We’ve gathered the top 10 strategies for getting quality sleep you need to know to stay well-rested and on top of your game. Sleep is one of the biggest factors in determining your energy, focus, mood and patience for the day. Busy professionals need to be on top of their game every day and they realize how important sleep is to their productivity.
Feeling burnt out or getting sick a lot? Waking up groggy and struggling to get through the day? You could be suffering from a lack of sleep or low-quality sleep. Whether you’re changing timezones, up all night with the kids or lying awake worrying about a deadline, follow these strategies for getting quality sleep and waking up revitalized!
1. Be Consistent
Waking and going to sleep at consistent times each day is one of the best strategies for getting quality sleep.
In order to get the recommended 7 hours minimum of sleep, it can help to set aside 8 hours for sleep including falling asleep and waking. If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing like reading (not on a screen) or listen to relaxing music. It’s important to leave your room when you are not tired — your room should be a mental cue for sleep and not any other wakeful activities.
Try to be consistent, even on the weekends. Ideally, your bedtime and wake time shouldn’t vary on the weekend by more than one hour. A regular sleep schedule supports your circadian rhythm and levels of natural melatonin so that you start to feel sleepy at the same time each night.
This might be a hard one to get used to, but this is one of the most effective strategies for getting quality sleep. If you go to sleep and wake at the same time each day you will start to see a difference after just a week! You will start to get tired naturally at night and then wake at the right time, even before your alarm goes off!
2. Limit Daytime naps
Another to add to the top strategies for getting quality sleep is to be careful of the naps you take throughout the day. If you nap too often or too long, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Remember that not all sleep is equal. Naps are short spurts of sleep and you don’t get the deep REM sleep that you would during the night. If your long or irregular naps are affecting your ability to fall asleep at night or causing you to get low quality sleep, then it may not be worth taking a nap during the day.
This is one of the strategies for getting quality sleep that you may need to test before deciding if it affects you or not. Try not napping for a week or shortening your naps and see if you get better sleep at night.
3. Be Aware of Light Exposure
Exposure to blue light at night can make you feel more awake and make it harder to fall asleep. Getting enough bright light exposure during the day can also make it easier to naturally feel tired at night.
The blue light emitted from phone, tv or computer screens naturally make you feel more awake. Looking at your phone or computer or watching tv right before bed can make it hard to fall asleep or to get really restful sleep. Blue light is the kind of light we are exposed to in morning light– it reduces melatonin, making us more awake. This is good light exposure during the day, but confuses our circadian rhythm at night.
Instead, give at least an hour before you go to sleep to turn off the screens and read a book, listen to relaxing music or meditation. If you must look at your phone before bed there are other options, as well! You can wear eyeglasses that block blue light or download an app on your phone and computer that block blue light from being emitted from your devices.
On the contrary, bright light exposure is good for you during the day. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it could be that you are not getting enough natural sunlight or bright light exposure during the day. This can also confuse your natural circadian rhythm, because bright lights trigger higher energy for the day. Many of us work inside all day or live in climates with dark winter seasons, limiting the amount of sunshine we see during the day.
Getting more sunlight during the day could help you fall asleep faster and get higher quality sleep. Be sure to get at least a couple hours of sunshine a day. If that’s not practical, you could consult your doctor about getting a light therapy box to increase your daily bright light exposure.
4. Manage Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Limiting Caffeine is a classic tool in the strategies for getting quality sleep. Caffeine keeps us awake and, even if you don’t feel it affects you much, it can keep you awake at night when you’re supposed to feel most calm and restful. Alcohol may make you feel tired, but your sleep is less restful after even just a couple drinks.
Caffeine has natural benefits for our mood, focus and energy throughout the day, however we have to be smart about our caffeine intake. Taking too much caffeine or too late in the day can be harmful for the quality of our sleep. Caffeine naturally stops your body from relaxing. Drinking coffee even just 6 hours before you fall asleep can worsen your sleep quality. Try to quit drinking coffee after 3pm and stick to decaffeinated or tea if you really crave something after that.
Drinking alcohol at night can also negatively affect your sleep and your natural release of hormones. Even just two glasses before bed can affect how you feel the next morning. Alcohol alters your release of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep or harder for your body to naturally renew and restore while you sleep. It can also increase sleep apnea and snoring, which disrupt your sleep further.
Drinking coffee and alcohol is very common in the U.S. Managing your caffeine and alcohol intake is one of the most common strategies for getting higher quality sleep.
5. Consider Supplements
If none of the more obvious strategies for getting quality sleep worked, then you might want to consider using a supplement. Some supplements are more long-term, while others can be used on a case-by-case basis.
Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that you produce at night. This is what makes you feel tired when it’s time to go to bed. Taking a light Melatonin sleep aid could help you fall asleep on nights when you are traveling, in a different time zone or having a hard time falling asleep. Melatonin should really be used for special occasions when you’re having trouble falling asleep and not as a nightly routine supplement. If you are consistently reaching for Melatonin, there are likely other factors at play that you should investigate.
There are other sleep-inducing supplements that you could try, as well. Valerian Root, Lavender and L-theanine are all natural supplements that could help you feel more restful at night. Check with a doctor before trying any new supplements and only try these one at a time. Again, if you find yourself consistently reaching for a sleep aide your natural sleep cycle is likely disrupted for one reason or another. Try some of the other strategies for getting quality sleep before reverting to these supplements.
6. Create a restful environment
Your bedroom should automatically feel restful and relaxing for you. It should be a signal to your brain that you are winding down for rest. This is a key point in our strategies for getting quality sleep that many people miss. Your room should be cool, quiet and void of all stressors or reminders of work. You may need to take a look at the quality of your mattress and pillows, as well.
If you’re looking for one of the easiest strategies for getting quality sleep, this could be the place to start. Working or exercising in your bedroom can affect how you mentally feel about your bedroom. This room should be for sleep and walking into your room should cue rest and winding down for the night. Keeping your room clean and decluttered, peaceful and inviting can make you feel relaxed at night when trying to fall asleep. Eliminating external noise, light and artificial light, like from your alarm clock or devices, can quickly improve your quality of sleep.
There are many tricks to creating a restful environment in your bedroom. Turning down the lights, spraying a relaxing lavender sleep spray or playing calming noise could also create an environment that triggers sleep. Lowering the temperature in your room is also a natural cue it’s time for your body to wind down for sleep.
The quality of your mattress, pillow and even bedding has also shown to greatly affect the quality of your sleep and how you physically feel the next day. Low quality bedding and mattress can affect your back, neck, joints and posture. If you haven’t updated your bed in years, it might be time to think about this investment.
7. Don’t eat (or drink) too late
Eating or drinking liquids too late in the evening can make it harder to fall asleep. When you’re digesting, your body is not in a restful state. Ideally, you will have had enough time after your meal to digest before winding down for bed. Noticing what might upset your stomach or keep you awake can help you make the best decisions for dinner, as well.
Eating a late dinner can negatively affect the release of sleep hormones and upset your stomach, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep. If you go to bed full, this can also affect the quality of your sleep. Try to limit your liquid intake 1-2 hours before bed, as well, as this can disrupt your sleep. Try to stay hydrated by drinking most of your daily water earlier in the day, and drink a glass of water when you wake up to rehydrate.
What you should eat for dinner or an evening snack will vary depending on each person. Pay attention to what you eat and how you feel afterward. If what you ate upset your stomach or made it hard to sleep, take note and avoid that next time. If you realize it helped you fall asleep, keep that in mind the next time you’re craving a late snack.
8. Create a relaxing routine at night
taking time at night to relax and wind down is one of the most important strategies for getting quality sleep. We need transition time between main activities of the day, and bedtime is a big transition from socializing to work. Give your body a nightly cue that it’s time to wind down with a relaxing routine.
Creating a relaxing routine before bed is one of the strategies for getting quality sleep that you’re probably already doing! Being aware of your nightly routine can help you make the best restful decisions before bed. Following the same pattern for brushing your teeth, washing your face, getting dressed, reading in bed, etc. each night can trigger your brain into understanding that you are getting ready to fall asleep.
If you find yourself following the same pattern each night and still feeling wide awake in bed, you may want to add a restful step into your nightly routine. Reading a book, listening to calming music or a meditation, a restful massage or bath, stretching or deep breathing could all help you relax and let go of your stresses and worries before clearing your mind for sleep. If you find stress or worrying is keeping you up at night, make it a routine to write down what you’re worrying about in a notepad next to your bed. That way you know you won’t forget about them tomorrow and you don’t have to keep them in your mind now.
9. Exercise regularly — at the right time!
We all know how important exercise is for moving our body, relieving stress, and being able to relax at night. However, exercising too late could keep you feeling energized and awake long into the night. make this one of your strategies for getting quality sleep, and optimize what time you get your exercise!
Exercise is one of the best strategies for getting quality sleep! It enhances your bodily functions and regulates hormone performance. Exercise has been shown to offer more benefits for sleep than drugs and supplements, helping you fall asleep faster, stay asleep and get higher quality sleep. It can reduce worrying, stress and anxiety, and help you get outside (that checks off a few of our points above!)
It depends on the individual, but exercising too late in the day may keep you awake. Exercise can have a stimulating affect afterward that takes time to ware off. This is great for providing natural energy during the day, but could keep some people awake at night if they exercise just before bed.
10. Know when to talk to a doctor
If you have already tried many of the strategies for getting quality sleep we’ve listed above and you are still struggling, it may be time to talk to your doctor. Sleep disorders can be common and it may be a signal that there’s something else going on beneath the surface. If you have a feeling this is true, it’s best to get a professional opinion.
Struggling with sleep occasionally is normal for everyone, but if you are consistently having trouble falling asleep or not getting quality sleep you may have a sleep disorder. A doctor can help you explore your options and determine if anything is affecting your sleep. Ask them about any of our strategies for getting quality sleep above!
Stay healthy this season with more tips for busy professionals: Stay Healthy While Traveling and Healthier Coffee Habits