No one needs to tell you that when you don’t sleep enough, or don’t sleep well, your productivity and health both suffer. You need a minimum of seven hours of good quality sleep to feel rested and alert. (Eight or nine is even better.) And too little sleep can also leave you with headaches, mood swings, and lowered immunity. Here’s what to do to sleep soundly every night.
1. Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day, even on weekends.
2. Nap sparingly. If you need to nap, keep your snoozes short (under 20 minutes is best) and nap at least four hours before you plan to go to bed.
3. Keep it for sleep. Try not to use your bedroom for work or any other activity other than sleeping and sex. This means keeping the TV, exercise equipment, craft supplies and computer in the other room.
4. Time your hydration. Do your hydration early in the day, and don’t drink liquids after dinner. This way you’ll avoid waking up to go to the bathroom during the night.
5. Say no to stimulants. If you have trouble sleepng, you probably already know to avoid caffeine after mid-day. But alcohol and tobacco can also keep you awake.
6. Read medication labels. Check your medications to make sure insomnia and sleep problems aren’t known side effects. If they are, take those medications early in the day.
7. Work it on out. Exercise for 30 to 60 minutes at least three times a week. But since exercise revs you up and can make it harder to sleep, schedule your workouts for at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
8. Settle down slowly. If you don’t fall asleep the minute your head fits the proverbial pillow, do something to put your mind at rest. Read, listen to music, take a warm bath, or use a guided meditation podcast to soothe you to sleep.
9. Ban the screens. Turn off your smart phone, leave your computer in the other room, and stop surfing or watching TV at least an hour before bedtime. Otherwise the light from the screens tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight and time to be alert and awake.
10. Skip the snacks. Don’t eat in the last hour or two before bedtime, and if you can have your last food earlier than that, so much the better.
11. Lessen the light. Even the smallest glow, whether from a clock or a streetlight, can catch your eye and keep you awake. Use blackout curtains or shades to block outside light, and get rid of or cover up all extraneous light sources in the room.
12. Keep it quiet. Make sure your bedroom is as soundproof as possible and if all else fails, wear earplugs.
13. Check the temp. Most people sleep better in a cool room than a stuffy one, and if you’re a menopausal woman, a cooling breeze is absolutely essential. That said, being too cold can also impair sleep, particularly when you wake up in the middle of the night. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the ideal range is between 60 and 68 degrees.
14. Say no to stress. In the hour before bedtime, avoid paying bills, checking email, or doing other tasks that up the worry factor. And save the difficult conversations for breakfast.
15. Comfort is king. Choose soft fabrics for sleeping and avoid anything that pokes or constricts. And if you wake with back or neck pain, check your mattress for sag. Experiment with pillows of different thickness and firmness to find the one that’s right for you.
For more on healthy sleep, see these sleep tips from Kaiser Permanente expert Lisa Chui, MD.