Some of us are blessed with the ability to fall asleep in any situation, at any time. Many of us, however, struggle with falling asleep night after night, so we know how unpleasant it is to dread going to bed. While there are many things you can do (or avoid) before bedtime to help you fall asleep faster, and have better quality rest, there are also many lifestyle changes that you can start implementing to regulate your body clock. After all, your body clock doesn’t only kick into action during bedtime – activities during the daytime may affect the way it behaves at night as well.
These are 29 tips that cover you from morning to night, and help you achieve a more regulated circadian rhythm, achieving better quality sleep for a healthier lifestyle.
Prepare for your night’s sleep during the day
1. Keep a regular exercise routine
Exercise can help to regulate your overall health, and that includes your sleep hygiene as well. People who exercise regularly tend to have an easier time regulating their sleep cycle, and they also feel less sleepy during the day. Even a 10 minute stroll after dinner helps!
2. Avoid napping if you can, especially late in the day
If you have to nap, make sure that it’s in the first half of your day, and keep it below 20 minutes. Napping for any longer, or at a later time, is potentially disruptive to your sleep cycle.
3. Sleep and wake up at the same time every day
This means you shouldn’t be staying up too late on Fridays and sleeping in too much on the weekend!
This might sound unappealing at first, but consider how much more energised you’d feel all seven days of the week, rather than having to go through the arduous task of dragging yourself up on Monday mornings every week.
4. Expose yourself to as much natural light during the day
Our body clock is actually very much light-dependent. Sunlight entering our eyes in the day tells our body it’s time to be alert and wakeful, and the decline of this light in the evening is a signal that it’s time to start feeling sleepy.
If you find yourself being bathed in artificial light from morning to late at night, your body clock is unable to regulate itself with these natural cues from the environment.
Make your bedroom sleep-conducive
5. Make sure your room is dark when it’s time to sleep
Like most other animals, you will get the best sleep when you are in complete darkness. Try using thick, heavy curtains that are able to block out light from outside, or eye masks.
6. Keep your room cool and well-ventilated
If you’re able to, try switching on your air-conditioner before sleep. Keeping your body cool at a temperature of about 18 to 24 degrees Celsius is conducive for better quality sleep.
If you prefer to sleep without air-conditioning, try to keep your windows open, and make sure your ceiling and/or standing fans are able to produce a good breeze. In this case, sleep with minimal blankets so your body is able to keep as cool as possible.
7. Don’t expose yourself to harsh lights if you wake up in the middle of the night
Using the bathroom in the middle of the night often means we have to expose ourselves to the strong lights there, which can make it that bit more difficult to get back to sleep later. Instead, try using a dim night light in the bathroom, or even a small torchlight.
8. Spray some calming essential oils
Try purchasing a blend of calming essential oils such as lavender and sweet mandarin, and spray them all over your room, or on your bedsheets and pillows.
9. Use a “white noise” app if it works for you
There are now dozens of free mobile apps available these days which have vast libraries of white noise soundtracks, such as that of a thunderstorm, rain, birds chirping in a forest, and so on. It works for some, but not all, so you’ll have to give this a trial run to find out if it helps you or not.
10. Use yellow, warm-toned lights in your bedroom
Softer, yellow lights are more conducive for sleep as it mimics natural fading daylight, rather than harsh, fluorescent white lights.
If you find white light better for work or study, try moving these activities to another room in your house. Aside from being able to separate the use of these lights, it also strengthens your mind’s association of your bedroom as a place for sleep, and not for work.
11. Lower the volume of outside noise
Naturally, the more silent your environment, the better you would be able to sleep. If you are being disturbed by factors out of your control, such as a snoring partner or noisy neighbours, you can perhaps think about investing in ear plugs to keep the noise level down.
12. Pets in your bedroom?
If you’re allergic to your pet’s fur, or if your pet tends to disturb your sleep at night with noise or activity, it’s generally a good idea to give them their own sleeping space out of your own bedroom.
What to do (and what not to) nearing bedtime
13. Use blue-light filters on your devices one to two hours before bedtime
Most of our gadgets these days emit blue light, which can stimulate our brains and keep us awake. Apply blue light filters to your gadgets to keep these disturbances at the minimum.
iPhones come with an in-built Night Shift function that changes its display to warmer tones at night. There are plenty of night filters for Android phones as well. For your computers, both Windows and Mac now come with their own in-built blue light filters as well, so there’s really no excuse!
14. Don’t exercise too close to your bedtime
You might think exercising closer to your bedtime would tire you out and prep you for a better sleep at night. Unfortunately, this isn’t true! Highter-intensity workouts raises your body temperature and stimulates hormones that keep you awake instead.
Moderate to vigorous workouts should be finished at least three hours before your bedtime, if not earlier. These include exercises like running, weightlifting, and intense sports. However, light yoga and gentle stretching can be done closer to bedtime as a relaxing activity to unwind.
15. Avoid big or carb-filled meals near bedtime
Meals that are heavy on carbs can make you feel drowsy for a short time after, but it actually disrupts your sleep cycle and hampers the quality of the rest you’re getting.
Furthermore, eating close to your bedtime can increase the chances of getting gastric reflux and heartburn when you lie down to sleep.
16. Avoid caffeine near bedtime
Most people already know to avoid coffee near bedtime, but this also applies to other food and beverages that may contain caffeine, such as chocolate, Coca-Cola, and even some medications like Panadol Extra.
17. Avoid alcohol near bedtime
Alcohol may make some of us sleepy, which seems to be conducive for a better night’s rest, but after a few hours, it actually becomes a stimulant and keeps you awake instead. Even if you do manage to get to sleep, it might interfere with the quality of your rest too.
18. Avoid tobacco and nicotine near bedtime
Smoking may make you feel more relaxed, but it’s actually a stimulant similar to caffeine that could keep you awake. If you are on a nicotine patch, try getting the 16-hour options, where you can remove them before bedtime and apply a new patch in the morning.
19. Avoid drinking too much fluids near bedtime
As much as keeping yourself hydrated is important to your overall well-being, avoid drinking too much fluids near bedtime. Having a full bladder means you’ll find yourself waking up too often during the night to go to the bathroom, disrupting your overall sleep cycle.
20. Don’t spend more than 20 mins lying awake in bed
Lying on the bed should only be associated with sleep or sex, rather than sleeplessness. If you find yourself tossing and turning for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something restful and relaxing, and go to bed only when you really feel tired.
21. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities before bed
Most of us are guilty of trying to do as much as possible in our day, which inevitably eats into the night time when we’re meant to relax and unwind before sleep.
Don’t do or discuss work, studies, or stressful topics just before bedtime, and avoid video games as well. These will only increase adrenaline and stimulate your brain, rather than slowing it down for sleep.
22. Unwind with a relaxing activity
There are activities you can do to unwind yourself before bedtime. These include reading books or magazines with a soft light, listening to soft and slow music, meditating, or doing some gentle stretching.
Taking a slow and warm bath or shower also helps. The rise and then fall in your body temperature can make you feel drowsy and ready to hit the sack.
Slow down your mind to get into sleep
23. Take slow, deep breaths
When you take slow, deep breaths, you inevitably slow down your thoughts, and it calms you down. Try to make each breath slower and deeper than the last.
24. Relax every muscle in your body progressively
As your eyes are closed, imagine and be aware of the muscles in your body and the existing tension within them.
Starting from the toes, contract each muscle group as tightly as you can before completely letting go and relaxing them. Progress all the way up to your neck and facial muscles, so your body feels completely loosened and relaxed by the end of this exercise.
25. Let your mind wander aimlessly
Make sure you’re not thinking of anything particularly stressful or stimulating, and just let your mind wander without forcing yourself to concentrate on anything in particular. The lack of concentration and focus might be useful for some people in helping them drift off to sleep.
26. Visualise a peaceful place
Alternatively, you can try visualising and focusing on a peaceful setting or place that helps you feel soothed, calm, and more relaxed.
27. Practise mindfulness techniques
Some find that practising mindfulness techniques or meditation in bed can actually help them drift off to sleep.
At its most basic, you simply have to close your eyes, and focus your thoughts on your breathing. Be aware of every sensation that occurs as you breathe, whether it’s your chest rising and falling, or the movement of air through your nostrils. When your thoughts wander away to other areas, gently guide it back.
28. Don’t think about the next day
Many of us are guilty about trying to plan out the next day before the current one even ends. This causes unnecessary stress and can stimulate your brain into overdrive just when you’re supposed to be slowing things down.
29. Your goal is to relax, not to sleep
Have you ever found yourself stressing out because you need to get enough sleep in order to wake up early the next day? It’s counterproductive, but yet it feels like something you can’t control.
Instead of focusing on getting enough sleep, don’t be so hard on yourself and focus on relaxing instead of actually falling asleep. This might help you fall asleep faster.
Even if you don’t manage to fall asleep in the end, at least achieving a relaxed state of mind and practising proper sleep hygiene (such as getting out of bed and doing something relaxing rather than tossing and turning endlessly) would help you in the long run.