Second to sex, sleeping is one of life’s greatest pleasures (and technically, you can survive without sex). And considering we spend a third of our lives unconscious, it’s worth making sure you’re doing it as best as you can. To help you out, we’ve rounded up 12 tips and tricks to improve your sleep regimen
1. Find out how much sleep you actually need
Not everyone requires a full 8 hours to feel fully rested. To find your body’s optimal length, move your bedtime up 15-30 minutes every few days. Once you find yourself waking up rested without your alarm for a 2-3 days in a row, you’ve hit your optimal bedtime. You may also want to check out the Sleep Cycle app, which uses your phone’s accelerometer to track your REM cycle over the course of the night by monitoring your movement. Plus, it’s a great alarm clock, gently waking you only during your lightest phase in the morning.
2. Take your bedtime seriously
It’s important to establish a reliably soothing pre-sleep routine. It may seem obvious, but an hour before bed each night, consciously wind down. Stop working, keep your conversations light, and queue up a relaxing playlist.
3. Change your body temp before bed
Since your body temperature naturally drops as you’re falling asleep, exposing yourself to a dramatic shift in temperature during your pre-slumber routine can actually induce sleepiness. Try it out by taking a hot shower in the winter and letting yourself cool down, or a cool shower in the summer and let yourself warm up.
4. Steer clear of screens
As part of your pre-bed rituals, make it a point to keep your eyes off your phone, laptop, or tablet at least 30 minutes before you plan to get into bed. Not only does checking email or the news go against the notion of winding down, but the glare will subconsciously cause your body to remain alert and disrupt melatonin production.
5. Don’t drink or smoke right before bed
Not that you needed any more reasons not to smoke, but much like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant and will keep you wide-eyed when you’re trying to crash. And while the depressant effect of alcohol will make you sleepy, it can disrupt your REM cycle, the most essential and restorative phase of your slumber. That’s part of why you dream less during nights you go to sleep drunk.
6. Eat a snack
Going to bed on a stomach full of fatty or acidic foods is no good, but eating a small 150-200 calorie snack may actually encourage better sleep. Check out this list of delicious and healthy doctor-recommended pre-bed eats.
7. Experiment with polyphasic sleep
It involves sleeping in multple short bursts throughout the day, ultimately giving you more hours in the day while leaving you just as rested as you would be sleeping for a solid eight hours in a row. Adapting your schedule to do it may be a little tricky, and you may feel like you’re tripping on acid for the first week or so, but considering brainiacs like Edison, Da Vinci, and Tesla all swore by similar unconventional sleep schedules, it’s worth a shot.
8. Write down your problems
If stress is turning you into an insomniac, it’s good to get into the habit of purging what’s troubling you in a journal or notepad before bedtime. Seriously, there is legitimate scientific evidence suggesting that writing down what’s bothering you can prevent you from having rambling, unsettling thoughts when your head hits the pillow.
9. Learn to like lavender
Exposure to the floral scent at night has been shown to prevent sleepiness when you wake up. Seriously, it’s science!
10. Don’t be a clock watcher
If you find yourself stirred awake and can’t get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up. Read a book or take a walk—it’ll help lull you back into the snooze groove.
11. Anticipate sleep loss
If you know you have a bender of a weekend ahead of you, prepare for it. There’s no such thing as stocking up on an empty sleep tank over the long-term (i.e., weeks or months of continued sleep deprivation), but it is possible to recover from short-term sleep loss, so clear your schedule ahead of time to hit the hay early for the following night or two.
12. Embrace bedroom minimalism
Hate to break it to you, but the TV in your bedroom has got to go. It should be a space dedicated solely for sleep and sex. That also means not letting it become a de-facto desk or snack zone. Once you’ve designated its sole purpose, your body will subconsciously recognize that and you’ll have an easier time drifting off.