Health

8 Ways to Get Better Sleep

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I love hanging out in bed cuddling, and I require a blissful seven hours of sleep a night—minimum. Which is why I’ve been a little cranky about the less than satisfying slumber that’s plagued me over the last few weeks. I can never sleep on planes, and I rarely sleep well the first night in a new place, so when I bounce around a lot while traveling, I often end up feeling like I need a vacation at the end of it! All the excitement of traveling makes winding down for bed more difficult, not to mention the fact that I find myself waking up in the middle of the night.

8 Ways to Get Better Sleep

In search of a solution, I discovered a few ways to create my own personal sanctuary. Whether I’m at home, or in a hotel, I look for ways to make the bedroom an ideal place for sleep. The result? A perfect night’s sleep. So if you’re in need of some much-needed zzz’s, here’s the scoop on what worked for me.

Unplug

Monitors give off blue light that keeps your brain from producing melatonin — the potent antioxidant that helps you to sleep. Throughout the day, we’re constantly overstimulated by our computers, social networks, cell phones and TVs. That’s exactly why it’s important to clear out all electronics from your bedroom. At first, I thought having a TV in my bedroom would be relaxing (I love watching my shows with my hubby), but the opposite turned out to be true. Instead of being tired and ready for bed for bed, I ended up feeling more awake and stimulated.

Since bedrooms should really only be a place for sleeping, I decided to make it my own personal gadget-free oasis. I moved my TV, laptop and DVD player into the office, so I wouldn’t be tempted to watch TV or check my email before bed. I also decided to follow a tech curfew, giving myself 30 minutes before bed that I used to unwind without electronics. Instead, I used that time to relax and write in my gratitude journal, which helped start my bedtime routine on a more positive note.

If you really can’t rip yourself away from your screens, you can try downloading a blue light filter app on your devices (like Twilight) and computer (try f.lux on your computer).

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Because you shouldn’t be. In fact, you should embrace it. My second step in creating a peaceful sanctuary was to ensure that my room was pitch black. According to sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shives, your bedroom should be completely dark. In fact, she explains that light actually tells your brain, “Hey, you should probably be awake!”

The darker your room, the better your sleep. Most hotel rooms have blackout curtains, but if your bedroom at home doesn’t it’s a good idea to invest in some heavy curtains to block out external street light. Even the glow of your iPad, smartphone and other electronics can keep you up, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve already eliminated them from your room.

As a backup, I always keep an eye mask on-hand. They’re great at home, when traveling, on airplanes, etc.

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

49 Comments

  1. Lana Urie

    Very useful tips but, wouldn’t drinking cherry juice before bed wake you in the middle of your sleep for a pee break? LOL

  2. Ingrid Winston

    Your advice is overall helpful, but doesn’t take into account people like me. I have a hereditary condition called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. I’ve had it since I was a teenager, and this is decades later. All attempts on my part to change it have been spectacularly unsuccessful. 🙁

  3. Helena Stevens

    I just adopted two 9 week old shelter kittens. They find it very necessary to re-enact the Battle of Bunker Hill every morning at 4am.
    I’m the hill.
    So… there goes my beauty sleep for awhile!

  4. Daisy Clarke

    This article is one of the best I have ever read on sleep and its benefits. Thanks for the great article, Hilary.

  5. Emma Blackwood

    I have been longing for a good long sleep for a long long time and everything in this article fits me. I can’t remember that last time I had a good night sleep, if I have ever had one. 🙁

  6. Danielle Wilson

    Great piece! 🙂 All the very best to those who have problems sleeping. Hang in there and keep learning whatever it takes to get a decent sleep each night….

  7. Celine Carter

    I usually don’t have problem falling asleep but have trouble to sleep longer than 5 hours. My troubles are gone in summer. I found out that melatonin with b12 helps me staying asleep longer. In the days when I don’t take it I sleep worse.

  8. Christina Norelli

    I bought some black out curtains and added them to the bedroom along with placing a magazine over the led lights on the U-Verse box and clock/CallerID. I do not remember a night I have slept well. I am going to try most all of the things everyone says to do in this thread.
    So far when I wake up to go to the bathroom and the room is pitch dark and I can’t see the alarm clock I feel good, instead of anxious about going back to bed. It is a start

  9. Carol Warren

    Great tips.. But one thing you didn’t mention is one of the curses of a good nights sleep; the dreaded visits to the bathroom… What about it? lol #inevitable

  10. Cassi Braun

    Purely geniues tips! Something I do that really works for me, when I wake in the middle of the night, I immediately try to remember what I was dreaming, and keep thinking about the dream world … it usually takes me back before I know it 🙂

  11. Betty O'Leary

    Sleep in total darkness to lose weight as any light can lead to weight gain (according to research by Ohio State University). Mice that slept with light on gained more weight and burned few calories than those that slept in total darkness. Even dim light slows down metabolism.

  12. Amelia Beckons

    Thanks SO very much for reposting this excellent information. I’ve bookmarked this page and will be revisiting for when needed. Blessings!

  13. I’ve been getting less than 8 hours a night for as long as I can remember. Usually six hours a night is a luxury, I didn’t know that it was impairing my thought. I’ve never noticed it having an effect, but it’s been going on so long I wouldn’t know the difference. I’ve heard that being overweight can make it worse, so I’m trying to be healthier.

  14. Frances Seifert

    What a great article! I have a lot of trouble sleeping too and have tried some of the things mentioned in the article, and looking forward to try the rest. Thank you so much.

  15. Irene Morales

    Great post! I have had restless legs at nights for 2 years. I stopped grains and beans and eat a lot of fermented foods. Anemia? I think it’s about time I see a doctor…

  16. Jennifer McSween

    There are actually a lot of ways that we can do to eliminate and if not lessen sleeping disorders. Aside from over-the counter medications or prescriptions drugs, and this article covers the best of them. Big props Hilary. 🙂

  17. Shelley Donalds

    I would like to include a sleep aid that is 100% natural…. MASSAGE!! Works like a charm… 🙂

  18. Roberta Bennett

    Brilliant piece. Thank you so much for the tips! I’ve recently read that blue light can also affect one’s sleep. Does anyone have information or personal experience with the effects of blue light?

  19. Melissa Princeton

    I think I may go out and purchase an eye sheild. with small children who end up in my bed and need a nightlight to sleep at night it is hard to control light. But, I need to be rested to care for them!

  20. Sasha Rosswell

    Great post as always. 🙂 Wish there were a list of foods that will actually promote sleep; I’ll try “a handful of walnuts before going to bed”, “a high protein snack several hours before bed”, and “a piece of fruit several hours before bed”

  21. This is great information! There are some out of the box ideas here, such a cherry juice. I will be trying especially that one tonight! And if it doesn’t work, I have 7 other options here to go. ? Thanks!

  22. My problem is that I can’t fall asleep unless my brain is dead tired. Like when I’m reading a great book, even when my vision starts to blur, I will stay up and read until my eyelids are too heavy to keep open. At that point, I go to bed. It’s horrible, but when I try to go to bed earlier, I just end up laying there for 3 hours stubbornly “trying to sleep.” Lol. I will try exercising more regularly though. That might tire me out enough.

  23. First of all, I love sleeping, and I do not like a lousy night’s sleep, for whatever reason. In this article I was hoping to find maybe one at most 2 tips for a better night’s sleep. Instead there are more 8 great suggestions. 🙂

    Can’t thank you enough!

  24. Amazing piece yet again, Hilary! I love your in-depth analysis’ of issues and the way you provide solutions. You are such an asset worldwide to everyone’s health and lifestyle. Thank you so much.

  25. Dana Rosatti

    I am a bit skeptical about complete darkness for sleep. I live in a northern latitude, around the 57th parallel. In the middle of the summer it never actually gets dark, only darker than day–sun down at 11:30 and up at 3:00 with 3 or 4 hours of twilight. December and January it is just the opposite, with very short days. If we slept during dark, and were awake during light we would be in a fine mess! I sleep just fine in the light, and dark does not make me sleepy. So much for the meletonin story. A person cannot live and sleep by the sun except maybe those between 0 and 30 degrees lat. I believe our circadian clocks are set as children and that’s why we sleep like we do. My “clock” was messed up as a child, and I sleep terribly. I have finally accepted this after trying everything in the book to sleep normal. I do sleep normal–normal for ME.

  26. Debbie Jones

    What a bunch of interesting conditions and solutions we have out there! My doctor told me that most likely I would never sleep normally, although you can’t say I haven’t tried nearly every trick in the book.

  27. Very helpful & informative. Thank you. I’m going to try some of these. I’ve been having trouble falling asleep since the beginning of the summer

  28. Great advice as always, Hilary! I really admire how you know a lot about every and anything. Truly a big inspiration. <3

  29. Elin Hanks

    Question is… How does your body know what time it is? Is this indicated by the light outside?, how many hours you’ve been awake?
    If you really cant get to sleep by 11pm for a solid 8 hours, would a nap between 11pm and 1am help?
    I’ve always wanted to know this… how does your body tell the time? What happens when traveling across many time zones? Hope someone can help with this.

  30. To get a better slumber, I always try to go sleep and get up at the same time daily. I believe napping is the other best way to recharge my body and make up the lost sleep hours. I try to go for exercise and watch what I eat, and avoid alcohol and eat light food before bedtime.

  31. Monica Conover

    Some of this is fine for people who work normal hours during the day, but what about some of us that get off at 2am? I try to wind down as best I can when i get off work, but I sometimes find myself going to sleep at 3am and getting up between 10am and 11am. I’ll wake up ok but after a few hours I’ll feel wore out. Any thoughts?

  32. Nicky Bryan

    I have insomnia most nights of the week. I am at my wit’s end trying to figure out what to do. These tips are really good but I think my insomnia issues are the result of some kind of deficiency .. as I think they are with a lot of people.
    Back in the early 2000’s I began a 3 month long stint with insomnia before I figured out I suffered from ‘food allergy insomnia’. Refined sugar/molasses/sugar cane is like poison to my body and when I eat even a little I am up for 2 nights straight. The same with certain preservatives. I avoid that stuff like the plague.
    Now the insomnia is back. I am at a loss of what to do. I thought it could be related to anemia as I was diagnosed last week. But even while taking iron supps the insomnia is still there. Could it be adrenals? Lack of B vitamins? Vitamin D?
    I read somewhere that if a person isn’t eating free-range meats and poultry that they are hardly getting any tryptophan which could result in insomnia.

  33. Thank you very much. I now know why I do not get enough sleep. Amazing!! Wour explanations and advise have ‘hit the nail-on-the-head as always. ☺️

  34. Pamela Sanabria

    Good advice, and a brilliant article Hilary!

    Personally, I have never had a problem getting to sleep even with Manic issues. After 6 hours of sleep I wake up like an internal alarm has gone off.

    Everyone is different. Some people get quality sleep in a shorter amount of time and if you train yourself to fall asleep in seconds or minutes than you are off to a good start. It’s all in training the mind.

  35. Ariana Rhyder

    My husband (with ADD) sleeps much better in front of the TV (regardless as to whether his favorite show is on). I cannot sleep with a TV on but reading helps put me to sleep.

    • Sonja Fallow

      Oh my god.. I have relatives who sleep with the TV on. It would keep me awake. I sleep to classical music. One relative has to have the TV because without it, he can wake up disoriented and then he’s wide awake and can’t finish the night. His wife learned to sleep with the TV for his sake.

  36. Really???!!! Cherry juice helps?! What happened to “milk before bed?” LOL

    Anyway, let me try this and I’ll get back to you if it works for me 😉

  37. Marie Gomez

    Oh yes! I need beauty rest and I can only achieve it if I have satisfying sleep! Perfect tips! Thanks for sharing.

    I have two huge pillows, one on my head and one that I can hug and cuddle. For some reasons, I can’t complete my sleep if I only have one. Childhood training I guess…

  38. These tips are definitely helpful! Among these, having a silent room is on top of my list. For me, it’s the most important. I can sleep with the lights on, but I can’t sleep when there’s noise around…

  39. I agree with scent-sational tip! Associating a particular scent with sleep would give a restful one. I’ve done it ;D

  40. I didn’t know and realize that fresh flowers in the room would help. But if it worked for you, it might work for me and my daughter too. I’m going to try this! Thanks!

  41. I feel you! It’s very frustrating that I can’t have a “deep sleep” after a tiring day. An eye mask definitely helps, but I opted to have dark curtains for our room…

  42. Joanne Samonte

    Wonderful tips!!! Now, I can achieve the most perfect sleep 🙂

  43. These are great ideas! I often have trouble falling asleep, so I'll try these for sure. I especially love the idea to include flowers in your bedroom. They brighten the room so much but I didn't know they could actually help you fall asleep!

  44. Sara Luse

    I learned in psychology that it's important to not do any work in your bed. It'll make it more difficult to sleep if your brain is associating your bed with the stresses of work. It's also true that your body temperature needs to cool down in order for you to sleep, so avoid hot baths or showers before bed!

  45. Jen Spillane

    Great tips! I like the idea of writing in a gratitude journal before going to bed. Also can't wait to take a look at those pillows!!

  46. Tami Winbush

    Great tips, I can’t sleep without the room being cool.

  47. Courtney Watson

    I haven’t really tried having a “scent-sational sleep” but I would love to try it. Will do it in my bedroom soon! But I totally agree in keeping the room dark! I used to have a room with “light” curtain that when the sun shines, I am forced to wake up (even though I want to continue sleeping). 

    I was once at a hotel for a vacation and I was so surprised to discover that I woke up at noon. The sun did not bother my sleep. So what I did upon coming back after that short hotel vacation, I purchased a heavy curtain and the sun doesn’t bother my sleep anymore 😉

    • I definitely know what you’re talking about! LOL

      Whenever I’m on vacation, I make sure to request the “darkest” (and most quiet) room! Of course, alarm clocks aren’t set, so I wake up whenever my eyes feel like waking up!!!

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