits if you're finding yourself waking up frequently in the night. For example, eating a large dinner late at night can cause indigestion that keeps you awake. Eating spicy or acidic foods can have the same effect. That's because when you lie down after eating, gravity no longer helps to keep food down in your stomach.
On the other hand, not eating enough during the day can also lead to trouble sleeping at night—when you're hungry, your body releases hormones that make it harder to fall asleep. So if you've been having trouble sleeping, take a close look at your daily diet and see if there are any changes you can make.
Foods that can help you sleep better
Interestingly, several different foods might be able to help you sleep better!
Check out this list of sleep-inducing foods to see if anything sounds appetizing to you:
- Almonds: Almonds are a great source of magnesium, which can help relax your muscles and mind.
- Honey: Honey has been shown to improve sleep quality, likely due to its natural sugar content.
- Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea thought to have calming effects.
- Kiwi: Kiwis are high in antioxidants and nutrients like vitamins C and E, both of which can promote better sleep.
- Oats: Oats contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle.
If you're looking for something to snack on before bed, try one of these options. Just remember to avoid eating anything too close to bedtime so that you don't end up feeling uncomfortable or waking up in the middle of the night.
There are also supplements many people swear by for helping them sleep better. They include:
- Melatonin: A hormone that signals to your body that it's time to sleep.
- Valerian Root: An herbal supplement said to promote relaxation.
- Magnesium: A mineral involved in muscle and nerve function that can also help with relaxation. If you don't want to ingest magnesium, a bath with magnesium salts before bed can also provide a relaxation effect.
If you're considering trying any of these, be sure to talk to your doctor first. Some supplements can interact with medications you may be taking or have other side effects.
Reducing alcohol intake
Alcohol is another ingredient in your diet that it might be time to rethink if you're trying to figure out how to sleep better. Although you might find alcohol helps you fall asleep quickly, it can lead to poorer quality sleep later in the night. This is because alcohol disrupts your natural sleep cycle and prevents you from reaching the deepest, most restorative stages of sleep.
If you're drinking alcohol close to bedtime, it's best to limit yourself to one drink and have it several hours before you plan on going to sleep.
Annoying sounds (including your partner’s snoring) can keep you up at night, of course. But on the other side of that same coin, sound can also be a tool you use to fall asleep. If you have trouble dozing off, try playing soft music or an audiobook to help lull yourself to sleep. Several apps can play white noise or other calming sounds to help you drift off.
Certain sound vibrations have the best effect when it comes to how to sleep better. For example, binaural beats (sounds with two different frequencies) can help you relax and even fall asleep. And if you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep? Try listening to something soothing to distract you from your thoughts long enough to fall asleep again.
It's no secret we're big fans of meditation! But meditation before sleep can have particularly powerful effects.
So how can you use meditation to get better sleep?
First, find a comfortable position. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the ground or lie down on your back. Then, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth.
As you focus on your breath, you may notice other thoughts popping into your head. That's normal! Just let them pass by without judgment and return your focus to your breath. Continue meditating for as long as feels comfortable -- anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes or more.
Where You Sleep
Have you ever noticed how well you sleep in hotel rooms but not at home? Or vice versa? That's likely because where you sleep will also play a big role in how well you sleep. Things like the temperature in your room and the quality of your mattress, pillows, and linens can all impact your sleep.
After all, if you're not comfortable, you're not going to sleep well. So, make sure your bedroom is a haven for relaxation and comfort by keeping it dark, cool, and quiet.
Build a Relaxation Routine: Train Your Mind and Body on How to Sleep Better
Building a relaxation routine is also a helpful practice for helping you sleep better. But it isn't just winding down at night when relaxation becomes important! The more glimpses of relaxation your brain and body see, the more they'll be able to recognize it when it's time to relax.
So, how do you make a relaxation routine?
There are many ways to go about this, but some basic techniques include things like deep breathing exercises, reading (preferably non-stimulating materials), writing in a journal, and stretching. Experiment until you find what works best for you and try to do it consistently throughout the day—perhaps even multiple times a day.
It might seem counterintuitive to think that relaxing during the daytime will help you sleep better at night, but if your mind and body are used to the idea of relaxation by the time nighttime rolls around, sleep will come more easily.
Other helpful components of a relaxation routine include:
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Listening to calming music
- Drinking chamomile tea
- Yoga or another form of exercise
- Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
Next, let's talk about that last bullet point in greater detail: VNS. Or, more specifically, transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation.
How to Sleep Better with Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation
If you're looking for a non-invasive way to improve your sleep, you may want to try transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS). tVNS is a treatment that uses electrical impulses to stimulate the vagus nerve, which is located in your neck.
Using vagus nerve stimulating headphones, the vagus nerve can be targeted through the skin in the ear rather than relying on more invasive VNS methods, including surgical implantation of vagus nerve stimulation devices.
As for how the vagus nerve might be able to help you sleep better? Well, the vagus nerve is responsible for many body functions, including, in part, sleep. It's thought that by stimulating the vagus nerve, tVNS can help to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. In one study, for example, people with insomnia who underwent tVNS treatment reported improvements in both the quality and quantity of their sleep.
If you're new to the vagus nerve, here's a quick explanation of how it works:
Your vagus nerve (the longest in the body) carries signals from the brain to the body, including those signals that can help you sleep better. It reaches virtually every system in the body, meaning its potential to impact these systems is profound.
When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it can also help reduce inflammation, speed up recovery, and improve mood. It's also involved in regulating the autonomic nervous system, which controls things like heart rate and blood pressure.
If you're interested in exploring the potential of tVNS for yourself, learn more about Xen by Neuvana headphones next.
The Importance of Learning How to Sleep Better
Maybe you've accepted your fate that you're simply "not a good sleeper." But don't give up! Learning how to sleep better can pay off in a number of ways, beyond waking up feeling more rested.
If you're not getting enough sleep, it can have serious consequences. You may feel tired and cranky during the day, have trouble concentrating, and be more likely to get sick. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and even early death.
It's not just the quantity of sleep that's crucial, but also the quality. Deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, is when your body repairs itself and makes memories. If you're not getting enough deep sleep, you may have trouble learning new tasks or retaining information.
Other consequences of poor sleep include:
- Trouble regulating emotions
- Increased risk of accidents
- Poor decision making
- Weakened immune system
- Impaired memory and cognition
Talk about motivation for improving your sleep habits!
Use this sleep guide for a more sound sleep
We've covered a lot in this article. From the importance of sleep to how to get a good night's sleep, we hope you now have a better understanding of how important sleep is and some strategies for getting a good night's rest.
To recap the strategies for better sleep we shared today:
- Sticking to a sleep schedule
- Building a relaxation routine
- Limiting caffeine intake, particularly at night
- Limiting distractions (including noise and technology)
- Offsetting waking up at night by addressing the common reasons for waking at night we covered
- Considering the use of supplements for better sleep
- Not eating too much at night and including foods in your diet that can help you sleep better
- Improving your sleep environment
- Vagus nerve stimulation
So, if you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, don't despair. There are plenty of things you can do to improve your sleep habits and quality of sleep. Follow the tips in this guide to a good night, and you'll be well on your way to getting the restful night's sleep you deserve.