18 Proven, Healthy Ways to Sleep Better at Night and Wake Up Rested
Sleep is vital to our well-being.
But we’re not getting enough of it.
Studies show that, on average, we’re getting between one and two hours less sleep than we were in the 1950s.
The quality of our sleep has a significant impact on our physical and emotional health, personal relationships and professional life.
In fact, a growing body of research is drawing a link between poor sleeping habits and an array of health and psychological issues, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity to anxiety and burnout.
Here are 18 proven, healthy ways to sleep better naturally at night and wake up rested.
Ready? Let’s get started!
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
There is a difference between the amount of sleep we can get by and the amount we need to function optimally.
Just because you’re able to function on 7 or even 6 hours of sleep doesn’t mean an extra hour or two won’t make a huge difference in how you well feel and function.
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, by most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to operate at their best. Children, teen and older adults need even more.
The best way to find out if you’re logging enough sleep hours is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day.
If you’re meeting your sleep needs, you should feel energetic and alert from the moment you wake up until your regular bedtime.
|Average Sleep Needs by Age|
|Age||Hours Needed||May be appropriate|
|Newborn to 3 months old||14 – 17 hrs||11 – 19 hrs|
|4 to 11 months old||12 – 15 hrs||10 – 18 hrs|
|1 to 2 years old||11 – 14 hrs||9 – 16 hrs|
|3 to 5 years old||10 – 13 hrs||8 – 14 hrs|
|6 to 13 years old||9 – 11 hrs||7 – 12 hrs|
|14 to 17 years old||8 – 10 hrs||7 – 11 hrs|
|Young adults (18 to 25 years old)||7 – 9 hrs||6 – 11 hrs|
|Adults (26 to 64 years old)||7 – 9 hrs||6 – 10 hrs|
|Older adults (65+)||7 – 8 hrs||5 – 9 hrs|
Pre-Sleep Routine: How to Sleep Better At Night?
#1. Go To Bed And Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day
A circadian rhythm is the natural, twenty-four-hour internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle – our body clock.
Our body clocks are set by external cues, such as daylight, temperature and eating times.
These rhythms are deeply ingrained within us. They are the product of millions of years of evolution.
Melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep, is produced once it’s been dark for long enough.
By keeping regular hours and getting up with the sun, our need to sleep peaks at night, which coincides with our circadian urge to sleep, producing an ideal sleep window.
#2. Cut Back on Blue Light Emitted From Electronic Devices
Blue light, emitted from electronic devices, such as smartphones, TVs and computers, lead to disrupted and diminished sleep as this light inhibits the production of melatonin and pushes our body clocks later.
If you had to work on your computer a little later, don’t go to bed right away. Stay up for a bit so that your pineal gland can function efficiently and produce enough melatonin now that it’s dark.
If you can’t live without your tech before bedtime, software such as f.lux and Apple’s Night Shift mode, help reduce the amount of blue light by “warming” the color temperature on devices.
But this doesn’t solve the other problem with using electronic devices before bedtime.
#3. Shutdown Technology
Apart from emitting blue light, electronic devises affect our stress levels and capacity to keep our brains alert.
The messages and emails you respond to a few minutes before you go to bed could keep your mind whirring when you’re trying to sleep.
You might even find it hard to sleep when you don’t receive reply to the message you’ve sent.
Putting a curfew on your emails, messages and calls at least ninety minutes before bed will help you avoid any potentially stressful situations.
Draft your messages and emails and hold off on sending unit the morning.
#4. Know Your Chronotype (Are You an AMer or a PMer?)
Your chronotype describes your sleeping characteristics—whether you’re a morning or evening person.
Chronotypes are a genetic trait.
Do you like staying up late? Do you need an alarm to get you up in the morning? Do you sleep in on the weekend? Then it’s likely that you’re a PMer.
Your chronotype determines the time you go to bed and get up, but also it determines the time when you’re most alert and productive.
AMers wake naturally in the morning, are less likely to feel fatigued during the day, and they go to bed reasonably early.
But this variation between AMer and PMer is usually only by a few hours – less than five.
This is a third category of chronotype.
Although most of us live as in-betweeners, regardless of our real chronotype, many of us genuinely are in between.
Why is it important to know your chronotype?
If you’re a PMer and you have to get to work at 9 a.m., you’ll suffer because you are effectively trying to operate in a time zone that’s different from your internal body clock’s.
This negatively affects your performance and productivity.
If you’re a PMer and you get to choose nighttime shifts, your chronotype can work to your advantage.
But if you have to get up early for your work, it’s important to get enough stimulants in the morning to catch-up with the AMers.
Get enough daylight in the morning by opening the curtain and getting ready in daylight. Avoid sleeping in on the weekend to help your body clock adjust.
If you’re an AMer, you’re at your best in the morning, so use this time to get the most important tasks done and leave the more mundane ones for later.
#5. Drink Caffeine Less and Drink Earlier
Caffeine is the world’s most popular performance-enhancing drug. It helps you fights off fatigue and has proven beneficial effects on alertness, concentration, and endurance.
However, high doses of caffeine can make it difficult to get to sleep and more difficult to remain asleep.
In fact, caffeine has a half-life (the time required for a quantity to reduce to half of its initial value) of up to six hours.
So, refrain from drinking caffeine later in the day to help your nocturnal sleep.
But caffeine is also a habit-forming drug.
This means that you will develop a tolerance to it with high daily use and you will need a higher dose to get that hit you want.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends a maximum daily intake of caffeine of 400 milligrams for the average person. To put that in perspective, a home-brewed cup of coffee can contain as much as 200 milligrams.
And then there are the things we consume that we might not be aware contain caffeine, such as soda, chocolate, certain painkillers, and even decaffeinated tea and coffee.
Overstimulating on caffeine means that you’re not using caffeine as a performance enhancer. Instead, you’re using caffeine simply to get yourself to a point from which you can perform.
#6. Keep Your Bedroom Cool Rather Than Warm
In the evening, our body temperature drops naturally as part of our circadian rhythms.
However, central heating, hot-water bottles and electric blankets can interfere with our body temperature. This can lead to overheating and make you perspire heavily, which can break and disturb your sleep.
Keep your bedroom cool (not cold) by turning off the radiator or turning down the thermostat in the bedroom, in winter.
A warm (not hot) shower can help you raise your body temperature a degree or two, before you get into your cooler bed.
In summer, ventilate the room to help keep it a degree or two cooler. If you don’t have air-conditioning, use a fan with a bottle of frozen water placed in front of it.
#7. Switch From Light to Dark
Melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep) is produced when it’s dark. However, things such as technology (blue light) and powerful lamps interfere with the production of melatonin, which in turns disturbs our sleep.
Dim everything down as you start your pre-sleep routine. Switch to less-powerful lamps with warm-color bulbs or light some candles. If the street lights intrude your bedroom, get curtains or blackout blinds that will effectively keep the light out.
#8. Put Everything in Its Right Place
Before going to bed, make sure that everything is in its right place. This isn’t about cleaning and organizing your house, but rather about making sure that your mind is free of any niggling thoughts about packing your bag in the morning, or remembering that you’re out of milk.
This might involve ironing and hanging up your clothes, packing your bag, doing the dishes, taking out your outfit for tomorrow, putting the recycling by the front door so you don’t forget it.
Doing these simple, non-stimulating tasks will give your mind the peace it needs to sleep soundly.
#9. Download Your Day
After an eventful day, your might find it hard to just stop thinking about your day and replaying the encounters and conversations you’ve had.
This is why downloading your thoughts by journaling for at least 10 minutes before bed.
Start with a list of “what’s on my mind”. Write down any thoughts you have and anything that has worried you or concerned you during that day.
#10. Make Yourself As Secure As Possible
You’re most vulnerable when you go to sleep, this is why you need to make sure you’re secure before going to sleep.
Locking your doors and windows, or double checking that they’re locked will help you feel safe and eliminate any unhelpful thoughts, such as “Did I leave the kitchen window open?
#11. Have a Light Exercise
Strenuous exercise before sleep should be avoided because it elevates your heart rate and adrenaline. Moreover, the glaring light and the pounding music in most gyms aren’t exactly ideal for a pre-sleep routine.
Instead have a light exercise – some yoga, stretching exercises, a short walk. This can help raise your body temperature enough to make the transition from warm to cooler when you get into your bed.
#12. Breathe Through Your Nose
Snoring and sleep apnea – in which the individual repeatedly stops breathing and wakes up each time during the night – disrupt our sleep and both issues stem mostly from our breathing through the mouth.
Waking up with a dry mouth suggests you breathe through your mouth when you sleep.
Try putting a nasal strip on your nose to help dilate the nasal passages and encourage breathing through your nose. You can also use nasal dilators that go inside the nose and open up the nasal passages.
Put the product on for a period before you go to bed to get used to it.
Post-Sleep Routine: How to Wake Up Rested, Happy and On Time?
#13. Let Light In
Light is the most important time setter for our body clocks.
But because we’re spending so much time indoor, on the train, in our places of work, we’re not getting our fix of daylight.
Open the curtains as soon as you wake up, eat breakfast in daylight, then go outside.
#14. Use Blue Light Wisely
We are particularly sensitive to the blue light emitted by electronic devices such as computers and smartphones.
Blue light is getting bad press because it can disturb your sleep at night. But it’s not so much that it’s bad light—only badly timed light.
Daylight is full of blue light, so having some blue light during the day is actually good to help you wake up. It suppresses melatonin production and improves alertness and performance.
#15. Take It Slow With Technology
The levels of cortisol—the hormone produced in response to stress—are at their highest shortly after waking. So you don’t want to make them any higher or keep them that high throughout the day.
Make sure your first waking moments aren’t stressful and resist checking your phone right when you wake up.
#16. Don’t Skip Breakfast
Breakfast gives you the fuel you need to start your day. If you’re not used to having a breakfast, start with something small, such as a few bites of toast and a fruit. Get hydrated too.
Caffeine used in moderation is an acceptable aspect of a post-sleep routine, but make sure you don’t put pressure on the upper limit of 400 milligrams per day.
Exercise is a great way to start your day and if you can exercise outdoors, it’s even better.
#18. Give Yourself a Gentle Mental Challenge
Mental stimulation is a gradual process. Simple acts, such as reading a chapter of a book, listening to a podcast, reading the news or listening to the radio on the way to work, can all be great ways to get the brain in gear in the morning.
The Power of the Nap
After lunch, and during the midday period, a daytime fatigue kicks in. This when the Spanish like to indulge with their siestas, while most of the rest of the world go through it with heavy doses of caffeine in an attempt to get more things done.
Using this time to have an afternoon nap, on the other hand, can maximize your productivity and help you perform better.
In fact, a study conducted at the University of Düsseldorf shows that even very short naps enhance memory processing. Another study conducted by NASA reported, “Naps can maintain or improve subsequent performance, physiological and subjective alertness, and mood.”
A nap between 20 and 30 minutes can help you get the energy you need to get through the rest of your day.
You can take a dose of caffeine before hand, so that it takes effect toward the end of your nap. Caffeine takes about twenty minutes to affect the body.
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind, © 2018 by Nick Littlehales. All rights reserved.