Ultimately, there are no real quick fixes for sleep. A routine of healthy sleep relies on consistency and moderation. That said, there are strategies you can employ to increase your chances of sleeping well tonight. The best ones deliver improvements to sleep in the short term and also fit well into a long-term sleep routine.
Get sunlight in the morning.
Exposure to morning light strengthens the body’s circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycle. Early light exposure delivers a boost to energy and alertness for the day, and increases readiness for sleep at night.
Eat a light snack.
Eating heavily in the evenings will interfere with nightly rest. But eating a light snack about one hour before bed can help you fall asleep more easily. Certain foods are conducive to sleep: dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, nuts and nut butters, fruits including bananas, cherries, and apples are all sleep-promoting. Avoid high-sugar foods and processed foods high in saturated fats. Keep pre-bedtime snacks light, no more than 200 calories.
Take a warm shower or bath.
Elevating body temperature within 90 minutes or so of bedtime heightens the natural drop in body temperature that occurs as the body prepares itself for sleep. A more pronounced drop in body temperature is likely to be accompanied by feelings of sleepiness and a faster transition to deep sleep. A warm shower or bath can also aid physical and mental relaxation, which in turn will help sleep.
Clear your mind.
Stress and worry are among the most common obstacles to falling asleep and sleeping well. To quiet a worried or racing mind, try writing down your thoughts before bed. Keep a “Worry Journal” by the bedside. Even if you don’t engage in the practice routinely, jotting down your anxious thoughts — or your to-do list for the next day — can have an immediate impact on your ability to sleep.
Try “not trying” to fall asleep.
On nights when you just can’t seem to make sleep happen, it’s often best to stop trying. A technique known as paradoxical intention involves actually switching your focus from trying to fall asleep to trying to remain awake. Focusing on staying awake takes away the anxiety that builds as a result of unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep. Switch your focus to staying awake and you’re likely to drift off more quickly and easily than you think possible.
Adopt a consistent sleep schedule.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time is the cornerstone of a healthy sleep routine. This strategy won’t deliver instant improvements to sleep, but it is the single most important sleep strategy there is. A regular sleep schedule reinforces circadian rhythms, strengthens sleep-wake cycles, and trains your mind and body to be prepared for sleep and waking. A consistent sleep schedule also helps you to get enough sleep on a regular basis, and avoid a chronic or significant sleep debt.
These are some of the most effective strategies for sleep. Avoid ones that require unsustainable changes to your pattern of nightly rest, or restrict sleep to fewer than the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended 7-9 hours of nightly rest.
Man taking a bath photo available from Shutterstock