Do you ever nod off at your desk in the middle of the day? Perhaps no matter how much sleep you get at night, you still wake up saying, “just five more minutes!”
What if there was a way to wake up energized, maintain that feeling throughout the day, and then sleep effortlessly each night?
With a few simple adjustments to your daily routine and bedroom environment, you could improve your sleep quality and no longer need those extra minutes in bed.
In this article, we share our 48 favorite sleep hacks, so that you can learn how to get the best night's sleep of your life.
SLEEP HACKS INFOGRAPHIC
PART 1: SLEEP SCHEDULES
1: Wake Up at The Same Time Every Day
While sleeping in on the weekend may help you feel more rested, the effects are usually temporary. Further, this technique can backfire when it’s time for bed.
Here’s why: our bodies have an internal 24-hour clock, or circadian rhythm, that dictates when we’re drowsy and wide awake. This internal clock is based on the earth’s cycle of sunlight and darkness. So, when it’s daylight, we’re likely to feel awake, and when it’s dark, our bodies send signals and release melatonin, indicating it’s time for bed.
Sleeping in on your day off throws off this internal clock, making it more difficult to fall asleep that night. When that happens, we get less sleep, and when the alarm goes off the next morning, the cycle of sleep deprivation continues. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of health challenges, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
The solution is to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. You may find it challenging to get up early on your day off, but you’ll notice after a couple of weeks of trying this bedtime hack that you feel better rested.
Looking to learn more? Find out how to fix your sleep schedule here.
2: Learn More About Sleep Cycles
Humans sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes. These cycles have four stages, including three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement REM) sleep stage.
The stages of a full sleep cycle look like this:
- Stage 1 – Light Sleep
- Stage 2 – Light Sleep
- Stage 3 – Deep Sleep
- Stage 4 – REM/dreaming
The key to this sleep cycle hack is to remember that each sequence is 90 minutes long, and if you can schedule your bedtime so that you wake up at the end of a 90-minute interval, you’ll feel more refreshed when the alarm goes off. This is because Stage 1, the start of a cycle, is the lightest stage, and it’s much easier to wake up from light sleep. Conversely, if you wake up in the middle of a cycle, you’ll feel groggy.
The main challenge people face when implementing this hack is if they have difficulty falling asleep quickly. Taking too much time to fall asleep or not being able to predictably fall asleep within a set timeframe, can throw off your plan to wake up at the start of a new sleep cycle. For tips on how to fall asleep quickly, see Hacks 33 and 35.
3: Reduce Your Overall Sleep Need
What if we could sleep less AND have enough energy to get more done?
There are two ways that could allow you to cut up to two hours per day out of your sleep schedule without feeling fatigued.
1. Exercise to increase strength and stamina
Regular exercise (three to five times per week) builds up your body’s strength and stamina. Our cardiovascular systems improve, and we’re able to run at peak performance without expending as much energy.
To get the most out of this technique, opt for exercise in the afternoon, at least 4 to 6 hours before your scheduled bedtime. This allows the body to come down from its endorphin rush and get higher quality sleep at night, which also reduces the overall need for shuteye.
2. Gradually reduce the number of hours you sleep
Each week, gradually delay the time you go to bed or get up slightly earlier. For example, let’s say you want to go from sleeping eight hours a night to just seven. Deciding to set your alarm clock one hour ahead of your normal schedule isn’t going to work, at least not sustainably.
Instead, implement this hack in weekly 20 to 30-minute increments. For your first week, either go to bed 20-30 minutes later or set your alarm for 20-30 minutes earlier. Continue cutting back by this same interval each week. By the third week, you should be able to cut your sleeping by 60 to 90 minutes.
Although adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, a better quality of sleep1 rather than quantity of sleep will determine how well-rested you feel.
Read More: How Much Sleep Do You Need?
4: Keep a Sleep Log
This tip comes from Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of multiple books including The 4-Hour Workweek and the The 4-Hour Body. Tim keeps journals and logs of just about everything he does each day, from what he eats, to how he trains, and even what he’s grateful for. He’s explained that this helps him to pinpoint exactly what makes him successful in any given endeavor.
The same principle holds true for sleep logs. To start a log, you can either make your own sleep diary in a spreadsheet or get any number of pre-made sleep journals. Which variables you track are ultimately up to you, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- The time you went to bed
- How long it took to fall asleep
- The time you woke up
- Whether you got out of bed or woke up in the middle of the night
- How many times you hit snooze in the morning
- If you took a nap that day and how long it lasted
- Whether you consumed caffeine or alcohol
- If you exercised
- What you ate
- A rating of your sleep quality that night
- A rating of how you felt in the morning
- Whether you felt hot, cold or comfortable that night
After tracking a number of these variables over time, you may notice patterns about experiencing better quality sleep when you exercise or worse quality of sleep when you eat certain foods.
5: Explore Polyphasic Sleep
Polyphasic or segmented sleep simply means breaking your sleep into multiple blocks instead of one time. This is in contrast to monophasic sleep, in which you sleep only once per day. Most of us adhere to monophasic sleep, where we go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, and that’s the only time we rest.
In several countries, it’s the norm to be a biphasic sleeper, which is when you sleep twice a day specifically. We’ve all heard of Latin nations that take afternoon siestas (naps), a common form of segmented sleeping. In fact, it’s becoming common for more progressive American companies to have nap rooms, where employees can go at any time during the workday to rest and recharge.
Polyphasic sleeping is typically structured in one of two ways:
- You nap for 20 minutes every 4 hours, for a total of 2 hours of sleep per day
- You have a 3-hour “core sleep” at night with three separate 20-minute naps during the day
While this type of polyphasic sleeping can help you temporarily get more time in your day, it’s not recommended for the long term. First, it creates a sleep deficit, which, when chronic, puts the body at risk for long-term health consequences. Second, the schedule must be adhered to strictly in order to be effective. Unless your days are flexible, you’re bound to run into challenges that will throw off the schedule.
More likely, you’ll have more like with a biphasic schedule, in which you take one daytime nap.
6: Explore the 28-Hour Day Concept
Instead of adhering to a 7-day week consisting of 24 hours per day with the rest of the planet, you can explore the concept of a 6-day week that has 28 hours in a day. The 28-hour concept pushes your clock forward, so you can no longer predictably rely on external factors like light and darkness to cue your body when it’s time to sleep.
The advantage of this schedule is that allows you to enjoy late evenings and going out on the weekends without experiencing a sleep deficit. The disadvantage is that your routine will be completely thrown off, and if you have a 9 to 5 corporate job, you may not be able to negotiate this schedule with your boss.
Here’s an illustration of what your new 6-day week would look like:
PART 2: SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
7: Sleep in a Dark Environment
Our circadian rhythms are linked to our outside environment, so any light in the bedroom can disrupt our sleep and negatively affect its quality.
In order to have a restful bedtime, our bodies rely on the production of melatonin and serotonin from our pineal gland. The pineal gland is shaped like a pinecone (hence the name) and is nestled in the center of our brain.
This gland is sensitive to any type of light, including LEDs from alarm clocks and computers, as well as a glow from your phone or television. Exposure to light, including turning on the light to go to the bathroom at night can slow down the production of melatonin. So, if you do get up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself, try to do so with the light off.
If you’re unable to get rid of all lights in the bedroom, try using a sleeping mask over your eyes to block out artificial light.
8: Sleep in a Colder Room
Sleeping in the manner that nature intended may be better for us. As humans, we did not evolve with the benefit of having central heat in our homes. Additionally, our body’s core temperature and the external nighttime temperature tend to drop, which are biological cues telling the internal clock it’s time for sleep. If we keep our bedroom warm, this throws off our natural balance.
Therefore, it’s better to keep our sleeping environment cool to mimic how we would sleep in nature and promote these biological sleeping cues. A word of caution: don’t sleep in a room that’s too brisk because being uncomfortably cold can also disrupt your rest.
The best room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit for adults, 66-70 for elderly adults, and 65-70 for babies and toddlers.
9: Eliminate Noise
This may seem obvious, but even the slightest bit of noise can jar you from a peaceful sleep and make your rest and restoration period subpar. Noisy neighbors, a snoring partner, and street traffic can prevent you from falling asleep or regularly wake you throughout the night.
We recommend two ways to eliminate noise.
- Noise-canceling headphones
10: Listen to Calming Music Before Bed
Music is powerful. The right song can bring us back in time, make us feel intense emotion, and even provoke our sense of smell by causing us to recall a memory. Imagine, then that music can also help stimulate dreaming.
Listening to relaxing music before bed could help you fall asleep and rest better by reducing stress and anxiety2. Plus, over time, the habit of hearing relaxing music can cue your body that it’s time for sleep and help you fall asleep even faster.
11: Try a White Noise Machine
Sometimes the right solution might not be to eliminate noise (Hack 9) but to increase the noise. This can be done with the magic of a white noise machine, which soothes you to sleep with sound waves in a wide range of frequencies. The white noise drowns out the sounds of your external environment, masking them with a whooshing sound similar to the soothing sounds parents make to their newborns.
12: Paint Your Bedroom in Tranquil Colors
Did you know that the color of your bedroom could influence your sleep? Research points to blue as the most calming color3, which you help you relax and foster more peaceful rest.
Other colors that may help promote sleep include earth tones and muted shades of green, yellow, white, and beige.
Avoid the temptation to paint your bedroom in bold and bright colors. While intense colors like red can increase the energy of the room, they’re counterproductive to sleep.
13: Try Aromatherapy
Our sense of smell is triggered through the olfactory nerve4, which sends signals to our brain. These signals can trigger a response from either our autonomic nervous system (fight or flight) or our parasympathetic nervous system (calming and relaxation).
Essential oils have a variety of benefits, and in the form of aromatherapy, they can be powerful aids to help you fall asleep and stay tranquil throughout the night. The most popular essential oil for sleep is lavender. Lavender aromatherapy oil calms the nervous system by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature. It also changes brain waves to a more relaxed state.
Other beneficial aromatherapy oils include lemon, bergamot, ylang ylang, clary sage, and jasmine.
PART 3: DIET AND NUTRITION
14: Eat Breakfast Every Morning
Just like light and darkness are environmental cues that signal when it’s time for waking and resting, mealtime also serves a similar function.
Our bodies come equipped with something called a food-entrainable clock5, which is directly linked to our body’s sleep clock. To keep this clock on schedule, it’s ideal to eat breakfast soon after waking, and it should be the most substantial meal of the day. By having an adequate breakfast, we signal our bodies that we have enough energy to get through the day. In contrast, large meals should be avoided at night when it’s time to power down.
Eating breakfast also helps regulate our hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and too much of it will cause us to stay awake and disrupt our bedtime (more on this in Hack 15).
15: Keep Your Cortisol in Check
Cortisol is a stress hormone that gives us energy throughout the day. This hormone should be at its highest level in the morning, which helps us wake up and get moving. As the day goes on, it should gradually decrease and hit a low point in the evening when it’s time for bed.
Cortisol and melatonin are inversely related, meaning the more cortisol we have in our system, the less melatonin, and vice versa. We need melatonin to sleep, so if cortisol production continues at a steady pace all day long, we’re going to have difficulty falling asleep at night.
Having a stressful day will trigger too much cortisol production. Deadlines, arguments, and chronic stress all contribute to elevated cortisol levels. Here’s what you can do to keep your cortisol in check:
- Engage in moderate exercise (mild exercise will increase cortisol in the short term, but will still decrease it at night for optimum sleep).
- Be more aware of your thoughts and minimize negative and stressful thinking.
- Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and massage.
- Do more things that make you happy, especially a fun hobby.
- Maintain healthy relationships and spend time with those you love.
- Consider adopting a pet. Animal companionship is known to decrease stress.
- Mind your diet and seek out foods that decrease cortisol levels, including dark chocolate, bananas, pears, green tea, probiotics, and water.
- Take supplements like fish oil and ashwagandha.
Find Out More: The Relationship Between Sleep and Stress
16: Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol in the Evening
Avoiding caffeine is a good tip because caffeine is a stimulant, and therefore, will make falling asleep more difficult. While it’s okay, and even beneficial, to consume caffeine in the morning, avoid it within six hours of bedtime.
Even though alcohol can make you sleepy and fall asleep faster, it should still be avoided before bedtime. Not only can alcohol cause more disrupted sleep, but it can reduce the amount of REM sleep6 you get or worsen sleep apnea symptoms if you have this disorder.
*Disrupting or reducing REM sleep will cause drowsiness the next day and prevent you from feeling rested when you wake up.
Want to know more? Check out how caffeine affects our sleep.
17: Eat Light Food Before Sleep
A big meal before bed overly stimulates your digestion and prevents optimal sleep. Lots of energy is needed to process food as our body directs blood flow to our digestive system instead of to our brain. Since the brain controls the sleep process, a lack of blood flow to the brain means it has less energy for sleep.
Large meals right before bed could also trigger acid reflux, heartburn, and possibly choking. Further, if you eat a particularly big meal right before bed, you’re more prone to feel overly full and uncomfortable.
18: Avoid Snacks Before Bed
Experts generally do not recommend eating before bed, but if you’re hungry, that’s not going to help you fall or stay asleep, either. Something very light (under 150 calories) can keep you satisfied throughout the night. Carbohydrate-rich snacks like toast, a small muffin, or a handful of cereal are more likely to increase the level of tryptophan in the blood. Tryptophan7 is an amino acid that helps induce sleepiness.
If you do opt for a pre-bedtime snack, remember to avoid the caffeine found in coffee, soda, caffeinated tea, and chocolate.
View Our Suggestions: The 17 Healthy Late-Night Snacks
19: Eat Healthy, Whole, and Unprocessed Food
In Hack 17, we mentioned that digesting food takes tremendous amounts of energy and diverts blood flow away from the brain. Processed foods, cooked foods, and animal products take more energy to process than raw and natural foods. This is because the body does not as easily recognize processed foods and takes more effort to break them down.
Raw foods require less energy for absorption and digestion. Examples of healthy raw foods include cherries, guava, raw almonds, leafy greens, kelp, and seeds like sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin.
20: Avoid Drinking Too Much Water in the Evening
Having to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom is disruptive to a good night of sleep, so it’s recommended to limit water intake before bed. On the other hand, proper hydration is necessary for health functions, including sleep, so where does one draw the line?
Our recommendation is to make sure you drink enough water during the day and avoid drinking water or any other fluid within a few hours before going to bed.
PART 4: NAPPING
21: Limit Your Nap Time
When planned carefully, a nap can help you feel more rested and alert. Naps should be practiced with caution, though. If you’re an insomniac, avoid napping at all costs. Health experts say napping could worsen insomnia symptoms8.
For those who enjoy napping, there are helpful tips that will allow you to reap the benefits without it negatively affecting your nighttime sleep.
First, you should limit your naps to 25-30 minutes. This type of nap, called a power nap, is ideal for when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before and you need a bit of a boost. Anything longer could leave you feeling groggy and interfere with your sleep later in the evening.
Second, don’t nap after 4:00 p.m. Even though it may be tempting to take a short nap when you come home from work, you’re more likely to have trouble falling asleep that night. If you’re feeling extra groggy, try taking a walk outside. Getting fresh air and sunlight can stimulate your energy levels and negate the need for that nap after all.
22: Try a Coffee Nap
This sounds counterintuitive, but don’t knock it until you try it.
To take a coffee nap, you will drink a cup of coffee right before it’s time to nap. Once you drink the coffee, you’ll then take a 20-minute power nap.
Here’s why it works: it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for caffeine to enter your bloodstream and take effect. So, by the time your nap is over, you’ll be starting to feel the first effects of caffeine. You’ll wake up more refreshed and energized than you would have without the caffeine boost.
If you try this tip, make sure you don’t nap beyond 20-30 minutes. Set the alarm if necessary to avoid going into deep sleep. Remember, if you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, you may feel disoriented and groggy.
Read More: Coffee Naps Explained
23: Meditation Nap
A meditation nap is like a nap without actually falling asleep. These naps have the rejuvenating and stimulating effects of a regular nap, while still maintaining a level of alertness. There are guided nap meditations available on YouTube, or you can do a meditation nap on your own.
Find a comfortable spot and either sit or lie down. Clear your thoughts, relax your muscles and take slow, even deep breaths. 15 to 20 minutes later, you may find yourself as refreshed as if you’d been asleep.
PART 5: BEDDING AND ACCESSORIES
24: Sleep on a Good Quality Mattress
You may already know that sleeping on an excellent mattress is a key component of quality sleep. The wrong mattress can cause a host of problems that wreak havoc on your sleep, including allergies, sweating, and back pain. If you’re experiencing any of these discomforts, it’s likely time to invest in something new.
The quality of a mattress is highly subjective, and the price is not necessarily an indicator that one bed is better than another. Some people prefer softer, plush mattresses while others want something firm and hard. Most beds fall somewhere in the middle, though there are soft and firm options available too. The right feel will depend on your unique needs, particularly your body type and sleep position.
Having good sheets is another critical component for optimal sleep. There are different factors that go into finding a sheet set that’s ideal for you. For example, hot sleepers can benefit from cooling sheets that are made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. Other people may love sheets that feel luxuriously soft.
View Our Guide: Top Rated Mattresses
25: Use an Appropriate Pillow
Finding a great pillow is similar to mattresses and other bedding; it’s a personal choice based on your preferences. However, there are a few universal rules to follow when selecting a pillow to make sure that you get the best night of sleep possible.
People who sleep on their backs need a pillow that supports the natural curve of their spine. This will be a medium profile pillow that still provides proper support under the head, neck, and shoulders. You may also find it helpful to put another pillow underneath the knees to prevent back strain.
Side sleepers should use thicker pillows to support the head and neck, ensuring that the spine maintains a natural line. Placing a firm pillow between the knees also helps to keep the spine in a neutral position.
For stomach sleepers, a flat pillow is necessary to avoid putting excessive stress on the back and neck. If you sleep on your stomach, avoid the fluffy, high loft pillows. You may also want to get a second pillow (also flat) and place it under your stomach or pelvis to keep your lower back in line.
Check Out Our Guide: Highest Rated Pillows
26: Consider a Cooling/Heating Mattress Pad
A cooling bed pad is like a thermostat for your bed. Some even have the capability of heating one side and cooling the other.
These pads can keep you cool or warm all night long with the simple push of a button. They also come with other unique advantages.
For example, dual pads can be ideal for couples. How many times have you been hot or cold while your partner is equally uncomfortable, but for the opposite reason? With a dual pad, you can set your own preferred temperature, and your partner can set theirs. Not only does this end an argument, but it also prevents you from waking up due to their excessive tossing, turning, and complaining about the temperature.
Mattress pads can also save you lots of money. Think about it this way: if your bedroom is too hot or cold, you typically use an air conditioner or heater to regulate the temperature of the entire room. With a cooling/heating mattress pad, you don’t have to worry about exorbitant electric bills in the pursuit of restful sleep.
Want to see more? Check out our guide for top-rated cooling mattress toppers.
PART 6: SLEEP TECHNOLOGY AND GADGETS
27: Use sleep trackers
A sleep tracker works by monitoring how much (and how well) you sleep each night. Most trackers do this by tracking your movement throughout the night to see how much time you spend sleeping. Some of the more advanced trackers also measure your heart rate, skin temperature, and breathing.
Not only do these devices keep track of your sleep, but they also provide detailed analytics so you can see reports of how well you slept and have tips on what you can do to improve. Some even include coaching programs, as well as special lights and sounds to help you fall asleep and wake up refreshed.
Sleep trackers can even alert you at the end of a sleep cycle (see Hack 2), so you can automatically wake up without having to pre-plan and calculate your cycles before going to bed.
There are two main types of sleep trackers: wearable sleep trackers (including the Fitbit) and bed-based trackers that usually include a sensor that fits under your mattress or sheet. Wearable sleep trackers tend to be more costly, but they have the bonus of including overall activity trackers.
28: Use a sleep mask
Sleep masks are the best way to ensure you sleep in total darkness. If you have any type of light in the room (even the LED from an alarm clock) it can interfere with how well you sleep and even inhibit melatonin production, which is required for proper bedtime.
Sleep masks, also referred to as eye masks, are effective at blocking out all light. When you shop for one, look for a mask that doesn’t allow any light to creep in from underneath the mask. Comfort is also important, as you don’t want something that feels heavy, tight, or restrictive on your face. You can also opt for an adjustable sleep mask to guarantee a proper fit.
Another factor to consider is the material of the sleep mask. If you have sensitive skin or a complexion that is prone to acne, you should seek out a mask that is made of natural fibers like cotton or silk.
Alternatively, you can make a DIY mask without many issues.
Find Out More: Sleeping Mask Benefits
29: Use Noise Canceling Headphones
In sleep life hack 9, we mentioned noise-canceling headphones as a method to block out noise. That being said, some people would rather not have something inside their ears while sleeping. The protrusion of the earbuds can be uncomfortable for side sleepers, for example. For this reason, we also recommend fabric headphones that wrap around your head like a headband. The only negative aspect of the fabric headphones is that they may get warm after a while.
30: Use a Journal
Writing in a journal is a great way to adjust your mindset and focus on daily gratitude exercises. The following are examples of journaling habits you can use every day.
- Twice a day you write in the journal. Immediately upon rising, and again right before bed.
- In the morning, you write down three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make today great, and a confidence-boosting affirmation.
- In the evening, you write down three amazing things that happened during your day and a statement about how you could have made the day better.
The reason this works so well is that it helps you jumpstart your day on a positive note and keeps you energized toward the goal of making each day great. Then, when you go to bed, you review your day and focus on what went well.
You also have a chance to reflect on what you did each day and what you could have improved. Instead of stewing over conflict and obstacles, you take a proactive and positive approach. By the time your head hits the pillow, your mind is clear and the stress of the day is wiped away.
31: Use Bright Light Therapy
Bright light therapy is a common treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which tends to affect people in the Winter, but it’s also an effective sleep hacking tool that you can use year-round.
Here’s why it works: we require sunlight to stabilize our circadian rhythm, but extensive use of artificial light along with long Winter nights can throw us off track. This also affects our energy and sleep. A therapeutic light box simulates sunlight by producing a wide spectrum of light, much more so than artificial light.
To get the most out of therapeutic light boxes, use them for 30 minutes to an hour in the morning at your desk. Exposure to this natural light will balance your circadian rhythm, which will boost your energy during the day, benefit your mood, and ultimately, increase the quality of your bedtime.
Get More Info: Best Light Therapy Lamp
32: Use a Bright Light Alarm
If the repetitive sounds of a buzzer or the blasting of frenetic music tunes are not your preferred wake-up methods, we recommend a bright light alarm. Just like the name suggests, this is an alarm that wakes you up with light rather than sound.
This device mimics the way the sun rises, but if you’re getting up before sunrise (or at another dark time), you might benefit from the bright light alarm. The light gradually increases in intensity until you’re in a brightly lit room.
Interested in exploring further? View our guide for top-rated sunrise alarm clocks.
33: Use Meditation Apps
You can find an app for nearly anything these days, and there are numerous choices for meditation apps. If you’re new to meditation, it may feel difficult at first, which is where guided meditation apps can help.
Meditation is a great way to alleviate stress and anxiety, two common culprits behind insomnia. This practice can be done in the morning, before bed, or whenever is most convenient. Though if you’re trying to wind down at the end of the day, meditating before bed would likely be most helpful.
PART 7: SLEEP AND LIFESTYLE HABITS
34: Quit Smoking
The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant, which will keep you awake. If you smoke close to bedtime, it can affect your ability to sleep. Smokers are also more prone to sleep apnea and getting up in the middle of the night.
Nonsmokers experience deeper and more restorative sleep than non-smokers, so if you’ve got this habit and need better sleep, consider dropping it.
35: Avoid Stress in the Evening
Stress, in general, will negatively affect your bedtime. After all, it’s difficult to relax and shut out the world if you’re constantly worrying about your day or what’s going on in your life. If you’re feeling stressed in the evening, that’s even worse because it can prevent you from winding down in order to sleep.
If you’ve had a stressful day, try to do something in the evening to take your mind off of it. Enjoying a hobby, spending time with loved ones, and taking your pet for a walk are just a few ideas. Think about what triggers your stress responses and make an effort to avoid them. If you’re the type to check your email before bed, take a break from that habit and see if it makes a difference.
Another evening stress trigger is thinking about what we need to do the next day. They can be mundane worries like what we’re going to wear to work, to more serious ones like an upcoming presentation or meeting.v Therefore, we recommend taking steps before bed to eliminate or minimize these stresses. Plan your day as best you can the night before, write down what you hope to accomplish the next day, and utilize the journal suggestion from Hack 30 to help you finish the day and prepare for the next one.
Need help? Check out our guide on how to reduce stress and sleep better.
36: Avoid Reading Right Before Bed
This might surprise you because a lot of people use reading to fall asleep at night. However, if you decide to pick a stimulating book to read, you might find that you say to yourself, “just one more chapter!” and before you know it an hour or more has passed that you should have spent asleep.
While not true for all people, reading before bed might delay sleep onset. In order to read, you’ll need to turn on artificial light. This delays your melatonin production and can affect how well and deeply you rest once you’re asleep.
That being said, if you find that reading helps calm your mind and improves your sleep, you can stick with this routine.
37: Avoid Movies and Intense TV shows Before Bed
Just like reading light, watching television before bed emits artificial light that will affect your natural circadian rhythm. Furthermore, the blue light9 from electronics like television, computers, and smartphones, has been found to suppress melatonin production more than any other artificial sleep.
Another issue is that the availability of on-demand, streaming television and movies has made almost everything watchable at the touch of a fingertip. As a result, it’s easy to get sucked into a binge-watching session and then have to wake up in three hours to go to work. If you do enjoy watching television and movies and night, plan your evening, so it’s not right before bed.
38: Exercise Regularly and Early in the morning
Exercising regularly has tremendous health benefits, and improving our daily sleep10 is just one of those. People who engage in exercise 3 to 4 times per week have better cardiovascular health, lower heart rates, and regular blood pressure. Exercise also helps release stress, takes our mind off our troubles, and gets us off the couch, all key factors that help us sleep.
However, it’s important to note that exercise increases the amount of cortisol in our blood, but it’s a temporary spike that decreases hours after the activity. This is why it’s crucial to exercise early in the day, preferably in the morning, at lunchtime, or early in the afternoon to avoid having too much cortisol in our system at night.
39: Do not Exercise at Least Two Hours Before bed
This ties into sleep hack 38. Again, exercising too close to bedtime doesn’t allow your body enough time to rid itself of the cortisol spike it experienced during exercise. Therefore, schedule your exercise activities for earlier in the day. If you prefer to exercise after work, make sure it’s at least two hours before bed.
Another reason this is important is that our bodies should be refueled with food after exercise. If we exercise too close to bedtime, it goes to reason that we would also eat too close to when it’s time for bed. Although you can skip a meal after exercise, you then run the risk of having your sleep disrupted by waking up hungry in the middle of the night.
40: Meditate Before Going to bed
As mentioned, meditation helps clear your mind of the stress of your day and prepares it for sleep.
We recommend finding a place where you can sit comfortably for between 15 minutes to an hour. You can use guided meditations through apps or YouTube videos. Another option is to listen to relaxing music or nothing at all.
Do whatever feels comfortable for you as long as you are able to clear your mind and stop thinking.
41: Avoid Snoozing Your Alarm
This is a tough one, and most of us are guilty of it. Whether you snooze your alarm for one 9-minute cycle or an hour or more, you’re not getting any more restful sleep. In fact, you’re likely to wake up more tired than if you didn’t snooze at all.
In essence, each time the alarm goes off, the body thinks it’s time to get up. However, each time you press snooze, you’ve signaled that it’s a false alarm, and your body has no idea what to expect. When the buzzer goes off each time, you feel groggier.
If you’re a habitual snoozer, you can put your alarm clock or smartphone on the other side of the room, which forces you to get up and turn off the alarm. The obvious problem with this approach is that nothing is stopping you from walking back over to your bed and climbing right back in.
If that sounds like you, you’ll have to retrain your body not to press snooze.
The following tip could help you learn to stop snoozing.
Here’s what to do:
- Lie down in the afternoon and set the alarm for 5 minutes.
- Don’t go to sleep! Just lie in bed and relax.
- When the alarm goes off, get up and resume your day.
- Do not press snooze; do not go back to bed.
Practice this a few times a day (spread apart of course), or once a day as often as you can. Once you’ve done it a few dozen times, you’ll be a pro with a brand new healthy habit.
PART 8: PSYCHOLOGY
42: Use Your Internal Alarm Clock
We’ve all experienced a time when we had to wake up early for something important. Maybe it was to catch a flight, take an exam, or be at a job interview.
If you sleep through your alarm clock, you’re in big trouble. So what do you do?
You set alarms all over your house, maybe even schedule one of those fancy wake-up call services.
However, you end up waking five minutes before any of your alarms are set to go off. How did you do that?
Our bodies have built-in internal alarm clocks that respond to the stress hormones ACTH and cortisol. We’re so stressed that our brain signals the pituitary and adrenal glands to spike ACTH and cortisol to wake us up when it’s time.*
As you can imagine, this is not an ideal or sustainable way to live out our days. However, you can use this technique to your advantage and maybe even throw away your alarm clock.
You do this by psychologically prepping yourself before bed. Visualize the time you want to wake up, see the time on your clock or smartphone, and picture yourself getting up energized and on time.
There’s another type of internal alarm clock you can use that’s a bit different, which is relying on your own body’s circadian rhythm.
This practice is called free-running sleep, and it works like this:
- Go to sleep when you’re tired
- Wake up on your own without an alarm
Need more details? Check out more tips for waking up without an alarm.
Before alarm clocks were invented, this is pretty much how we slept as humans. We were cued by the internal alarm clocks that follow circadian rhythms to wake us up as it starts getting light. And then, as night sets in, our internal alarm clocks tell us that it’s time to rest.
This is by far the best way to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep and allows you to go to bed and wake up on your schedule.
The only challenge with this approach is if you have something like an early morning job or school, and your internal alarm clock is not on that schedule. However, it can be worth trying when you’re on vacation to see if it’s something you can realistically maintain.
43: Write Down a To-Do list for Tomorrow
If you’re a busy person (who isn’t, right?), you know you have a million things to do tomorrow. Do you ever lie awake in bed at night and run through your task list for tomorrow? Do you worry that you’re going to forget to do something?
These things will keep you awake at night, and perhaps worse is that they’ll be the first things you think of when you wake up. When that happens, it can be hard to get out of bed because you’re thinking of your endless to-do list.
The solution to this is simple:
Write down your to-do list for tomorrow the night before. Once it’s on paper, it’s out of your head, and you can rest easy knowing that everything for the next day is planned out.
You can use a simple notebook, calendar, or piece of paper to plan out your list.
44: Set a Morning Reward
You can implement this sleep hacking method by picking a reward to give yourself when you stick to your daily sleep plan.
Each morning when you get up without pressing snooze, for example, you can reward yourself. Maybe it’s something simple like taking five extra minutes in the shower or having your favorite treat for breakfast.
This hack can also be applied as a longer-term reward system. For example, you can give yourself a reward for reaching a goal. Whether it’s to go to bed by a certain time, wake up without snoozing, or resisting the urge to watch television right before bed, pick a goal, pick a time period you’re going to measure (one week, one month, etc.) and if you stick to your plan, reward yourself.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can even set a consequence for missing your daily goal.
45: Focus on Small Wins in the Morning
We tend to have the least amount of willpower first thing in the morning, and when we’re groggy and just waking up, our cognitive abilities are at their lowest. Therefore, it’s important to set the tone for our day by focusing on small wins that will boost our mood and make us happier, healthier individuals who sleep like champions.
Whether the small win is noticing that your shirt is already ironed, the sunrise is particularly beautiful, or you had all green lights on the way to work in the morning, acknowledge each one and express your gratitude. This will go a long way in helping you sleep and feel happy in general.
46: Maintain a Positive Attitude Toward other People and life
The power of positivity is key in elevating our moods and overall levels of happiness. When we’re in a better mood, we naturally sleep better and even need less time spent in bed.
Maybe you’ve been interviewing for jobs and you didn’t get an offer for a position you desperately wanted. Instead of focusing on the fact that you didn’t get the job, try to turn around your thinking and instead realize that the company did you a favor by not hiring you because there’s something better out there.
By focusing on the positive rather than the negative, you can lead a more fulfilling life that leads to better sleep, too!
47: Listen to Uplifting Music in the Morning
Waking up to buzzing alarms and talk radio isn’t the most pleasant way to start the day. Rather, music can be an uplifting soundtrack for your morning wake-up routine.
Find a song to wake up to that is motivational and sparks positive associations and images and you’ll feel on top of the world.
48: Get Some Sunlight in the Morning
The single best way to set and calibrate your body’s internal clock is to expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. The bright, natural light signals your body that it’s daytime. This, in turn, stops your body from producing melatonin while setting it up to produce it again at night.
Another reason to soak up some sun in the morning is that it helps combat depression, especially in the Winter when there are fewer daylight hours to experience sunshine. If you find that you absolutely can’t get natural sunlight in the morning, whether it’s due to the time you wake up or your location, try using a therapeutic lightbox as a substitute in your home or office.
Whether you try just one of these sleeping hacks or dozens, you’re bound to find that your sleep improves. Some of these are instant fixes, and some require you to train your body and develop healthier habits.
Making a lifestyle change can be difficult, but it’s important to take a proactive approach and improve your bedtime habits. This is a crucial component of your overall health, and the better you sleep, the healthier you’ll be.
- “Sleep Deprivation Linked to Risk of Death, Accidents and Health Issues”. Mercy Health. 2018.
- Stefan Koelsch, Julian Fuermetz, Ulrich Sack, Katrin Bauer, Maximilian Hohenadel, Martin Wiegel, Udo X. Kaisers, Wolfgang Heinke, “Effects of Music Listening on Cortisol Levels and Propofol Consumption during Spinal Anesthesia”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2011.
- Costa, Marco., Frumento, Sergio., Nese, Mattia., Predieri, Iacopo. “Interior Color and Psychological Functioning in a University Residence Hall”. National Library of Medicine. 2018.
- “Olfactory Nerve”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified May 21, 2023.
- Verwey, M., Amir, S. “Food-entrainable circadian oscillators in the brain”. National Library of Medicine. 2009.
- “How does alcohol affect your sleep?”. Piedmont. Webpage accessed September 30, 2023.
- Hartmann, E. “Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep”. National Library of Medicine. 1982.
- “Napping: Do's and don'ts for healthy adults”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified November 13, 2020.
- “Blue light has a dark side”. Harvard Health. 2020.
- “Exercising for Better Sleep”. Johns Hopkins Health. Webpage accessed October 1, 2023.