How to get better sleep
Sleep crucial for everyone to live their best life, and yet many of us aren’t doing it well. Stress, technology, environment and other factors can ruin a night of sleep, leaving you feeling exhausted when you wake up, even if you got 8 hours.
We’ve rounded up our best sleep tips right here to help get a better night’s rest.
Avoid artificial light before bed
A lot of us like to relax at night by scrolling through Instagram or watching Netflix til our eyes shut from exhaustion, but this isn’t helping our rest at all. Blue light from screens messes with our circadian rhythm by suppressing our melatonin secretion. In short, this means we don’t fall asleep when we should and we don’t get enough rest.
Set a limit that you won’t look at any screens one hour before bedtime — instead, wind down by reading a book or taking a hot bath. You may even want to invest in a cheap alarm clock to use so that you can leave your phone out of the room at night.
Set the correct temperature in your bedroom
One of my absolute least favorite things in life is waking up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat. It’s gross and leads to a fitful night’s rest — plus, I feel weird if I don’t wash the sheets the next day.
If you’ve ever gotten in a fight with a partner about what temperature to set the bedroom at, you now have a scientific study to back you up — researchers say that the best sleep happens in a room that’s between 60 to 67 degrees F. You can also get some lighter blankets or use a ceiling fan if it’s not feasible to turn the thermostat that low.
Get the right mattress
Mattresses are a big investment, but if you have the financial bandwidth it’s a great place to put your money. The right mattress can mean the difference between spotty sleep that leaves you with an aching back, or a sound night’s rest.
Skip the haggling with a mattress salesperson and go the online purchasing route. It’s way cheaper, and most brands will let you test the mattress out for a few months with a full refund if it doesn’t work for you. Check out CNET’s buying guide and the top brands in 2020.
Pillows are important, too!
Besides a good mattress, make sure you’re using the best pillows too. Here’s a helpful list of exactly what pillows to buy depending on your personal priorities — there’s options for warm sleepers, sleepers with sore necks and everything else you can think of.
Relax before bed
It’s not a good idea to go straight from your work day into your bed — a calming bedtime routine is necessary for a lot of people to ensure a good night’s rest. A stress-relieving evening routine will help you fall asleep faster and get more deep sleep.
Some key points to incorporate into your nighttime routine are to make a to-do list for the next day right when you get home, stop drinking caffeine four hours before bedtime and eat your final meal two hours before bedtime
Find a comfortable sleeping position
It may seem like a trivial thing, but the right sleeping position can make or break your night. If you snore, you’ll want to sleep on your side.
Sleep on your back if you have acid reflux, but be sure to avoid the belly-up position if you have sleep apnea or lower back pain. For more information, read this guide.
Don’t sleep in
Sleeping in on the weekend is amazing, but it may be screwing up your rest on the other nights of the week. It can throw your circadian rhythm off, making it harder to get to bed at a reasonable time on Sunday night. Sleeping in also doesn’t reverse the damage of chronic sleep deprivation.
Instead, set a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it — don’t vary your weekend wake-up time by more than an hour from weekdays. If you really want to catch some extra ZZZs, simply go to bed a little bit earlier.
Consider a sunlight alarm
Do you struggle to get out of bed and feel like a zombie in the morning? A sunlight alarm may be the cure to your woes. The light exposure it emits is a zeitgeber, a fun word to say that means an environmental cue that affects our natural internal clocks. When you wake up to light, it signals to your body that it’s time to get up and get moving. Hence, you feel better and more awake.
Figure out any food intolerances
Your diet plays a surprisingly big role in your sleep quality. If you eat too many carbs and simple sugars, your blood sugar will vary widely throughout the day. It may spike and fall at night, leading to restless sleep.
If you feel like you don’t eat many processed foods, but wake up in the middle of the night with stomach issues or feeling hungry, it may be worth contacting your health care provider for a food intolerance test. You may be intolerant to foods that sound healthy, like fruit or corn.
Work with your circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that helps your body function, adapt and know when to sleep. To some extent it’s out of your control (for example, I’ll never be a night owl) but you can use environment and light to regulate your biological clock. When your circadian rhythm is out of whack, you’ll have trouble falling asleep and feel tired at strange times of the day.
If you think your circadian rhythm is off, there’s several things you can do — keep a consistent sleep and wake up time, get light in the morning and avoid blue light at night.
Don’t overdo the coffee
You don’t have to forgo caffeine completely, but it’s not a good idea to drink coffee or caffeinated tea close to bed. A good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine after 3 p.m., though this guideline is different for everyone. Personally, I try to stop my caffeine intake at noon.
When you’re craving a cup of coffee or black tea but it’s already dinnertime, make a hot cup of herbal tea or a tumeric latte. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Cut back on the nightcaps
It sometimes feels like alcohol helps you sleep well at night, but that’s not really the case. A or two of wine may assist you in falling asleep, but it makes you wake up more often throughout the night or have disrupted sleep patterns.
If you’re serious about sleeping better, don’t make a nightcap a daily habit — the sleep deprivation will catch up to you in the long run.
Use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea
Twenty two million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to momentarily stop breathing while you’re asleep. If you snore loudly or make a choking sound while you sleep, you may have sleep apnea. People who have the sleep disorder also report feeling groggy and tired, even after what felt like a sound night’s sleep.
If you suspect you or a loved one has sleep apnea, seek medical attention — the long term oxygen deprivation can cause serious health complications. Your doctor will likely prescribe a CPAP machine, which will help you breathe well and sleep soundly at night.
Don’t force yourself to wake up early
Some things just aren’t meant to be — if you’ve never been a morning person, it’s actually counterproductive to force yourself to get up with the sun. To get the best sleep possible, you should follow your internal circadian rhythm and sleep at what times feel most natural to you.
Of course, we all have to modify our wake up time — you may feel best sleeping in till noon, but I doubt your boss would be happy with that. The key is to fit your sleep timing to your circadian rhythm as best as possible. This may mean moving your morning workouts to after work so you can sleep an hour later, or meal prepping breakfast to save on morning cooking time.
Work out earlier in the day
This one is a bit of a personalized recommendation. Though popular advice warns against working out too close to bedtime, current research suggests that nighttime exercise may not hurt sleep quality (provided it’s not too vigorous) and can even help some people fall asleep faster.
If you usually do a hard workout at night and are having trouble sleeping, try shifting it earlier in the day to see if that helps. If you workout at night and sleep great, then keep on keeping on.
Eat dinner a few hours before bedtime
If you find that heartburn or digestive troubles are keeping you up at night, try keeping a food journal for a few weeks. Record what you eat throughout the day and at what times — it’ll help you identify any problem foods. For example, if you had heartburn after eating a spicy dinner, you’ll know to avoid the hot sauce at your next evening meal.
Put down the e-cigarettes
Smoking cigarettes or vaping can help people relax before bed, but it can also hinder your rest. Nicotine is a stimulant, so it disrupts your circadian rhythm and makes your body feel more alert throughout the night.
Front load your water intake
You should never intentionally drink less water — but feeling dehydrated at the end of the day and chugging a bunch of liquids can disrupt your sleep, leading to several nighttime bathroom visits.
Alcohol and caffeine may be causing your nighttime urination — both are diuretics, meaning they make your body lose more water. This sleep disturbance could be also stemming from diuretic medication you’re taking, like the ones used to treat blood pressure.
Finally, nighttime urination can also be a symptom of a UTI or diabetes. If cutting down on fluid intake doesn’t help with your problem, you may want to take a trip to the doctor to rule out these problems.
Manage your mental health
For people who suffer from both anxiety and sleep disturbances, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be effective at treating both. Nutritional and herbal supplements are also suggested to be helpful in treating anxiety disorders. You can also try other methods of relaxation, like meditation, exercise, and finding time for meaningful hobbies.
Track your sleep with wearables
CNET surveyed over 1,000 readers to learn more about their sleep habits, and whether they used a sleep tracker. Two thirds of people reported that they slept better and had higher energy levels after consistently tracking their sleep.
There are three main ways to track your sleep — using your phone, a fitness tracker or a smart bed. If cost is an issue, try out our favorite sleep tracking apps: SleepScore (Android and iOS), Sleep Cycle (Android and iOS) and Sleep Time (Android and iOS). If you own a Fitbit, Apple Watch or Motiv Ring you already have built in sleep tracking. Check out your manufacturer’s guide on how to use it.
Or use a smart bed
Take short naps in the afternoon
If you nap correctly, it doesn’t have to throw off your sleep later that night. In fact, naps done right can be a great supplement to a night of lost sleep.
To make sure you’re not lying wide awake the night after an afternoon nap, follow these do’s and don’ts. You should nap in the early afternoon, optimize your napping environment and keep naps between 10 to 20 minutes. Don’t replace your nap with caffeine, feel guilty about napping or sandwich your nap with screen time.
Dim the lights in the evening
This tip is an easy one to implement — all you have to do is turn down the lights in the evening. Light affects your circadian rhythm, and when you’re exposed to too much bright light at night time it signals to your body that it’s not time to go to sleep yet. Lowering the lights can make a big difference in helping you fall and stay asleep.
If you don’t have dimmable lights, don’t fret — CNET has a ton of DIY options and there are many products you can buy to dim your LED lights.
Use background noise
If every little noise keeps you from falling asleep, it may be time to invest in a background noise machine. Background noise helps by filling your room with a constant sound — this works because it’s not the actual noise that wakes us up, but the harsh changes in sound.
You’ve probably heard of white noise, but that’s not the only kind of background noise. There’s also pink, blue and brown — check out this guide to see which one may work best for you, and what products will produce it.
Take a sleep aid for the occasional bad night
Over the counter sleep aids should only be used if you’ve exhausted all your other options — before resorting to a sleep supplement, make sure you’re not taking long afternoon naps, cutting out caffeine intake later in the day, keeping a consistent wake-up time and practicing other good sleep hygiene measures.
However, if you’re dealing with jet lag or a temporary stressor, a sleep aid can be a quick fix to your sleep troubles. Just don’t use them night after night, and make sure to follow the product directions.
Use a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets are known for helping calm children on the autism spectrum, but they can also help adults manage anxiety, stress and restless leg syndrome — three things that can definitely keep you up at night. Weighted blankets also promote the production of serotonin, which combats insomnia.
Weighted blankets come in all different types, so check out this guide to the most important factors to keep in mind when purchasing one. Once you’ve made a decision, check out CNET’s favorite brands, or this guide to making your own if you’re feeling DIY.
Get your partner (or you) to stop snoring
If you share a bed with someone who snores, you know how irritating it can be. Luckily, all hope is not lost — there’s several products on the market that may help them (or you) stop snoring.
Before you turn to one of these devices, it’s a good idea to figure out why you’re snoring. Causes include sleep apnea, sinus issues, respiratory problems, sleeping position, allergies, weight, alcohol and more.
But, if you’ve ruled out any underlying medical issues and want to try something else, check out these eight products. There’s non-invasive options, solutions for people who sleep on their back and everything else you could think of.