The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people aged 18–60 years get 7 or more hours of sleep each night. However, 7–19% of adults in the United States are not getting enough sleep, according to survey results, while an estimated 50–70 million people have an ongoing sleep disorder.
Chronic sleep deficiency can increase a person’s risk of certain health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes. Tiredness can increase the likelihood of injuries, for example, due to drowsy driving or operating heavy machinery without full concentration.
In this article, we look at some tips and home remedies for getting a better night’s sleep. We also cover when to see a doctor.
Regular exercise offers many health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased muscle tone, and better weight control.
Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes during the day can help a person sleep better.
However, people should avoid strenuous physical activity 2–3 hours before going to bed, as this may have the opposite effect.
Get a new mattress
If a mattress is old or not a good fit for a person, it can lead to sleep issues. According to the National Sleep Foundation, good-quality mattresses tend to last for about 9 or 10 years.
When purchasing a new mattress, it is important to choose one that is both comfortable and supportive.
Limit alcohol at night
Although alcohol has a sedative effect that can help a person get to sleep, it can also disrupt sleep patterns and increase the likelihood of a person waking up in the middle of the night.
Drinking alcohol before bed may also increase the risk of snoring and sleep apnea.
Maintain a regular bedtime
The human body has a natural sleep-wake cycle. Sleeping and waking up at varying times on different days of the week can disrupt this cycle, which may lead to sleep issues.
Where possible, people should try to stick to regular bedtimes and wake up times, including at weekends.
Make the bedroom sleep-friendly
It is important to make the bedroom a comfortable environment for sleeping. A person can do this by:
- keeping the temperature cool, ideally between 60°F and 70°F
- removing devices that emit noise or light
- using blackout curtains to ensure that the room is dark enough
Take time to wind down
Unwinding before going to bed can help a person get a better night’s sleep. Relaxing activities can include:
- practicing meditation or gentle yoga
- reading a book
- taking a hot bath or shower
- listening to music
Avoiding the use of screens, such as televisions, phones, and tablets, before bed can also make it easier for a person to relax their mind.
Avoid large meals before bedtime
Eating large or overly spicy meals in the hours before bed may cause indigestion that disrupts a person’s sleep. People should generally try to avoid eating heavy meals a couple of hours before bedtime. If they are hungry during this period, they can eat a light snack instead.
Avoid large beverages at night
Drinking too much liquid before bed can affect sleep duration and quality. When people drink too many fluids, this can cause them to wake up several times during the night to urinate.
People who find it hard to get to sleep at night should try to avoid daytime napping, as this can make falling asleep at night more difficult. If a person does need to nap, it is best to limit the nap to less than 1 hour and avoid napping after 3 p.m.
Use the bedroom only for sleeping
A person should only use the bedroom for sleeping.
Creating a strong association between the bedroom and sleeping can also help people get better sleep. Doing this involves:
- using the bedroom only for sleeping and sexual activities
- avoiding using the bedroom for work, hobbies, or exercising
- keeping the bedroom free of electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, and phones
- encouraging children not to play in their bedroom
Avoid caffeine in the evening
Caffeine is a stimulant that can help improve a person’s energy levels and focus. However, when people consume caffeine in the evening, this can make it more difficult to fall asleep and may also affect sleep quality.
The results of a small 2013 study suggest that consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime can negatively affect a person’s quality of sleep.
Consider taking melatonin supplements
Melatonin is a hormone that plays an essential role in regulating a person’s sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is available as a dietary supplement, and many people take it to treat insomnia, jet lag, and other sleep issues.
Some studies suggest that melatonin can help children with sleep disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) get to sleep more quickly.
Melatonin supplements are available in health stores, and a person can also purchase them online. However, it is advisable to speak with a doctor before taking melatonin or giving it to a child.
Avoid tossing and turning
If a person is having trouble falling asleep at night, they should try to avoid tossing and turning. Instead, it can help to leave the bedroom and do something relaxing for a while before returning to bed.
When to see a doctor
People who are still having sleeping difficulties after trying to improve their sleep habits should seek medical advice. A doctor can assess a person for sleep disorders and other conditions that can affect sleep. They can also advise on possible treatment options.
Getting enough sleep can improve a person’s energy levels, performance, safety, and overall health. Practicing good sleep hygiene and making certain lifestyle changes can help people get a better night’s sleep.
People who continue to have sleeping difficulties after trying to improve their sleep habits should speak to a doctor.