I’ve always been a finicky sleeper. All the stars have to align just right for me to get a proper night of shut-eye. I’ve never been able to sleep on a friend’s couch, on an airplane, or in a car. Ironically, I’m one of those people who really needs a full 7-8 hours.
For those with similar struggles, I’d like to share my top 10 tips and tricks for getting the best possible sleep you can when outside circumstances are battling against you:
1) Cut Back on Alcohol
Whether you’re a regular drinker or are like me and just enjoy a couple of drinks once in a while, alcohol is harmful to restful sleep. Though people commonly report that drinking makes them feel sleepy or fall asleep faster, it actually reduces your REM sleep (rapid eye movement). Not only that, but it can suppress melatonin, which helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycles.
For me, drinking alcohol actually produces an effect similar to caffeine where I feel wired. Even 1 drink is enough to prevent a restful night.
You don’t need to ditch alcohol completely, but cutting back will absolutely make a difference.
2) Try Melatonin
I’ve found that taking it as a supplement on occasions when I’m foreseeing a restless night can be really helpful. I take 1.5 milligrams right before bedtime.
3) Listen to Your Food Cravings
If you’re feeling hungry right before bed, it really can be worth it to have a small snack. Lying in bed with a grumbling stomach will keep you mentally alert and make it more difficult to rest. Fun fact – Eating carbs specifically can boost serotonin and tryptophan. These brain chemicals are involved in the quality of your sleep, and having enough of them should help you fall asleep faster.
4) No Blue Light Before Bed
Blue light throws off your circadian rhythm and suppresses your production of melatonin. Luckily, this one is an easy fix! If you must be looking at a screen in the evening, turn your device to night mode, or get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses. They’re inexpensive and I guarantee they will help you sleep more restfully.
5) Avoid Late Night Work if Possible
While making your own work hours can be great, if you’re a night owl like me, you might find yourself working into the wee hours. The biggest downside to this is that you’re all fired up when you get into bed, likely still thinking about the work you were just doing. If you’re able to conclude your work earlier in the evening, it allows you to choose an activity like reading a book before bed that will help your mind to quiet down.
6) Cut Back on Late Night Water
Too much water right before bed will have you getting up for bathroom breaks all night. If it’s possible to cut back on your intake before bedtime, it can keep you asleep for longer stretches.
7) Keep it Cool
If you have control over your room temperature, keeping it cooler can actually help induce sleep more easily. You should be able to fall asleep quicker and have better quality sleep overall.
On the days when I’m sitting at a desk all day, I notice a major difference in my ability to fall asleep. I’m fidgety and restless. On days when I exercise, even if it’s something as simple as going for a walk, my nights are so much more restful.
9) No Caffeine Late in the Day
Did you know that caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours? I don’t consume much caffeine, but if you do, keep this in mind when you’re craving that afternoon coffee. I’ve even seen that, in myself and others, even eating a moderate amount of chocolate in the evening can cause poor sleep. So consider your desserts too!
10) Find Solutions to Quiet Your Mind
I am a classic over-thinker. Worrying, planning, and dwelling in bed at night is NOT good for sleep! If this rings a bell with you, try to focus on your breathing while falling asleep. It can help distract from whatever you’re preoccupied with.
These changes have made such a huge difference for me. Our bodies do so much important work while we’re asleep, so poor sleep is not something to be overlooked!