Good sleep habits

In a previous blog, we discussed how effective certain natural sleep aids are for helping you fall and stay asleep. We also mentioned that whether you use sleep aids or not, it helps to develop good sleep habits. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7–9 hours of nightly sleep if you’re 18–64 years old, and 7–8 if you’re over 65.1 So here are our top 20 favorite habits for hitting your sleep target in one easy-to-read list:

Preparing your body for sleep

1. Pick times that you should wake up and go to bed at each day, and stick to that schedule – even on your days off.

2. Try to finish eating at least 2 hours before bedtime, and avoid heavy meals at night.

3. Exercise daily, but nothing too strenuous within 2 hours of bedtime.

4. Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.

5. Quit smoking. In addition to the well-known benefits of doing so, you’ll also sleep better without the stimulating effects of nicotine.

6. Eat foods rich in calcium and tryptophan, which combine to help your body produce more melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.2

7. Eat foods rich in magnesium, which can help you stay asleep.2

8. While you should hydrate throughout the day, be sure not to drink too many fluids before bed to avoid bathroom trips during the night.

9. Refuse the nightcap. While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it can delay your REM sleep and reduce the amount of it you get that night.3

10. Remind yourself it’s time for bed – set a bedtime alarm.

11. Go to bed when you’re tired! Many of us “sleep procrastinate” on nights we could get a full 8 hours’ sleep.4

12. If you’re stressed out at bedtime, try a breathing exercise or jotting down your thoughts before closing your eyes.

13. Women need 20–30 more minutes of sleep each night than men, so plan to fall asleep earlier or wake up later than your male bedmate.5

Preparing your room

14. Turn off all electronics at least 1 hour before bed. Their “blue light” can reduce your sleep-inducing melatonin. And be sure to watch TV and do work in another room. The bedroom should be reserved for intimacy and sleep.

15. Set your room temperature to roughly 64⁰F (18⁰C).6

16. Keep pets out of your room to minimize the movements and noise that could disrupt your sleep.

17. Use a white noise sound machine to help you relax and fall asleep faster

18. If you can’t sleep, staring at your clock can increase stress, making it harder to doze off.

Key purchases

19. Make sure your mattress is comfortable, and plan to replace it every 5 to 10 years.7

20. Replace your pillows every 12 to 18 months to avoid getting dust mites, which can cause allergic reactions that disrupt your sleep.8

BONUS: Don’t accept daytime fatigue. If you’re constantly tired during the day, talk to your doctor. Your fatigue could be the result of sleep apnea or other treatable sleep disorders.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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