12 Strategies to Streamline Sleep
End the nightmare of tossing and turning at bedtime with these tips for letting go and drifting off.
Having trouble getting a full, restful night’s sleep? Join us as we tackle each aspect of the nighttime routine, from preparing your space to the final lights-out, so you can sail into dreamland — and learn to get back to sleep even if you pop up again. Take charge of your sleep routine and learn to let go of your day-to-day worries by following these 12 tips.
1. Take a bath. Warming your body and then gradually cooling down is a great way to promote rest. Light candles and add essential oils if you like, read a book, sip refreshing herbal tea and begin the process of letting go of your day.
2. Wind down. It helps to think about going to sleep as a process that begins hours before your head hits the pillow. After your bath, get into comfy jammies and shut off your laptop, TV, phone and other devices. Lower the lights slightly all around the house — lighting candles or twinkle lights is a nice nightly ritual — and spend time on an unplugged pursuit. Read, talk, pick up a craft project or listen to music.
3. Choose bedding by feel. It pays to splurge here if you can. Sheets come in direct contact with your body and can make a huge difference in how you feel in bed. Get to know what sort of sheets feel best to you and stock up on them. Donate older, worn sets if they have begun to pill or feel uncomfortable — two sets of high-quality sheets are far better than a closet full of scratchy ones.
Related: Browse Bedding Sets
4. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Think about editing your bedroom down to the essentials. Remove the computer, the TV and other devices. Declutter your nightstands, your closet and under the bed. Make sure any artwork, pillows or decorations elicit peaceful, restful feelings, and move everything else to another space. Check your mattress, sheets, blankets and pillows for comfort, and upgrade anything that isn’t absolutely a joy to sleep on.
Spend a few minutes making your bed and picking up the room every morning, so you can return to a clean, refreshed space in the evening.
5. Stick to a sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help your body find a comfortable rhythm. If you have been falling asleep much too late, try very gradually adjusting your bedtime to an earlier time — even five minutes or so earlier — each night until you have reached a more reasonable time.
6. Raid the fridge. It’s true that having a heavy dinner late in the evening can make it more difficult to get to sleep — but going to bed hungry is not much better. If you are truly hungry, have a small, healthy snack before tucking yourself in. Just make it free of caffeine and alcohol, because they can both affect sleep.
7. Try aromatherapy. Tap into the power of your senses by using essential oils in your bedroom to encourage rest. Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties, but you may find another scent you enjoy more — experiment to see what works for you. Place a few drops of the oil in your pre-bedtime bath or use a diffuser in your bedroom. You may also dilute essential oils with water in a spray bottle and (lightly) spritz your sheets and pillow before bed.
8. Read something mellow. Reach for a book, but not one you know you won’t be able to put down. Seek topics that are interesting to you but also require some concentration — nonfiction, philosophy, nature writing or something inspirational. Hopefully after a few pages, you will feel your eyes begin to close.
9. Make it really dark. When the time comes to shut off the lights, just how dark is your bedroom? If streetlights outside creep through your curtains, invest in a set of blackout shades. Remove any devices that light up or blink, like your laptop and cell phone. Place your alarm clock in the hallway or replace it with a simple analog clock that does not light up.
10. Do a sound check. Some people need utter silence to fall asleep, while others prefer music or white noise. If you are not sure which you prefer, experiment with sounds (or a lack of sound) until you find something that does the trick. For a silent night, try earplugs, a white noise machine or an air purifier. If music helps you relax, create a bedtime playlist for yourself no more than an hour long and put it on softly before climbing into bed.
11. Drift off. If your mind seems to start racing a mile a minute as soon as you climb under the covers, try “dumping” your thoughts into a journal. Don’t worry about how the words come out; just write without lifting your hand from the paper until your thoughts begin to slow down.
Turn out the lights, lie down and focus on your breath next. You could try counting your breaths (start again each time you lose count) or concentrate on relaxing your body from head to toe, one part at a time, until you fall asleep.
12. Get back to sleep. If you wake up during the night, first try to use breathing or relaxation exercises to quickly drift off again. If that doesn’t work, get up and read for a few minutes in another room. Thoughts racing? Pick up that journal again and write them down. Just keep the lights low and get back in bed after 10 minutes or so.