A night of tossing and turning feels rough, but the effects of persistent sleep deprivation go beyond grogginess. Being overtired can increase your risk of developing certain medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Sleep-deprived people may overeat, leading to weight gain. And observers can see the effects as clearly as you feel them; a study published in the journal SLEEP® found that fatigued people had more wrinkles, dark eye circles, drooping mouth corners and tense lips.
In spite of how busy life can get, it doesn’t have to be this way! We have five easy tricks for getting more (and better) sleep.
1. Set yourself up for success
The things we do during the day can come back to haunt us at night. That last cup of coffee at 3pm might seem essential, but it can make sleeping difficult later. Alcohol might send you off to dreamland faster, but it affects the quality of your sleep. And even though we all know better, many of us stare at our phones before going to bed. Not only are they a distraction, Harvard researchers have also found that the blue light from screens affects your body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps you feel sleepy. Being mindful of all these daily habits and intrusions puts you on the right path towards sounder sleep.
2. Establish a bedtime routine
Everyone winds down for the night differently, but no matter whether you get in the right mindset with yoga stretches, meditation, a warm bath or an elaborate moisturizing routine, you’ll want to make a habit of it. Put together a bedtime ritual that includes something you’ll look forward to each day (because it’s hard to get too excited about splashing your face and brushing your teeth). Time it to start so that you can still get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
3. Create a calm, cool environment
Your body temperature drops a couple of degrees at night, and that cooldown is part of what alerts your system that it’s time to sleep. As a result, keeping your room too warm can make falling and staying asleep more difficult. Set your thermostat lower at night to encourage a deeper rest. Still a little wired? Try putting lavender oil in a diffuser or on a cotton ball near your bed; studies have found the plant’s scent is a natural remedy for insomnia.
Some people also find a white noise machine helpful to block out neighborhood noise. And speaking of exterior distractions, if street light seeps into your room, you need a trusty pair of blackout curtains to make sure your body’s truly primed to sleep soundly.
4. Clean sheets for sweeter sleep
If you find that you often wake up feeling kind of stuffy, you just might be allergic to dust mites. These microscopic bugs love to live in your bed and snack on shed skin flakes. If they don’t sound like your ideal snuggling companion, then change your bedding once a week. Wash your sheets in hot water to kill the mites. If some of your bedding is non-washable, you can try freezing it as a way of evicting those unwanted tenants.
5. Pillow talk
If you’ve tried everything and are still waking up feeling tense, your pillow might be the culprit. First assess what position you sleep in. If you’re usually on your back, then a thinner pillow might be more comfortable, or try one with a little contouring for extra thickness and support under your neck. Side sleepers should opt for a thicker, firmer pillow and consider an extra one for between their knees to keep their spine more aligned. Stomach sleeping is rather discouraged because it puts stress on your back, but if that’s your style, then opt for a thinner pillow.
There’s nothing like waking up refreshed after a good night’s sleep, and it only takes a few simple lifestyle changes to get you closer to your snooze goals. Good luck, and sweet dreams!