Recently we put out this query:
What’s your #1 tip for getting better sleep, that’s worked for you personally?
In response, there were loads of great tips from different sleep experts, as well as a wide range of people who have tried something that’s helped them get significantly better sleep. I’ve listed the best responses below (24 in total) and will continue to list new submissions as they come in. If you’re having trouble sleeping, I strongly recommend having a read through these! Here’s what’s been suggested so far:
- Wear blue light blocking glasses (link)
- Pay attention to the temperature of your bedroom (“it is essential the room temperature stays on the cooler spectrum”) (link)
- Consider sleep hypnosis (link)
- Make your bedroom a sleep-only space (link)
- Sleep in as close to darkness as possible (link)
- Reflect about your day before you go to bed to clear all the ‘junk’ from your brain (link)
- Otherwise, consider planning your day out when you first wake up so you have a greater sense of control over your day, and it’s easier to sleep at night (link)
- You can also schedule “worry time” so you only worry about things at a specified time (link)
- Consider breathing exercises or yoga (link, link)
- Consider visualization exercises (link)
- Try meditation and mindfulness apps (link, link)
- Stop using your phone for at least an hour before bed (link)
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (link)
- Exercise is important for sleep, but it’s best to exercise in the morning or the day rather than at night (link)
- Fatigue your eyelids (link)
- Practice gratitude each night (link)
- Try a weighted blanket (link)
- Sleep naked (link)
- Consider sleeping on your back (link)
- Pay attention to your diet (link)
- Consider using lavender oil (link)
- Watch the sunset (link)
There is one major thing that people tend to neglect when discussing sleep improvement: temperature regulation, or temperature of your sleeping environment. The thermal environment in your bedroom is one of the most important factors for a night of high-quality, relaxing sleep.
As someone who has spent a lot of time exploring sleep and sleep improvement techniques, but not being able to sleep myself, I have to say that thermal regulation has rarely crossed my mind. But, once I've taken notice on this subject myself, I can say that I am sleeping excellently now. Let's start by saying that room temperature is important for several things; sleep onset and the amount of time in which it occurs, sleep duration, ability to enter deep sleep, and the overall quality of sleep. Your body naturally lowers its temperature before bedtime, and acts as a signal to the brain that it is time to go to sleep. However, if you're sleeping in a warm bedroom, you will become irritable, agitated, stressed, restless, etc. Your adrenaline levels will skyrocket, you will start to sweat and of course, you won't get any sleep. Now, since the temperature of the body decreases as you're falling asleep, it also increases as you enter REM sleep. That is why it is essential the room temperature stays on the cooler spectrum. This way, you won't wake up from deep sleep and you will get the quality sleep you deserve.
It is recommended that the room temperature should be around 20°C or 68 °F.
Now, how can you regulate room temperature? There are a few ways; you can try the air conditioning method, but I recommend a more natural approach. First of all, try to leave the windows open for an hour or two before bedtime. Allow the fresh and crisp night air to enter the bedroom and freshen it. If it's the summer season, you can try placing wet towels around the room, ensuring the towels were dipped in cold water. As the water evaporates from the towels, it will cool down the room. Try to prevent heating of the room during the day; use curtains or shutters to keep the room dark and away from the heat and light. Also, make sure to sleep in loose-fitting, cotton pajamas; make them either sleeveless or short-sleeved. You can also use cooling mattress and pillow toppers, or you can cool your sheets by placing some ice packs on them before sleep (some people even place their sheets in the freezer for few minutes). Try to sleep in a spread-eagled position, and make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
--Terry Cralle, terrycralle.com
Personally I use online sleep hypnosis sessions to assist with my sleeping, particularly when I am suffering with mood changes or stress that will prevent me from sleeping naturally due to excessive and overthinking. I cannot say whether the sleep for me, comes as a result of the hypnosis or rather the focus on someone's voice and the calmness of the situation; however, it rarely fails. I will also use this technique to go back to sleep during the night. Interestingly, there are studies that support the use of hypnosis in promoting sleep:
--Tracey Evans, Fitness Savvy
I'd say that making your bedroom a sleep-only space is one of the best ways to improve sleep quality.
Our brains are highly responsive to their environment. We take a lot from environmental cues to put us in the right mindset. That's why it's easier to study in a library than a living room. Similarly, if you use your bedroom for everything from studying to Netflix to sleeping, it's hard to cue your brain to get ready to sleep. A simple shift of only using your bedroom for sleeping can spark a huge change. You'll find it naturally makes it easier to unwind, fall asleep, and distance yourself from the events of the day.
--Craig Anderson, Sleeping.Guide
What we know is light definitely affects sleep and the second it hits our skin, it stops the production of melatonin which is the sleep hormone. So a good tip is definitely to sleep in as close to darkness as possible or without light sources around you. The absence of light causes the pineal gland to create melatonin and induce sleep in us. This also means putting your phones out of sight so their light doesn't affect us either.
--Shae Vian, Learndojo.org
I think we can both agree that in order to get better sleep, one has to first fall asleep. But how many times have you tried to go to sleep and suddenly remembered something you shouldn't have said or done during the day, and now you can't sleep at all?
That's what nightly reflection can help with.
Nightly reflection is an exercise originated 2,000 years ago from stoicism. It is basically to think about your day before going to bed, and reflect on what you did right, and what could be improved. For example, maybe during the day, I got angry at someone and lashed out. I would reflect on that before bed and make it a point to prevent that from happening next time.
By doing this exercise, I basically clear all the 'junk' out of my brain, so it's much easier to fall asleep. Plus if there are things I did during the day which I could be proud of, then the exercise also makes me go to sleep in a better mood. It's a win either way.
Reflecting on my day up until the current moment is also a sort of mindfulness exercises, which helps to relax the brain and improves my quality of sleep significantly.
--Geoff Chen, TheStoicSage.com
1) Breathing into the belly, slow and steady breaths which calms the nervous system. By focusing on the breath, the mind is fully occupied with the simple act of breathing and not with the turbulent thoughts that can keep us awake and away from the present moment. Often I add in this breathing ratio of: inhaling to the (slow) count of 4, holding the breath to the count of 7, exhaling with a shhh to the count of 8. Repeat as many times as required.
3) Yoga Nidra for deep relaxation. The direct translation of Yoga Nidra is Yogic Sleep, but actually the principle is not to sleep, but to experience deep mental and physical rest. It is a guided meditation and can be practiced at any time during the day. I often use this practice just before bed, to create a deep sense of calm in my body and mind. I teach this method every Wednesday evening, via Zoom by donation. Those that practice this method experience a deeper, longer and healthier sleeping pattern. If I am really struggling with sleeping or wake up in the night, I will also use this method to help guide me back to sleep.
--Rachel Barlow, rachelbarlow.co.uk
A great way I've found to help me get to sleep is to use visualisation. When led in bed I imagine myself floating just above my body. Then I imagine looking at myself and the room from this perspective for a couple of minutes.
I then imagine floating higher, to my ceiling. And again I look around for a few minutes from this perspective, at myself and my room.
Then I float above my house. And look at the surrounding area for a few minutes. Noting how different it looks from here. Now the fun part.
I imagine floating off to somewhere I find relaxing. For me it might be a beach or a secluded garden. But it can be anywhere you decide. Somewhere you associate with relaxation.
Once at my location, I imagine being there relaxing, using as many senses as I can. I'll feel the sand between my toes, and smell the sea air. Very quickly I drift into a pleasant and relaxing sleep.
--Jon Rhodes, Hypnobusters
A tip for getting better sleep is to wind down with a calming guided meditation from a mindfulness app, such as Headspace or Calm. Just before starting your bedtime mindfulness meditation, consider also making a daily evening gratitude list, to reflect on the day in a positive way. If you're feeling too upset or anxious to rest well, you'll find it helps to shift your frame of mind from negativity to reminding yourself of the little things that make you feel grateful.
If you still haven't dozed off at the end of your mindfulness meditation, try using a breathing technique that research has found to be effective in lulling you to sleep. Exhale all the air from your lungs through your mouth, then inhale through your nose while counting silently to 4. Then hold your breath until you count to 7. Then exhale all the air from your mouth for 8 counts and repeat. This technique is intended to put you to sleep within minutes.
--Patricia Celan, PatriciaCelan.com
As someone studying the effects of digital addiction, a common issue is that people check their phones right before bed. In some cases it's literally the last thing they do. One problem with this is the blue light that phones emit, and which throws our circadian rhythm out of kilter - thus making it difficult to sleep.
But even when you use various apps or built-in settings to reduce the blue light, you still have the issue that our phones (and in particular apps) are designed to hook us in. They keep our brains constantly switched on and connected. This is the opposite of what you want before bed.
So, my tip is to stop using your phone at least an hour before you go to sleep. The most effective way of forcing this is to charge your phone in a different room rather than beside your bed. This way, you'd have to get out of bed to check your phone before you sleep - and most people will find they'd rather keep their feet warm than check social media one last time.
--Joe Daniels, joe-daniels.com
Yoga - You might think that intense exercise before bed will tire you out and help sleep, but it can actually give you a burst of energy. So, instead of a full-blown workout practice, try doing some yoga stretches. This calms your breathing and encourages your body to physically relax before you hit the sheets.
--Claire Barber, Treeological
EDITORS NOTE: See also our piece on the benefits of yoga here.
One of the best things you can do to help your sleep is to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what time you go to sleep at night. We often think we should catch up on sleep over the weekend or if we have a bad night of sleep. But in fact, that can make insomnia worse by creating what's called social jetlag. It is important to keep your wake up time consistent and understand that you may be tired in the short term, but this will build up sleep drive and eventually allow you to fall asleep faster at night.
--Annie Miller, Annie Miller Therapy
Physical exercise is an important factor in our sleeping routine. When we exercise, our body produces cortisol, a hormone that is responsible for our wake state. Cortisol can interfere with melatonin, another hormone that our body produces, that is directly related to our sleeping patterns.
Exercising late in the evening can keep us awake longer because our body gets the impression that it should stay awake (cortisol is also associated with stress and our body’s response to it).
Exercising is an important factor contributing to good sleep, but the exercise is best done in the morning hours or early afternoon.
--Dr. Lina Velikova, Supplements101.net
One tip that I have come to learn is really important for me happens well before bedtime. In fact, it happens when I wake up. Most of the time when I have trouble going to sleep, it's because I have a million things whirring in my head that I feel like I left undone. So for me, the first 30 minutes of the day become very very important because that's when I plan what is most important to get done that day.
I can take a look at a long list of things that need to get done and then put them in priority of what most needs to get done to accomplish the goals of the day. I usually bucket them into a couple of categories like things that must be done today, things that must be done this week, things I'd like to do today and that everything else.
That way, I can get settled in my head of what must be done for me to feel like I've made the progress I wanted to make that day. From there, I look at my schedule and make sure that I've allocated enough time to get those things done. If not, then I either have to rearrange my schedule or take another look at my desired to do list.
While this process isn't perfect nor foolproof, it does give me a greater sense of control over my day. That way, at the end of the day I know that I've accomplish the things that I needed to and had time for. And that helps my mind rest so that my body can fall asleep.
--Noel Coleman, Doctor.com
Fatigue the eyelids. Look up and blink as fast as you can for 60-90 seconds. Near the end of the time you will start blinking slower no matter how hard you try. Your eyelids will want to stay closed to rest and it somehow through the bodies feedback loops makes you feel tired. It’s now the perfect time to pull the duvet up and drift off to sleep.
I decided to take 5 minutes every night and write down three things I was grateful for, regardless of how difficult my day had been. It took a few weeks to get firmly in the habit, and then I realized that this new practice was causing me to notice little sources of joy throughout my day.
I have found that taking just a few minutes each night to write in my gratitude journal helps me sleep much better at night. It ends the day on a positive note and makes me less likely to ruminate on my fears and worries. Not only do these gratitudes help me fall asleep faster, but they carry over into my dreams and let me sleep more soundly.
--Renee Ward, Catalyst Health Coaching
EDITORS NOTE: See our piece on the importance of practicing gratitude here.
My tips for better sleep include using a weighted blanket. Sometimes at night, our thoughts race and we experience high levels of stress worrying about the next day and whatnot. The pressure of the weighted blanket lowers our cortisol levels and can keep up from tossing and turning…which results in more restful sleep. Think of it like swaddling for newborns.
--Theresa Anna Melito-Conners, PhD, Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaretdrmcselfcare.com
Schedule worry time. Are you finding that once your head hits the pillow, all those worries start rushing in? It can help to schedule designated worry time during the day. Pick a time during the day each day when you can spend around 20 minutes just worrying. You can't do anything else during that time except worry. For example, say your scheduled worry time is 3PM. If your mind tries to worry anytime before 3PM, tell yourself, No. It has to wait until worry time and bring your mind back to focusing on whatever you're doing at that moment. If your mind tries to worry after your designated worry mind, tell yourself No. It has to wait until tomorrow's worry time. After worry time, it can be helpful to have an activity planned to distract you so that you can easily transition out of worrying. It also helps to schedule worry time earlier in the day so that it has less of a chance of bleeding into your sleep time. This gives you a designated time to worry so that you can be mindful of your worries and they don't distract you from other tasks that you need to do.
--Nikki Winchester, Cincinnati Center for DBT
I recommend sleeping naked. This is especially helpful if you have a hard time falling asleep quickly. One cause might be that your body temperature is too high—the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees. Sleeping naked can help regulate your internal temperature, keeping you cool under your sheet. It'll also prevent you from needing to take off layers in the middle of the night, which can cause sleep disturbances.
--Jessica Nouhavandi, Honeybee Health
My number one tip for sleeping better is to learn how to sleep in the most uncomfortable position of all: on your back. I was that guy who used to contort myself into various shapes all night long, I had a bunch of pillows I'd use to support myself, and I'd wake up feeling like I just went 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. Learning to sleep on my back was the best decision I ever made: I feel more well-rested in the mornings and I'm not in pain anymore. Plus, I don't get woken up by curses as I twist and turn to find the perfect position as there's only one option to choose from.
--Steve Thompson, Boot Mood Foot
It wasn’t until just recently that I started using a meditation app and noticed significantly improved sleep. I would have called someone a liar if they told me I would sleep better from day 1 but this was the truth. Now, I don’t know if that will be the case for everyone but it certainly was for me and it has been ongoing ever since. Considering how easy it is to start I would HIGHLY recommend anyone who is struggling with their sleep to give it a try. Lots of meditation apps offer free trials so it takes nothing but a 10 minute commitment to start. Those 10 minutes will be made up and then some quite possibly in the first night!
--Casidy Marks, SincerelyMarks.com
Our diet plays a larger role in the quality and quantity of our sleep than we realize.
Almonds and walnuts are simple and safe snacks that will also help you to fall asleep. They contain melatonin which is the chemical that will enable you to sleep soundly. Bananas also contain melatonin and are convenient because they are shelf stable and do not require refrigeration.
Avoid eating simple carbohydrates close to bed as this type of carb will reduce serotonin which is an essential chemical for sleep. Nutrition supplements are common and becoming very popular, but some have ingredients that may be impacting your sleep.
It should be obvious, but any supplement which contains caffeine should be avoided near bedtime to prevent sleep disturbances. These are primarily supplements used to improve performance and exercise intensity, but can also include any supplement being taken for weight loss. Check any of your supplements for this ingredient.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that works in just about every body system and is largely responsible for our energy levels. This ingredient in your supplements could be interfering with your sleep quality, however. To be on the safe side it is best to take it, or any supplement that contains B12, earlier in the day.
--Lisa Richards, The Candida Diet
It was an aromatherapy workshop when I first heard lavender oil help a night of good sleep. The instructor and an attendee mentioned it in conversation, saying that dropping two drops on the edge of the pillow would be enough for healthy sleep.
Of course, as a sleep enthusiast, I went in search of it and found out that it was a well-known aromatherapy method, and also stories were confirming it works.
After a while, in the middle of a stressful week, I began facing sleep problems. In light of my recent research, I decided to try the lavender oil, dropped two drops on the edge of my pillow just before I went to sleep, and ..., I don't remember what happened then. It was one of the best nights of sleep I have ever had. After that day, lavender oil became my savior when I go to bed at the end of those stressful days.
--Gunkut Zeybek, CraftForMe
Watch the sunset 15 minutes before hits horizon and 15 minutes after. Also looking at the sky before your screen when you wake up in the morning for the first 15 minutes you're awake. This sun training encourages proper timing of cortisol, one of our stress hormones. It also helps our body know when to start secreting melatonin (one of the hormones that helps us fall asleep).
--Dr. Shalini Bhat, The Movement Boutique
My tip for getting to sleep is to wear blue light blocking glasses after 9 pm at night, or even earlier if you can. Last year I interviewed a sleep expert who told me that any light after dark can cause trouble sleeping. Even light from the refrigerator! I’ve always considered myself an incurable night owl, but this expert said that in his opinion, there are no night owls, only people who are sensitive to the effects of artificial light at night. I bought a pair of inexpensive blue blocking glasses and started wearing them for a few hours at night. The first thing I noticed is that I feel more tired earlier in the evening. I’m used to not feeling tired even when I get into bed, so this was very unusual. I now fall asleep faster and almost always sleep through the night without waking up. Blue blocking glasses also allow me to watch television, work on my computer, and use my phone at night and still feel sleepy at a reasonable hour. In my experience, the earlier I start wearing blue blocking glasses, the more effective they are and the better I sleep. I think they also help to reduce eye strain. There are lots of reasonably-priced blue blocking glasses available online without a prescription. I like mine so much that I’ve ordered an extra pair of prescription glasses with blue blocking lenses so I can always protect myself from light and sleep better at night.
--Rose MacDowell, Sleepopolis
EDITORS NOTE: See our piece on the best blue light blocking glasses here.
It’s safe to say that sleep matters.
And like many things in life, the quality matters even more.
Think about the nights where you toss and turn versus the nights of cozy deep rejuvenating rest.
The difference is like a next day On/Off switch.
On one hand, you feel drained and exhausted, you experience brain fog, on the other hand, you get comments like did you cut your hair, you look younger, and you’re the life of the party, etc.
As the saying goes, look good, feel good.
A restless night once in a while is common, but having more restless nights compared to restful nights can lead to insomnia.
...and that’s an entirely different scenario.
My personal experience is that if my mind can’t slow down and sleep, my body follows.
A few things that have helped me over the years to combat restless nights are;
...I regularly use a formulation that incorporates both melatonin and CBD into one capsule.
These two compounds are a powerful one-two punch to insomnia.
CBD calms the mind and body, while the melatonin enhances your body’s naturally occurring melatonin to gently deepen your sleep level.
So you awake fully rested with enough energy to own the day.
--Joe Stone, Opulent Organics
Ensure your baby sleeps well, so you do.
A brand-new baby means a lot of things but a lack of sleep is often top of the list and can be a real killer. Making sure your baby sleeps well can make such a difference to your general well-being and mental health. But how?
Bedtime routine is the absolute key. It may take a little while for baby to get the hang of it but once they understand that dinner, bath time, story and milk mean sleep, they will soon follow suit and be ready to snooze all night. The idea is to do the same thing every night, no matter what!
Ensure the temperature in the room isn’t too warm. Whilst it may see them nodding off initially, it can often cause them to wake up later on in the night if they get too hot. Similarly, if the bedroom is too cold, they will end up shivering.
Finally, if baby is struggling to sleep, rest assured that this is just a phase and it will change.
--Tim Freed, Toddle About
Getting a good night’s sleep is not only important, but essential for your health, well-being and for your nightly dreaming process. One thing that has always helped me is to do some journaling prior to sleep which can be used as a two-fold practice. First, it helps you to get your thoughts out on paper so they are not swirling around in your head all night. Writing down your thoughts, emotions and concerns will help you to relax by giving them a place to be expressed. Second, it’s a great exercise if you are interested in starting a dreamwork practice which can also help with sleep. By journaling prior to sleep, you are giving your subconscious mind an opportunity to help you work out problems or challenges and allow new information to come to you through your dreams.
Find a notebook that you enjoy writing in and place it next to your bed at night. Right before laying down to sleep, spend five to ten minutes writing about your day. Make sure to include how you are feeling and any issues or decisions you may be faced with. Then, put your notebook away, close your eyes and let it all go by taking three deep breaths. This should assist you in getting a better night’s sleep. If you do have any dreams you remember, write them down in the present tense. You may even find that you have a solution or new idea that can help you right now.
--Bambi Corso, bambicorso.com
My tip for drifting off to sleep if you're struggling is to try a white or pink noise app, or to generate some kind of soothing background noise to help your mind defocus from the stresses of your day.
The key is to have something steady and constant that your mind can easily focus on without needing to concentrate too much of any particular detail. Whenever we are feeling stressed and have too much on our minds to sleep, these have really worked for us.
We experimented when our son was very small and was driving us to despair as he just refused to sleep and would cry for what felt like hours. We found that fhe background noise of a fan really helped him to calm himself and sleep well after months of struggling. In addition, having this sound played within an app for thirty minutes meant that it could be equally effective all year round.l and even when we were staying away from home.
Other sounds which seem to help our family drift off are heavy rainfall, waves lapping against a beach and a river flowing. All of these are available on sleep apps for next to no cost, so you don't have to hope for a rainy night just so you can get a decent night's sleep! Many sleep apps also let you set a period of time you would like the white or pink noise to play for, and then gradually fade the sound away so that your sleep isn't disturbed by a sudden end to the sound.
--James, You Have To Laugh
Routines are often overlooked; however, when it comes to sleep, getting into a routine is paramount to achieving some high-quality shut-eye.
As mentioned in a previous tip, waking up and going to bed at the same time is essential - this syncs up our body clock and makes us feel tired at the right times.
Now, more than ever, this has never been more important. With so many of us stuck at home as a result of COVID-19, perhaps stuck in a rut, bored, and lying in until afternoon, we're doing more bad than good for our sleep routine.
Chances are 10pm strikes, and you're lying there, switching sides and slowly becoming irritated as you simply cannot sleep.
Getting into a regular routine will prevent this - allowing you to achieve high-quality sleep each and every night.
--Matthew, RUNNING 101
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