Falling asleep—and staying asleep—should be so simple, but it’s somehow managed to become one of the biggest challenges we deal with on a day-to-day basis. We’re able to clock into work on time, get shit done, avoid desk-bound muscle atrophy by hitting the gym (or a barre class) every day, catch dinner and drinks with friends before we head home at night, and then … lie in bed staring at the ceiling until we either drift off into fitful sleep or answer the glowing blue call of the idle iPhone. Not cool.
It’s no secret that most modern women struggle with getting enough proper sleep; the good news is that all that awareness means we know better than ever what needs to be done to make getting a good night’s sleep just a little bit easier. These 30 ways of getting better sleep may not work for everyone, but hey, there’s gotta be a winner somewhere in there.
1. Don’t exercise right before you plan on going to bed. While good fitness habits can indeed help you fall asleep easier and sleep better, exercising before bed stimulates the body and raises its temperature, which it associates with wakefulness.
2. Make over your bedroom decor: Rooms decorated in light, cool colors like muted blues, greens, and grays have been found to be more soothing than those with warm red, yellow, or orange color schemes.
3. Try Dr. Andrew Weill’s “4-7-8 breathing technique,” which is said to act like a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. First, place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth (and keep it there throughout the entire breathing technique). Breathe out forcefully to make an audible “whoosh” sound. Close your mouth and count to four while inhaling through your nose, softly this time. Hold your breath while counting to seven. Breathe out forcibly again through your mouth in one long breath, making that “whoosh” sound again for eight seconds. Then, repeat the cycle three times to make a total of four breaths.
4. Ditch the coffee once you’ve made it to the afternoon. Caffeine stays in your system for about eight hours, so a cup at even 2 or 3 p.m. is overdoing it.
5. Shut off your computer, TV, iPhone, and iPad at least an hour before sleep. The blue light that emits from these devices is seriously disruptive to your circadian rhythm.
6. Snack on almonds during the day. The high magnesium promotes sleep and muscle relaxation, while the proteins stabilize blood sugar to help you sleep more soundly.
7. A good set of blinds and thick, dark curtains will keep the light out, so you won’t be kept awake by the glow of the supermarket sign across the street.
8. Eliminate clutter—your environment really does impact the quality of your sleep. Invest in cabinets, drawers, and storage to keep things looking (some semblance of) tidy.
9. If you’re bothered by things that go bump in the night, plush rugs and cushions will help to muffle the sound of creaking floorboards—though they won’t do anything about your noisy neighbors.
10. Ditch the clock in your bedroom. Even if you’re not consciously seeing it as a light source, the glow can pass through your closed eyes and head straight for the part of your brain that controls sleep, delaying the release of sleep-promoting melatonin.
11. Don’t get stuck with the same mattress. For the best sleep, replace it every seven or eight years.
12. If you can’t stop thinking about something, write it down. It’ll help you let the worry go so you can move the hell on and finally get to sleep.
13. Aside from smart snacking, stop eating at least three hours before bed—your crashing blood sugar will get in the way of quality sleep.
14. Set an actual bedtime for yourself. Creating a schedule regulates your body and brain, and it’s even been linked to maintaining lower levels of body fat.
15. We love our pets as much as the next person, but if you’re letting yours share a bed with you, it’s possible that their nighttime snoring, scratching, or constant movement could be preventing you from sleeping soundly. If you think it’s a possibility, try locking them out for a few nights—and if you find it doesn’t make a difference to your sleep quality, go ahead and let ’em back in.
16. Avoid long afternoon naps—short, well-timed naps can be a great way to redeem yourself for lost sleep, but if your naps are too long or too frequent, they can actually make things worse.
17. Eat jasmine rice with dinner. It has a high glycemic index, which helps to trigger insulin to create a higher level of tryptophan in the blood to aid sleep.
18. That nightcap may not be doing you any favors: Alcohol may be a depressant, but it contributes to restlessness, which means that while it might make you drowsy, you’re way more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
19. Crack a window to keep air circulating throughout your room. A nice breeze will keep the area fresh and airy, so you’ll be way more comfortable.
20. Avoid sleeping in too much—yes, even on weekends or the morning after a late night. Even so much as a couple hours’ difference in waking time disrupts your internal clock, and the more your weekend and weekday sleep schedules differ, the more you’ll feel tired throughout the day.
21. If you get up in the middle of the night to pee and find yourself unable to get back to sleep after, try avoiding liquids for at least two hours before you head to bed. You won’t be as likely to wake up, so you won’t have to deal with the struggle when you get back under the covers.
22. Steer clear of big meals at night, so that you’re not hitting the sack full of rich, fatty foods that require a lot of work for your body to fully digest. They’ll overload your digestive system, and you’ll wake up in the night feeling sick, not satiated.
23. Give your body the opportunity to wind down by spending your last hour before bed doing something that helps you to slow your roll, like reading or journaling. Whatever you do, just don’t pick up that iPhone again.
24. If you must smoke, don’t do it before bed. Nicotine, like caffeine, is a stimulant, so while a cigarette and a glass of wine may seem like a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual, it’ll actually keep you up for way longer than you want.
25. About an hour before bedtime, allow yourself to have some cheese and crackers. The combo of carbs and calcium is ideal for boosting serotonin, the chemical in your brain that makes you feel calm and content.
26. Essential oils like lavender and chamomile have been known to aid relaxation and promote better sleep that comes on a little easier too. Spritz your pillowcases and room before bedtime, or hold the bottles to your nose and breathe deep.
27. Try a cup of cherries about an hour before bed. The fruit’s naturally high melatonin index will help you fall asleep faster.
28. If your sleeplessness is making you anxious, get up and engage in a relaxing activity, like reading or doing some stretching. When just the idea of sleep is stressing you out, the only thing that can help is getting your mind off of it—not lying there obsessing over why you can’t get to sleep.
29. Don’t treat your bed like a couch or desk—save it for sleep and sex so that your body knows what’s up as soon as you crawl beneath the sheets. Plus, if you frequently find yourself working from your bed, your brain may start to associate it with that kind of stress.
30. If everything from a dripping faucet to the neighbor’s dog keeps you up at night, try downloading a white noise app to play out loud—it’ll drown out those external noises so you can doze off easier.