FROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES
Sleep is an important part of every person’s life. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body eventually stops working properly. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that adults should get about seven or more hours of sleep each night. Young adults may need nine or more hours of sleep. A regular sleep schedule can help promote an overall healthier lifestyle. So if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, read on for things you can do to help.
1. Find Your Sleep Schedule
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important ways to improve your sleep. You should aim for around eight hours of sleep a night. Getting up and going to bed at around the same time every day will help you develop a schedule. You should avoid sleeping in or staying up late, even on the weekend.
By sticking to a schedule, your body’s sleep-wake cycle will begin operating with more consistency. This will help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep through the night.
2. White Noise Machines
If you’re having trouble falling asleep because of the noise around you, a white noise machine might help. When you’re trying to fall asleep you may become distracted by sounds like:
- Cars honking
- Doors closing
- Children crying
- Animal sounds
- Common city sounds
A white noise machine in your room can help block the other noises that are bothering you. White noise masks disruptions by creating a constant ambient sound. You can create white noise with the following:
- A sound machine
- A fan
- Crowd noise on your laptop
Since there are different types of white noise, you’ll need to find one that’s right for you. Some machines and apps will let you choose different sounds to fall asleep to.
3. Soothing Sounds App
One way to add white noise is by using your phone. There are plenty of apps out there for this purpose. Some of these will let you choose from sounds like:
- Waves crashing
- Trees blowing in the wind
- Gentle humming
While these apps provide noise to help you fall asleep, there are some downsides. Research has shown that blue light coming from your phone or laptop can slow the production of your sleep hormones, making it harder for you to fall asleep. So keeping your phone near you may be counterproductive to your sleep schedule.
4. Try Meditation For Sleep
Meditation uses techniques to help you relax both your body and mind. This in turn prepares you for sleep. You can meditate in bed right before you plan to go to sleep.
Some relaxation techniques include:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Traditional meditation
There are other ways beyond meditation to help you wind down your mind at night. These include:
- Quiet reading
- Low-impact stretching
- Soothing music
- Lowering the lights
- Disconnecting from electronics 30 minutes before bed
5. Make Your Room Sleep-Ready
Another important part of a good night’s rest is sleeping in the right environment. The first step to making your room sleep-ready is making sure it’s dark enough, as your brain releases melatonin in the dark. This creates a calm and sleepy feeling. You should start reducing your light exposure before bed. It might be a good idea to keep the following out of your room:
- Other devices that distract and/or emit light
If you need something to do while you fall asleep, try keeping a book nearby. Reading a few pages before you fall asleep can keep you engaged so that you don’t reach for your phone.
Other ways you can make your bedroom more relaxing so that it’s a good place to fall asleep include:
- Pick a quality mattress and pillow. Proper support will keep your body from aching when you wake up.
- Choose good bedding. Make your bed look inviting with the right sheets and blanket. You should also make sure your bedding will keep you at a comfortable temperature through the night.
- Block out the light with blackout curtains in your bedroom. You can also use a sleep mask over your eyes.
- Create a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. In addition to a white noise machine, you can try headphones or earplugs to block out disrupting sounds.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only. To ensure it’s a relaxing space, don’t do work, play, or other activities in your bed.
6. Try Different Methods
One thing that helps someone else sleep better might not help you in the same way. It’s okay to try different methods and routines. The most important part is that you get to sleep and stay asleep for seven hours or more.
Keeping a sleep diary can help you track how you’re sleeping. You can write down what you did before bed, if you wake up in the middle of the night, and how you feel when you wake up. This will help you notice any problems or areas that need fixing.
7. Supplement Sleep With Melatonin
If you’ve tried everything listed above and you’re still having trouble sleeping, try melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. If your body isn’t releasing melatonin as it should, you will need a supplement. There are plenty of over-the-counter options available in your local pharmacy. Buying the same brand is important when taking this supplement. Since melatonin isn’t regulated by the FDA, you may get different dosages with different brands.
You should talk to your doctor before you start taking supplements — especially if you’re taking other types of medication. Your doctor will be able to tell you the right dosage for you.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Sleep FAQs.”
Consumer Reports: “Sleep Gadgets to Conquer Insomnia.”
HelpGuide: “How to Sleep Better.”
John Hopkins Medicine: “Natural Sleep Aids: Home Remedies to Help You Sleep.”
Mayo Clinic: “Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep.”
Mayo Clinic Health System: “5 ways to get better sleep.”
National Sleep Foundation: “Will a Sound Machine Help You Drift Off?”
Sleep Foundation: “Healthy Sleep Tips,” “Technology in the Bedroom.”
By Martin Taylor Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 11, 2021