You’ve done all the obvious stuff—cut out late-night caffeine, made sure your bedroom is dark and cozy, avoided scary movies or struggling with your to-do list right before bed. So why are you still tossing and turning? Certain habits you’re unaware of could be sabotaging your sleep. While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple tips.
Make a fixed sleeping schedule
Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired.
Get natural sunlight
You should get at least 20 minutes of sunlight every day. The exposure to sunrays helps your body follow a normal circadian rhythm. It regulates the body’s production and release of melatonin, the hormone that is released at night to induce the natural sleep cycle.
Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime.
The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing.
Cortisols, or stress hormones, can keep you awake. When cortisols are released, it is a signal for the body to stay alert. Reduce your overall stress levels. Identify factors that are stressing you out and stay away from them before bed time.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.