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How to Sleep Better: 7 Things That Can Really Mess With Your Sleep

A single bad night’s sleep can disrupt your energy and mood the next day. But a pattern of poor sleep can start to take a toll on your life. At times, everyone has bouts of restlessness at night and could use some tips on how to sleep better. A few minor adjustments can be your ticket to a dreamy night’s sleep. Here are the most common causes of sleep deprivation.

girls waking up from a great nights sleep.

7 Things that Can Really Mess with Your Sleep

  1. Consuming Caffeine in the Evening
  2. Smoking Before Bed
  3. Charging Electronics in Your Bedroom
  4. Taking Medications and Supplements
  5. Reading Stimulating Content Before Sleep
  6. Being Too Warm
  7. Eating or Drinking at Night

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Your personal needs may vary, but you should always make sleep a top priority. Don’t let bad sleep habits stand in the way of a great night’s sleep.

If you find you’re not sleeping well, all is not lost. You can learn how to sleep better. Eliminating factors that disrupt sleep should be your first step. You can also take positive steps to promote better sleep. But if all your efforts fail, don’t hesitate to talk to a specialist about your sleep problems.

Consuming Caffeine in the Evening

coffee beans in a line together

Many of us start our mornings with a cup of coffee or tea. We all know that a little caffeine can provide a pick-me-up when our energy sags. And a warm beverage can feel calming and soothing.

Although a cup of coffee after dinner can seem appealing, be mindful of caffeine. If you consume a caffeinated beverage in the evening, your sleep can suffer. Remember that cold drinks like sodas and iced teas can contain caffeine, too.

Want to indulge in a favorite beverage and fall asleep easily? Try something decaffeinated. Many decaf coffees are very appealing, and herbal teas can be a delight. Some teas containing chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, or valerian root can actually help you fall asleep.

Smoking Before Bed

Smoking can lead to many poor health outcomes—and it can also disrupt your sleep. Never forget that nicotine is a stimulant. If you smoke within two hours before bed, you’re likely to have issues falling asleep.

Over time, the stimulating qualities of nicotine can disrupt a smoker’s sleep patterns. Smoking changes your circadian rhythm, which is your internal clock that affects your sleep-wake cycle. Many smokers suffer from insomnia.

Do you smoke and want to know how to sleep better? Cutting back or stopping smoking entirely may be the key to more restful nights.

Charging Electronics in Your Bedroom

man using phone while laying in bed.

Today, smartphones are necessities for most people. But far too many people bring their electronic devices into their bedrooms. Using electronics before bed can short-circuit your internal clock and suppress the release of melatonin.

Why does this happen? Most devices emit blue light. Although blue light is beneficial during the day, it’s disruptive to us at night. If you use a white noise machine, make sure it doesn’t emit any light.

You’ve likely already heard about the connection between poor sleep and electronics. You may even be patting yourself on the back for curbing the urge to check social media or send emails before bed. But you should know that charging your device on your nightstand can also mess with your sleep.

Even the small indicator light that shows your device is charging can disturb your sleep. If those lights are blue, they can cause even more problems. Your best bet: Charge your devices during the day or in another room away from your sleep space.

Taking Medications and Supplements

man laying on bed with medications on his nightstand

Do you take prescriptions or supplements every day? You may prefer to take them in the evenings, but you could be harming your sleep. Certain medications, like steroids and some B vitamins, can cause sleep disruptions. Of course, other medicines may have a sleep-inducing effect. Always check with your health care provider to find out the best time to take meds or vitamins every day.

Also, be careful with sleep supplements, including melatonin. Often, you’ll develop a tolerance for these substances and need to take more and more. Over time, you may find that a sleep aid no longer works for you. Instead of inducing sleep, it can actually keep you awake. Avoid this problem by taking the smallest dose possible and using sleep supplements sparingly. Don’t rely on them to fall asleep every night.

Reading Stimulating Content Before Bed

Keeping a book on the nightstand is a tradition for many people. But research has shown that not all bedtime books are created equal. Some books may make it hard to fall asleep. The reason? They may be intellectually demanding and activate your brain instead of allowing it to rest. Books that excite you or bring up strong emotions can diminish sleep quality.

This fact doesn’t mean you need to entirely give up reading before bed. Instead, choose your reading material with care. Save the adventure novels and tear-jerker romances for daytime reading. Choose lighter topics at night.

Being Too Warm

man laying in bed hot

It’s possible to be too cozy at night. If you snuggle under layers of blankets and cuddle with a partner, or have a memory foam mattress, it’s easy to get too hot. And this can disrupt sleep.

What’s the answer? Shed some blankets and skip the heavyweight PJs. Better yet, choose a cool and comfortable mattress like Purple. You can also lower your thermostat at night and save some cash during the winter months. Keep in mind that most adults have an ideal sleep temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

But don’t stray too far in the other direction. Being too cold can disrupt your sleep as well. Aim for the sleep temperature sweet spot and enjoy more Zzzs.

Eating and Drinking at Night

We all love an occasional bedtime snack or nightcap. In fact, some foods can help you sleep. Nutrition researchers suggest that a small snack of fewer than 150 calories before bed can be beneficial. But you should know that eating and drinking too much before bedtime can be a recipe for poor sleep.

Most nutritionists recommend that you should avoid eating for at least two to three hours before bedtime. This window gives time for your food to digest properly.

Why is this important? Lying down can cause reflux and heartburn, especially if you’ve consumed spicy or acidic foods. Consuming food can signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, so it’s hard to get a night’s rest.

Drinking before bed can also make you need to get up and head into the bathroom. You may find it difficult to go back to sleep. A small cup of tea is likely fine, but don’t overdo it. The worst thing you can drink before bed is alcohol — which prevents you from getting the deep sleep (REM sleep) we all need.

What Other Things Can I Do to Sleep Better?

Eliminating bad sleep habits is a great place to start. But there are many things you can do to promote a good night’s rest. Here are a few tips for anyone who wants to learn how to fall asleep faster.

Establish a Sleep Routine

example of a sleep routine

Consistency is essential for sleep. You should aim to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day—even on weekends. This sleep schedule will help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and help you fall and stay asleep.

Practicing bedtime rituals can signal your brain and body that it’s time to sleep. Pick a sleep time when you’ll turn in and start your ritual 30-minutes earlier. Try things like a warm bath, a cup of relaxing tea, meditation, and journaling. Be sure to stay away from screens and gadgets for at least 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime.

Use Quality Mattresses, Pillows, and Bedding

Your mattress has a significant impact on how well you should sleep. First, consider whether you need a new mattress. Many commercial mattresses have a life expectancy of about 7-10 years.

When it’s time for an update, choose a supportive, comfortable mattress. The right mattress provides immersive comfort while supporting your back and hips. If you have any issues with allergies, choose a hypoallergenic mattress to safeguard against allergens.

Pillows and bedding matter, too. Always choose a pillow that adapts to your head and neck for maximum comfort. Make sure your pillows are soft, yet able to retain their structure over time.

If you’re frequently tossing and turning at night or suffering from anxiety, select a weighted blanket. Studies have shown that weighted blankets can promote relaxation and support the release of sleep-inducing serotonin.

How to Sleep Better and Enjoy a Better Quality of Life

A good night’s sleep is essential for your health and well-being. Think about how you feel after even one night of poor sleep. Your energy is low, your focus isn’t as sharp, and you likely drag through your day.

While a day or two of missed sleep is an inconvenience, over time, sleep deprivation can increase your risk of serious issues — including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. As you build up this “sleep debt,” you can harm your emotional health and become more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Man tired drinking a cup of coffee wanting to sleep better

The Good News

The good news is that you can learn how to sleep better. If you’re struggling to sleep, start with some lifestyle changes. Avoid caffeine in the evenings and reduce or quit smoking—especially at night. Stay away from electronics for at least an hour before bed. And keep them out of your bedroom. Even the tiniest charging light can diminish melatonin production and prevent you from getting a good night’s rest.

Take a close look at any medications or supplements you take. Some can be stimulating and make it harder to fall asleep. And watch what you read before bed. Content that is too intellectually demanding or that evokes strong emotions can impair your sleep. Also, consider the temperature of your sleep environment and be mindful of what you eat and drink near bedtime.

Practice Makes Perfect

Often, establishing a sleep routine is very helpful. You can practice good sleep hygiene during the day by exercising, avoiding naps, and making sure you get adequate natural light. Be sure to invest in a premium quality mattress, pillows, and bedding.

Supportive mattresses and pillows that adapt to your body are always your best bet. Look for positive, verified mattress reviews to ensure you choose a quality product. Make sure your bed covers are appropriate for the season and choose a weighted blanket if you need help relaxing at night.

Your health care provider may be able to help you learn how to sleep better, too. Remember that issues like sleep apnea often require medical treatment. If you’ve tried everything and still don’t rest well at night, sleep experts may be able to conduct a sleep study and give you personalized advice.

Although these tips work well for most people, every person is different. Don’t let wakeful nights stand in the way of a healthy life. Educate yourself on how to get better sleep, make wise lifestyle choices, and say “good night” to sleep issues.