Beat insomnia, master the art of napping, and get a better night's sleep with these tips and tricks
What's the secret to a perfect night's sleep? If only it were that simple.
While we know a number of sleep hygiene habits can make falling—and staying—asleep a little bit smoother, even if you follow all the rules, you might find yourself frustratedly counting sheep.
So to help you sleep like a pro, we asked 16 of our favorite sleep experts to tell us: If you could only share one piece of sleep advice, what would it be? Click through the slideshow below for their answers. Which ones work for you?
"It's easy to say that getting a good night of sleep doesn't matter, or put it off for an extra hour of TV or to catch up on work. But sleep is like exercise or eating well: You need to prioritize it and build it into your day. Sleep is vital, and one of the most important things you can do for your physical and mental health."
—Dr. Scott Kutscher, Assistant Professor of Sleep and Neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
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"Follow a regular routine. Try to get to bed and wake up about the same time each night."
—Dr. Susan Redline, MPH, Peter C. Farrell Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School
"Whether you have the best night of sleep or a night where you toss and turn, the key to long-term sleep success, in my opinion, is to have a consistent wake time every morning. If you can pair that wake time with light (either real or artificial—I use a light box) and exercise, it's even better."
—Dr. Christopher Winter, Medical Director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center
"Consistent schedule. Consistent schedule. Consistent schedule! Set your alarm clock to go to bed."
—Dr. Russell Sanna, Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine
"Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, like taking a warm bath or reading a magazine. It's important to unwind before getting into bed."
—Dr. David Volpi, founder EOS Sleep Centers
"Dim the lights one hour before desired bedtime and also turn off the screens one hour before bed. Light, including that from computers, iPads, TVs and smart phones, is the most powerful trigger for our neurotransmitters to switch to the 'on' position. If people have a tendency toward insomnia, they can be up for hours waiting to switch to turn off."
—Dr. Lisa Shives, founder of The Linden Center for Sleep and Weight Management in Chicago
If you have trouble 'turning your mind off' as soon as you get into bed, it could mean that you have not given yourself enough time to work through the issues of the day. You maybe did some chores around the house, put the kids to bed, watched some TV—that was plenty of time to wind down, right? Well, a lot of those activities are more distracting than relaxing. Instead of working through those thoughts and worries, you kept your mind busy doing something else. So, now that you are in bed, with nothing else to focus on, those thoughts come up again. A better approach would be to take some time in the evening to work through the day, make lists to do tomorrow and clear your mental desktop of all the stuff that you still have to think about. Then, get into bed."
—Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania
"Get some exercise any time of day. Even a 10- to 15-minute walk each day could help you sleep better."
—Dr. Russell Rosenberg, Chair, National Sleep Foundation
"Most people who have sleep problems spend too much time in bed trying to sleep. If you are spending eight hours in bed and only sleeping six restless hours, why not get six hours of deeper sleep rather than eight hours of fragmented sleep? It's counterintuitive, but I recommend most of my insomnia patients go to bed a little (or a lot) later."
em>—Dr. Kelly Glazer Baron, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Northwestern University
"If you're in bed tossing and turning, unable to sleep, get out of bed. You just make things worse by lying there. Don't get back into bed until you think you can sleep."
"Napping can help stave off the exhaustion from not getting enough nighttime sleep. It can increase your cognition by promoting the same level of memory improvement as a full night of sleep. It helps you process your emotions so you not only think better but you feel better after a nap. I would recommend people nap for five to 30 minutes or 60 to 90 minutes as often as possible. That amount of time will refresh you without letting you wake up groggy."
—Dr. Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap
"Make sure to get 15 minutes of sunlight every morning."
—Dr. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist; Board Certified Sleep Specialist
"If I could offer one small piece of advice, it would be to 'listen' to your bedpartner. If your partner snores, has pauses in breathing or kicks their legs during sleep, then let her or him know about it! Those afflicted with a sleep disorder are usually unaware of it. By simply 'listening' to one another, everyone will hopefully sleep better."
—Michael Decker, Ph.D., associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
"Even if you think they are helping you fall asleep initially, alcohol and medicines that make you drowsy may affect your sleep throughout the night. To achieve a sound, restful sleep, ensure the last two hours before bed are void of these items or any strenuous activity so your body realizes it’s time for bed."
—Dr. Matthew Mingrone, lead physician for EOS Sleep Centers in California
"Consider moisture wicking pajamas! Makes a huge difference for anyone prone to night sweats."
—James Maas, Ph.D., former fellow, professor and chairman of psychology at Cornell University
"Make your bed with separate sheets and blankets. It’s a small change with a big payoff. This will reduce copartner disturbance from movement and disturbance because of temperature. Use only one fitted sheet to start. Then make the top-of-bed with twin size flat sheets and blankets to meet each person's needs. If you're worried about how that will look—no problem—you can cover this up with a single comforter when dressing the bed each morning."
—Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute