15 Ways To Get Better Sleep Tonight

Without having to get a new, expensive mattress.

Photo courtesy of Canva

You Probably Need More Sleep

According to the Sleep Foundation, almost a third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep, with women being 40% more likely to have insomnia than men.  The recommendation is that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.  

Sleep deprivation can cause many health and wellness concerns such as, lack of focus, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Lack of restorative sleep can lower your immune function, and contribute to mental and emotional health issues.  

So many factors can play a part in sleep deprivation, such as having young children, having a demanding job, sleep apnea, stress, a medical condition, substance use (like caffeine and alcohol), medications, and more.  

Address Medical Concerns With Your Doctor

If health problems, such as sleep apnea, or anxiety, are keeping you from getting a good night of sleep, address those with a doctor first.  None of the tips on this page, or others, will help you improve your sleep, until you figure out the reason for why you are having difficulty breathing, or why your heart rate is high. Once you get the all-clear in the physical department, you can try some things to help you sleep better.  You can try these things alongside any recommendations from your doctor, as well.

15 Ways To Get Better Sleep

I started researching sleep deprivation while I was an elementary school teacher, working towards my Master’s in School Counseling.  I was curious if some of the behavior problems I was seeing in students had to do with a too busy schedule, and not enough sleep at night.  Many of my students came from single parent homes or homes with two working parents.  With early morning drop-offs at daycare, and late evening pick-ups, I knew schedules were tight.  Not to mention, after school activities.  I was exhausted myself, as a single, working parent.  I knew we all needed more sleep.  

My hunch was right.  My research showed that kids need about 9–12 hours of sleep a night during elementary school.  Teenagers need about 8–10 hours of sleep.  Without proper sleep, we lose our ability to focus, and some studies showed that lack of sleep causes reduced reaction time, similar to being alcohol impaired.

I’m also about not using medications unless absolutely necessary.  They just mask the root cause, and create dependency.  I am a fan of essential oils, which are totally natural, though.  Lavender and peppermint in a diffuser can do wonders!  

These are the things that helped my family and I get better sleep:

  1. Create a nightly routine – Chances are, you already do this for your young children.  It’s a good idea to keep up that routine through adulthood.  Start at least an hour earlier than bedtime.  Take a bath or shower (which causes blood temperature to rise slightly, then decrease, causing drowsiness), put on pajamas, brush your teeth, and turn off electronics to read a book.  Electronic devices emit a blue light, which causes you to feel more awake.
  2. Turn down the temperature – The best sleeping temperature is between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Sleep Foundation.  That’s a little cold for me, but I turn my thermostat down to 71, or 72 degrees at night.  
  3. Research the best pillow for your sleep style – If you sleep on your stomach, you will need a different pillow than someone who sleeps on their side or their back.  I love the pillows that allow you to adjust the fill inside.  The one I have is from Coop, and it’s great!  It has instructions for how much fill to add or subtract according to your sleep style.  I haven’t tried this one, but if you like goose down pillows, you may prefer this type.  
  4. Wear cotton pajamas – Cotton is breathable, and will keep you cool or warm.  Polyester, and synthetic blends may make you hot and sweaty.  Then, you’re sleeping in wet clothes.  Ugh!
  5. Turn down the lights in the evening – I mentioned above to turn off electronic devices because of the blue light that they emit, but it’s also good to dim your overhead lights.  This mimics nighttime, and begins preparing your circadian rhythms (your internal clock) for rest.  
  6. Open your blinds or go outside in the morning – Going into the sunlight, or letting natural light in your windows, will also help with your circadian rhythms.  Getting sunlight in the morning will actually prepare your body for bed in the evenings.
  7. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day – Speaking of circadian rhythms, when you wake up in the morning, and go to sleep in the evening, at the same time every day, your body begins to learn when bedtime is.  You will automatically begin feeling tired at bedtime.  You won’t even need an alarm clock to wake you up most days, especially if you are getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep.
  8. Get some movement first thing in the morning – This could be stretching, yoga, walking, or whatever else you enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be high intensity, just something that gets your muscles warmed up and gets your blood flowing.  This is another signal to your circadian rhythms that the day has begun.
  9. Don’t do high intensity workouts in the evening – I understand that sometimes that’s what you have to do, because it’s the only time you have a chance to exercise, but if you can do a low-impact workout, that is a better option as far as sleep is concerned.  Or, do your high intensity workout earlier in the day if possible.
  10. Avoid late night snacking or late meals – It takes a lot of energy to digest meals.  You don’t want your body having to work hard at night, when it should be in rest and repair.
  11. Avoid caffeine in the evenings – Some people aren’t sensitive to caffeine, but if you are struggling to sleep during the night, caffeine could be one of the culprits.  It can rev your heart rate, making you have trouble resting.  Some experts recommend you stop drinking caffeine eight hours before bedtime.  
  12. Avoid alcohol in the evenings – You may think that alcohol helps you sleep better, but even though it may help you fall asleep faster, as your body metabolizes the alcohol, you can have a more restless sleep.  Alcohol also disrupts the circadian rhythms.
  13. Block any light that may be coming in – Even the tiniest amount of light can disrupt your sleep.  Not only can there be light shining through the windows, think about the tiny green light on your television, or the light from an alarm clock.  Even if your phone is on silent next to the bed, it can light up when spam texts come through, or email alerts.  You can try light blocking curtains, electrical tape over electronic lights, and turning your phone upside down, with your do not disturb setting.  You could also use a sleep mask.
  14.  Use a sound machine or other white noise – My favorite white noise is a cheap fan from Target.  (Avoid the ones that say “extra quiet”, lol)  An air purifier is a surprisingly good option.  One of my daughters has a sound machine, and the other one uses an app on her phone.  I’ve also used an app called, Bedtime Fan, when I travel.  My fan blocks out dogs barking, and car noises to keep me from waking multiple times.  
  15. Meditate – This is my favorite way to relax and fall asleep.  I meditate to fall back asleep, too.  I used to use a meditation app, but now I use my own meditation.  I think of a place where I have felt safe, my childhood home, or my parent’s home, for example.  Then I imagine all the details in a room.  I imagine walking through the green front door, with the little window at the top, of my childhood home.  I think about the wallpaper with the gold swirls, and the light cream flooring.  Then, I picture the carpeted living room, with the big square TV.  Beyond that was the fireplace with the brick hearth.  To the left, was a green-patterned couch, and a coffee table that had openings on both sides of the base. You get the idea.  When you are thinking about all the little details, you can’t be thinking about that thing that has been worrying you, or the thing you need to remember to tell your spouse before you leave for work.  It works for me every time! 

I’m sure I could go on with more tips, but these are the ones that have helped the most.  And, hey, a new mattress is always an option, especially if yours is old and saggy.  

Is there something you’ve tried, that worked, and I didn’t mention?  Let me know in the comments.  I always love new tips!

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