Checklist for Better Sleep: 10 Things You Can Do Tonight

The quality of your sleep affects your day in profound ways—it can inspire or sap creativity, flexibility, energy and mood. It can also make us feel as if we can take on the world or are unable to perform the simplest tasks. If you’re having a “down” day, there’s a good chance you didn’t sleep well the night before. Some things can’t be controlled, which is even more reason to control the things you can. These 10 tips are considered basic sleep hygiene, an odd term defined as “habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.” Are you practicing these sleep basics?

  1. Be consistent. Try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day, including weekends and vacations. Aim for seven-plus hours. If you’re still lying there after 20 minutes, get up. Worrying about not sleeping can trigger a vicious cycle.
  2. Control your environment. Quiet and darkness are critical for sound sleep. Use blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, fans, white noise or whatever works to control external stimuli. Keep the room at a comfortable 65 degrees. Sound chilly? Read about the science of sleep temperature.
  3. Power down. Turn off electronic devices a half-hour before bedtime. Artificial blue light affects your circadian rhythms and suppresses the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Likewise, avoid exposure to any bright light before bedtime.
  4. Watch what you consume. Food, caffeine and alcohol late at night all can wreak havoc on sleep. Avoid heavy meals at night or eating within two hours of bedtime. When your stomach is rumbling, though, a light, healthy snack may help you fall asleep.
  5. Develop a bedtime routine. A warm bath, gentle yoga, soft music, a calming book or a cup of herbal tea are all practices that tell your body it’s time to shut down for the night.
  6. Exercise. Moderate daily physical activity has been shown to increase deep sleep, which promotes the rejuvenation of brains and bodies. Timing is everything: Exercising late at night elevates body temperature and raises endorphin levels, which may be counterproductive.
  7. Sleep on a good mattress. Old (more than 8–10 years) or poor-quality mattresses that are not adequately supportive or large enough (especially if you share a bed) will interfere with ideal sleep. If it is time to replace your mattress, consider this purchase an investment in good sleep. If the price of the mattress seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid chemicals of concern and improve indoor air quality by choosing a mattress made with CertiPUR-US® certified foam, which meets strict standards for content and emissions.
  8. Limit Naps. Daytime naps close to bedtime or longer than 30 minutes can interfere with nighttime sleep.
  9. Don’t bring anxieties to bed. If worries plague you at bedtime, set a time to write down concerns and work out possible solutions. Make to-do lists throughout the day and put them away at night. Meditation or mind games that distract you from troublesome thoughts can really help. Try reciting the alphabet backwards, thinking of historical figures, dog breeds (or anything else) that begin with the letters A, B, C. etc. successively, or counting backwards from 300 by sevens.
  10. Know when to see a doctor. Chronic insomnia, frequent nighttime awakening, snoring and falling asleep during the day can be signs of a serious sleep disorder. Seek the help of a medical professional that specializes in sleep
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