Sleep is important for our wellbeing. If you’ve ever felt like a groggy zombie after a night of tossing and turning, you know this all too well. Indeed, one in three adults recently surveyed by the National Sleep Foundation said that poor sleep regularly leaves them feeling drained during the day, reporting negative effects such as headaches, irritability, and interference with routine activities.
Fortunately, better sleep isn’t just a pipe dream. Research has uncovered multiple ways to score better shuteye—and experts say many are super doable.
efore we get to all that great advice, there’s something you should know about sleep duration:
There’s no magic number that equals a perfect night’s sleep.
Most adults seem to function optimally on seven to nine hours a night—and where you fall within that range depends on factors such as age, as well as the quality of the sleep you’re getting.
So when tweaking your sleep approach, don’t stress too much over that number. Trust yourself to know what feels best!
Like a lot of busy people, you might skimp on shuteye Monday–Friday and try to play catch-up over the weekend.
The thing is, your body clock and overall sleep quality may benefit if you strive for a consistent bedtime and wake-up time seven days a week, says clinical psychologist Joshua Tal, PhD,
A predictable schedule strengthens the body’s circadian rhythm, the brain’s built-in timekeeper that governs the release of hormones that induce sleepiness and alertness. The better your body clock runs?
The better your slumber, Tal says. That’s not to say you can’t occasionally snooze until noon on a Sunday; just try to be consistent over the long term.
Another body clock trick to try: Expose your eyes to natural light as soon as possible after waking.
A small 2017 study in the journal Sleep suggests that an optical dose of sunlight early in the day may help the brain cycle into alertness mode—which starts the brain’s clock ticking toward sleep mode later at night. (Aren’t cycles amazing?)
Try sipping your morning coffee in a sunny corner of your kitchen, or wake up with an early outdoor walk.
Speaking of walks, carving out two to five hours a week for moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise could improve your ZZZs by helping you cruise into sleep more quickly and helping you snooze more deeply once you do,
And sure: Two hours may sound like a lot of time to be exercising, but it boils down to as little as 20 minutes a day. Aim for activities that quicken your breath and get your heart pumping.
In addition to brisk walking, options include cycling, swimming laps, playing tennis, and dancing like a fool in your living room. Pick something you enjoy!
It goes without saying that an uncomfortable sleeping surface will keep you from getting the rest you need.
So if your lumpy mattress is leaving you sore, it’s probably time to ditch it.
Just note: A recent boom in the mattress industry has given rise to lots of competing companies claiming they’ve cracked the code to superlative sleep. Don’t believe the hype, Kirsch cautions.
Comfort is highly subjective, he says, and the best mattress—whether soft, firm, made of memory foam, or constructed with coils—is one that feels good to you personally.
Shop around and test mattresses in person, or if you’re buying a mattress online, make sure there’s a forgiving return policy in case it’s not a fit for you.
Could quitting cappuccinos improve your sleep? You’re probably your own best judge of that, our experts say
. While caffeine that naturally occurs in coffee and tea is a stimulant, individual responses vary widely.
No matter your personal level of habituation, avoiding caffeine in the four to six hours before bedtime is generally helpful for sleep. If you suspect your coffee habit is affecting your sleep, test your theory by tapering down for a few days and then see how you feel.
If you’re less buzzed at bedtime and find yourself snoozing more soundly, consider sticking with the smaller quantity.