Make sleepless nights a thing of the past with these sleep hygiene tips.
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When it comes to sleep, there are seemingly two types of people in this world: people who find that sleep comes easily and have no difficulties sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. Others, well, just don't. More specifically, about 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The onset of a pandemic hasn't helped matters. Researchers have noticed an uptick in sleep disorders during the pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association. "The pandemic and political unrest of the past few years have wreaked havoc on our already fragile human psyche," says Marcie Claybon, M.D., a board-certified internal medicine physician and medical director at BIÂN. Resulting changes in your sleep could be causing a variety of issues. Not getting enough quality sleep can hinder cognition, concentration, productivity, emotional and physical wellbeing, says Allison Siebern, Ph.D., L.Ac., C.B.S.M, the head sleep science advisor at Proper.

Of course, even the best of sleepers have their restless nights, but if you find that no matter how hard you try, you're unable to get a good night's sleep, then rest (pun intended) assured that there are some things you can do to help regulate your schedule. "Restful, high-quality sleep is dependent upon the ability to achieve a state of calmness and emotional release of chronic tension," says Dr. Claybon. Ahead, learn how to strike that balance and get better sleep with expert-approved tips. 

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

What constitutes a "good night's sleep" differs for everyone. However, typically a successful night of shut-eye is determined by how restful and rejuvenated an individual feels the next day, says Dr. Claybon. 

From a science perspective, a good night's sleep can be measured by total sleep duration, the extent of interruptions, and the proportion of deeper sleep stages to lighter sleep stages (think: REM sleep versus when you initially fall asleep), explains Dr. Claybon. However, there is so much that can influence sleep such as genetics, demographics, and lifestyle, that it's very difficult to define what is considered optimal sleep. "Ultimately, even with the most advanced analytical data now at our fingertips, it is how we experience our response to sleep that remains the reliable gold standard here," says Dr. Claybon. 

Stick to a Schedule

A lot of people are guilty of revenge bedtime procrastination (i.e. staying up late to do things you didn't have time for during the day), and unfortunately, delaying your sleep can ruin your chances of quality sleep. It can help to stay consistent with when you wake up as well. "Sleep-enhancing lifestyle habits begin the moment we wake up in the morning," says Dr. Claybon. "Maintenance of relatively consistent wake-up times (even on weekends) and simple exposure to natural sunlight early in the morning can help to stabilize the body's circadian rhythm patterns." The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours, reports the Mayo Clinic.

Try going to bed and waking up at the time every day and allotting yourself seven hours to help reinforce your body's sleep-wake cycle. (Related: ​​This Sleep Disorder Is a Legit Medical Diagnosis for Being an Extreme Night Owl)

Don't Look at the Clock

You know those nights when you can't fall asleep, when you start counting the number of hours you'll get if you fall asleep at that hour? Doing this can create anxiety and stress before going to bed, which is why Siebern advises against looking at your clock at night. "Turn the clock around before going to sleep and avoid the temptation to look at the time throughout the night," says Siebern. 

That said, if you don't fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing, suggests the Mayo Clinic. Try reading or listening to soothing music and go back to bed when you're tired. (Related: Can You Really Catch Up On Sleep?)

Create a Restful Environment

"Dim bright light exposure one to two hours before bedtime, especially blue light," says Siebern. "This way, the bright light won't confuse the brain signal that regulates our circadian rhythms." Technological devices (phones, computers, TVs, and even some lightbulbs) emit blue light, which tend to keep you wired at night. The light from these devices also suppresses the natural production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, according to the Sleep Foundation.

If you can, try switching to an old-school alarm clock, which eliminates the need to have a phone in the bedroom at all, says Dr. Claybon. "If the light is creeping into the bedroom while the body and mind are seeking to detach from external stimulation, something as simple as an eye mask can promote a better sleep environment," she adds.

Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks Before Bed

Consuming caffeine or alcoholic beverages before bed can prevent you from getting a good night's sleep. Caffeine can stay in your body for five to six hours after consumption, sometimes longer for people taking different types of medication, explains Siebern. Because it stays in your system for so long and is a stimulant, it can cause difficulties in the onset of sleep if it's still in your body come bedtime. "That's why I recommend limiting caffeine intake to before 2 p.m," explains Siebern. 

Similarly, if consumed too close to bedtime (think: three to four hours before), alcohol can create fragmented sleep, increased snoring, and delayed onset of REM (deep) sleep, according to Siebern. She also recommends avoiding large meals, especially high-carb, fried, sugary, or spicy ones, because it activates the digestive system, which might disrupt sleep.

Try Supplements

"Melatonin supplementation can promote circadian balance as well," says Dr. Claybon. While your body produces melatonin naturally, taking a supplement can help signal your brain when it's time for bed, especially when dealing with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, or anxiety, reports the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health. Dr. Claybon recommends taking the supplements an hour or two before bedtime as it doesn't typically work as quickly in the same way as a sedative. (Here's what you should know about the safety of taking melatonin nightly over an extended period.) One option to try is the Hello Bello Sleep Well Melatonin (Buy it, $10, walmart.com), which is tasty and formulated with other sleep-promoting ingredients like chamomile.

Try a Breathing Technique

"One of the absolute best means of self-soothing and entrance into a relaxed state is simple, conscious breathwork," says Dr. Claybon. She recommends one to two seconds of mindful inhalation, followed by five to six seconds of exhalation. "Repeat a few minutes until awareness shifts to only the breaths themselves. This is free, simple, and often as effective as sedative meds and supplements when done consistently." (Related: Try These 5 Simple Breathing Exercises for Sleep)

Speak with a Professional

If you find that you are consistently having difficulty with getting quality sleep and it's impacting your daily life, consider speaking with an expert. "Finding the right combination of behavioral changes to optimize one's sleep may be a challenge with so many recommendations that float around," says Siebern, who recommends finding a sleep coach. "Sleep coaching can assist with sorting through one's sleep issues and developing a plan of action to start moving in a better direction." You can also meet with your primary care physician to help you identify and treat any underlying causes that are hindering sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"[Getting good sleep] is more about quality of life and engaging in the things that we value and gives us purpose," says Siebern. "Getting proper sleep helps bring us in that direction."