If you do only one thing to improve your sleep, this is it, says Dr. Breus: Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning—even on weekends. A regular sleep routine keeps your biological clock steady so you rest better. Exposure to a regular pattern of light and dark helps, so stay in sync by opening the blinds or going outside right after you wake up (bonus: morning light has been shown to keep you slim.
2. Cut caffeine after 2 pm
That means coffee, tea, and cola. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your system for about 8 hours, so if you have a cappuccino after dinner, come bedtime, it’ll either prevent your brain from entering deep sleep or stop you from falling asleep altogether.
3. Write down your woes
“The number one sleep complaint I hear? ‘I can’t turn off my mind,’ ” says Dr. Breus. To quiet that wakeful worrying, every night jot down your top concerns—say, I have to call my insurer to dispute that denied claim, which will take forever, and how can I spend all that time on the phone when work is so busy? Then write down the steps you can take to solve the problem—I’m going to look up the numbers before breakfast, refuse to stay on hold for more than three minutes, and send e-mails tomorrow night if I can’t get through—or even I can’t do anything about this tonight, so I’ll worry about it tomorrow. Once your concerns are converted into some kind of action plan, you’ll rest easier.
4. Stay cool…
Experts usually recommend setting your bedroom thermostat between 65° and 75°F—a good guideline, but pay attention to how you actually feel under the covers. Slipping between cool sheets helps trigger a drop in your body temperature. That shift signals the body to produce melatonin, which induces sleep. That’s why it’s also a good idea to take a warm bath or hot shower before going to bed: Both temporarily raise your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy. But for optimal rest, once you’ve settled in to bed, you shouldn’t feel cold or hot—but just right.
Sound machines designed to help you sleep produce a low-level soothing noise. These can help you tune out barking dogs, the TV downstairs, or any other disturbances so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.
6. Spray a sleep-inducing scent
Certain smells, such as lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang, activate the alpha wave activity in the back of your brain, which leads to relaxation and helps you sleep more soundly. Mix a few drops of essential oil and water in a spray bottle and give your pillowcase a spritz.
7. Make your room pitch black
“Light is a powerful signal to your brain to be awake,” explains Dr. Shives. Even the glow from your laptop, iPad, smart phone, or any other electronics on your nightstand may pass through your closed eyelids and retinas into your hypothalamus—the part of your brain that controls sleep. This delays your brain’s release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Thus, the darker your room is, the more soundly you’ll sleep.
“Sleep is not an on-off switch,” says Dr. Breus. “It’s more like slowly easing your foot off the gas.” Give your body time to transition from your active day to bedtime drowsiness by setting a timer for an hour before bed and divvying up the time as follows:
First 20 minutes: Prep for tomorrow (pack your bag, set out your clothes).
Next 20: Take care of personal hygiene (brush your teeth, moisturize your face).
Last 20: Relax in bed, reading with a small, low-wattage book light or practicing deep breathing.
9. Make you bed with DreamFit sheets
There’s nothing better than sleep on the best sheets you can buy.
10. Try a DreamFit Pillow