14 DAYS TO BETTER SLEEP FOR LIFE
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Providing objective advice and comprehensive research to those seeking healthy sleep habits
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Age, gender, lifestyle, general health and many other factors impact how much sleep you may need. Do you get enough restful sleep?
Personalized Sleep Calculator
We created this sleep calculator because we believe people should know when they should wake up and what time they should go to bed based on the latest sleep research.
Sleep Guides for Parents
Raising children isn't easy during the day, and it doesn't get any easier when night time comes around. We worked with pediatritians and sleep experts to create resources that address common sleep challenges many parents face.
When to Replace Your Mattress?
It's a common misconception that you should replace your mattress every 10 years. Several factors like the type of mattress, your size, and the amount of use can impact your mattresses' effective lifespan.
Quick Guide to Better Sleep
We've taken the advice from the top experts in the field of sleep medicine and organized their guidelines into five main categories for a good sleep foundation. You'll find high level areas to focus as well as links to deeper resources in case you are interested in more information. Let's take a look at five critical factors that have a major impact on how well you might sleep.
1. Understand Your Circadian Rhythm
Your circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle, mainly influenced by light and darkness. Circadian rhythms are found in most living things, including animals, plants, and many tiny microbes.
The Impact of Light on Sleep
Your brain sets its circadian rhythm by it’s exposure to light. Don't expose yourself to bright lights (specifically blue light) within 1-2 hours of going to bed. Expose yourself to sunlight early in the morning and throughout the day, and exercise early in the morning outside if possible.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night (including the weekends). Respect your chronotype or tendency to go to bed earlier or later when figuring out the best time for you to go to bed every night.
Limit your naps to 20 minutes at the most, and don't nap late in the day. The best time is around 1-1:30 pm if you're an early riser, or 2:30-3 if you're a late riser.
2. Diet & Exercise
Exercise and diet can have a profound impact on sleep quality. The main impact is on hormones in the body. These are complicated subjects, but we dig in deeper to the fundamentals below.
Avoid eating a lot at night; a small snack with protein and carbohydrates is best. Caffeine late in the day and nicotine at any point in the day act as stimulants and can keep you awake. Be careful with sugar. It can prevent quality especially if consumed in the evening.
Alcohol and Marijuana Use
Though many use alcohol to relax before bed, there's evidence that it will prevent you from getting quality sleep because it significantly reduces stage 5 sleep or REM (rapid eye movement). Be careful with alcohol and marijuana consumption. You may fall asleep faster, but the overall quality of your sleep suffers.
People who exercise regularly sleep better at night, and the more vigorously you exercise, the more you benefit. It is ideal to di this early in the morning. Journal your sleep quality every night and experiment to see how when you work out affects your sleep quality. Most people do better with morning or afternoon workouts, though you could be one of the more rare group that sleeps better after an evening workout.
3. Stress & Your Night Routine
Understand that whatever you do during the day can affect your sleep. If you’re experiencing stress and adrenaline at your job, at school, or in your relationships, it can hurt your sleep.
Do your best to reduce your overall stress in your life. Your state during the day will affect your state at night. Have a relaxed attitude toward sleep. Tell yourself that if you don't sleep well one night, you'll make it up some other time.
Adopt a pre-sleep ritual that helps calm you down and tells your brain that it's time for sleep. If you experience a lot of stress during the day, find ways to release the stress before you go to bed. You can try journaling to let go of some of the stress, reading something that’s not stimulating. There are also a number of things that you can try to reduce stress, such as reading, meditation, stretching and taking a bath.
4. Your Bedroom
Sleep environment is critical to sleep. You can do everything else right, but if you walk into a bedroom with pulluted air, bright lights, and an old mattress, you may find that what sleep you can muster together is low quality.
Light and Sound
Make sure your room is really dark. If you can't get it dark, wear a sleep mask. Your room should be quiet. If it isn't, wear earplugs, use white noise, and/or add items to your walls and room to deflect and/or absorb sound.
Your mattress shouldn't be making you hot. If it is, get a cooling mattress topper or change your mattress to a cooling mattress. Make sure that your mattress is the right firmness. Try sleeping on different mattresses (like if you travel and sleep in a hotel) to see what works best for you. Or you could take advantage of many mattress companies 100-night in-home trial. Experiment with different pillows to find the one that works for you.
This doesn't usually show up on recommendations for sleeping better, but researchers from the University of Washington found that people who live in high pollution areas were 60% more likely to sleep poorly compared to those who live in areas with cleaner air. Consider the air quality of your room, especially if you have any breathing issues such as asthma or allergies. For more information, check out our guide on how to create the perfect sleep environment.
5. Pain When Sleeping
You can be doing everything else right, but it can be a really big challenge to fall asleep and stay asleep if you ultimately are in pain when you're laying down. If you're struggling with pain when you are trying to sleep, know that you aren't alone. There are many types of pain, but our experts dove in on a few of the most common situations.
There is no perfect sleep position for everyone suffering from back pain. Sleep in a position that leaves YOU the most comfortable. Focus on laying in positions that create spinal alignment. Sometimes that means that you need to add support pillows to create that alignment. You'll also need to find the right firmness in a mattress for your sleep type to aleviate back pain. Oftentimes we find that people with an old mattress cause them to sleep out of alignment as the material breaks down with time.
Up to 70% of people experience neck pain with some degree of regularity. Like with the rest of the spine, this pain is usually caused by events and habits throughout the day like sitting with poor posture. Maintaining a neutral spine with a proper neck pillow is key to allowing your neck to decompress at night. Make sure to try out many until you find one that is right for you. Shoulder width, head size, weight and sleep temperature are a few of the most important considerations you should keep in mind as you look to improve your neck pain at night.
Our Expert Contributors
Dr. RJ Burr
Founder of REACH Rehab + Chiropractic Performance Center. He works and lives according to the belief that to have a healthy, pain-free lifestyle, you must be responsible for your health by eating well and moving well. He believes that what you do when you're awake has a major impact on how you sleep.
Mary Sweeney, RN, BSN, CEN
Mary Sweeney, RN, BSN, CEN, ONN-CG, is an oncology nurse navigator and medical writer. Before working in nurse navigation and patient education, Mary was an emergency nurse at a level 1 trauma center, followed by active duty time as an officer in the Navy Nurse Corps. In the military, she worked in several areas including emergency/trauma, post-anesthesia, and deployment medicine. In her career, she has picked up on the important value sleep plays to health both in and outside of the military.