Do you have trouble sleeping? Most people have one or several poor sleep habits and don’t get enough rest each night—though some may not notice.
Even if you’re getting seven to eight hours of shuteye each night, you may suffer from interruptions that lower the quality of your sleep. Yikes. Not having enough downtime to repair and rejuvenate can do real damage to your body.
Your emotional, mental and physical health are at stake here. Poor sleep makes you more irritable and less calm, as well as more forgetful and less alert. You’re prone to eating more and exercising less, increasing the risk of developing conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. How can you avoid this?
When you’re used to mediocre sleep, you’ll be hard-pressed to improve until you experience better. You probably already know what great sleep is, though! If you’ve woken up more refreshed and ready to start the day in hotel bedrooms on holidays, you’ve already felt this.
“Why?” You might ask. “Why can’t I get a good night’s rest like this at home?”
Yes, you can. Here are seven fixes to common sleep issues that prevent people from catching the best z’s they possibly can.
1. Throw out your old mattress and get a new one.
Does your back hurt when you wake up? The culprit could be your bed.
A full third of your life is spent asleep. Compared to driving your car, you sleep in your bed more often and for longer periods of time. You spend more time with your mattress than you do with most of your friends.
It makes sense to treat your mattress like a big-ticket purchase. Pick one that is supportive and suits your preferences. If you’ve been suffering from restless nights or your mattress is eight years or older, it’s time.
Don’t have the budget to replace your bed just yet? Lengthen its lifespan and add some much-needed mattress support with a cushioned pad or topper.
2. Replace your pillows, too.
No back pain, but occasional little aches all throughout the body? It might be time to replace your pillows and rethink your bed setup.
Most people have one or two standard rectangular pillows. If these do the trick for you, that’s great! But remember to swap them out when they start getting lumpy. Consider an orthopedic pillow add comfort to your bedtime hours, particularly if you’re injured, pregnant or a consistent snorer.
The kind of pillow you need may depend on your sleeping position, too. Stomach sleepers may benefit from very soft pillows that don’t strain the neck when face down on the bed. To relieve pressure points, side sleepers need contouring bolsters made of materials like memory foam or a buckwheat filling.
3. Turn off the lights. Yes, even your smartphone screen.
Don’t feel sleepy? Maybe it’s because your mind is still occupied by what you’re doing. Put your phone down and close your eyes.
Light and dark are essential to a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Daily sun exposure keeps circadian rhythms in check because sunlight marks daytime hours for your body. The problem is when our body is tricked by artificial light.
Before technology, darkness dominated nighttime. It was easy for human bodies to naturally slow down and prepare to sleep. Now, it’s not so easy. If you always feel like you’re not sleepy when you should be, limit your exposure to blue light after dark—meaning LEDs and TV, mobile, and computer screens.
4. Re-assess your bedroom and equip your nightstand with sleep accessories.
Want to sleep but can’t? On a cool and quiet evening, you shouldn’t have trouble sleeping with the lights turned off. If you do, it’s time to bring in reinforcements.
You can try cleaning your bedroom and keeping it clutter-free. Move your entertainment area and work desk to another part of the house, if you can. When your sleeping environment is distraction-free, it’s easier to remain in bed until you drift off.
If that isn’t enough, you can put together a set of personalized sleep accessories to keep on your nightstand. Lighting from under your door or through the windows distracting you? Use a sleep mask. Noisy neighbors? Earplugs. Cold feet? An extra pair of fuzzy socks.
5. Quit using your alarm’s snooze button.
Tired and sleepy during the day, but can’t sleep at night? Sounds like you need to be strict about your sleep schedule.
Seven to eight hours of rest should be your most important appointment, every single day. You wouldn’t miss an important work meeting or a birthday dinner to watch Netflix, right? The same should be true for bedtime each night.
Following your bedtime is relatively easy compared to the real sacrifice: giving up the snooze button. It may feel great at the moment, but all it does is encourage fragmented sleep. You don’t get a significant amount of rest and repair from those extra 15 minutes, we promise. What’s worse is that sleeping less than seven hours and slowing snoozing your way to wakefulness can make you tired and groggy all day.
6. Watch what you eat.
Can’t sleep through the night? It could be something you ate or drank. You could also be wound up from physical activity.
Drinking alcohol close to bedtime can help get you to sleep, but may cause sleep interruptions throughout the night—sometimes by encouraging heavier snoring. Stimulants like caffeine and sugar can lessen the time you spend in deep sleep and cause very brief awakenings that you won’t remember in the morning.
Drinking a lot of liquids—even sleep teas—can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Same with heavy meals.
7. Meditate and be mindful.
Spend too much time in bed, but not enough time sleeping? Too much time in bed could be a sign of emotional or mental health mismanagement. It can also harm your sleep-wake cycle, as this behavior teaches your body that it’s okay to remain awake while lying in bed.
If your stress levels are too high to deal with anything else, or if you’re just unmotivated to go out, try to at least find something to do outside your bedroom. You can cook comfort food in the kitchen or watch TV in the living room.
The most helpful thing to do, though, is to meditate. Sit outside and think happy thoughts while admiring fresh flowers in bloom. Try mindfulness exercises. Practice yoga.