A good night's sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, then getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
Here are 17 evidence-based tips to sleep better at night.
In patients with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83% (19).
A similar study in the elderly found 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80% (20).
To date, most of the research is in patients with severe sleep issues. However, even if you have average sleep, daily light exposure will most likely help improve it.
You can achieve this by getting daily sunlight exposure or, if this is not practical, invest in an artificial bright light device or bulbs.
Bottom Line: Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially in those with severe sleep issues or insomnia.
Again, this is due to its impact on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep (23, 24).
Blue light is the worst in this regard, which is emitted in large amounts from electronic devices like smartphones and computers.
There are several popular methods you can use to reduce nighttime blue light exposure. These include:
- Wear glasses that block blue light (24, 25).
- Download an app such as f.lux to block blue light on your laptop or computer.
- Install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone. These are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights 2 hours before heading to bed.
Bottom Line: Blue light tricks your body into thinking it's daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening.
However, when consumed late in the day, the stimulation of your nervous system may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
In one study, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality (34).
Caffeine can stay elevated in the blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you are caffeine sensitive or have trouble sleeping (31, 35).
If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, then stick with decaffeinated coffee.
Bottom Line: Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if large amounts are consumed in the late afternoon or evening.
While short "power naps" have been proven beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep.
In one study, participants actually ended up being more sleepy during the day after taking daytime naps (37).
Another study found that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can negatively affect health and sleep quality (38).
However, some studies have shown that those who are used to taking regular daytime naps did not suffer from poor quality or disrupted sleep at night.
Bottom Line: The effects of daytime naps depend on the individual. If you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps.
Your body's circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset.
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid in sleep quality in the long-term (42).
One study found those who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep (43).
If you struggle with sleep, try to get in a habit of waking up and going to bed at a similar time each day and night. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
Bottom Line: Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle, especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that signals your brain when it's time to relax and head to bed (46).
A melatonin supplement is an extremely popular aid to fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.
In one study, 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day, and helped people fall asleep faster. Another study found half the participants fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality (48, 49).
Additionally, no withdrawal effects were reported in either of the above studies.
Melatonin is also useful when traveling and adjusting to a new timezone, as it helps your body's circadian rhythm return to normal (50).
In some countries, you need a prescription for melatonin. In others, melatonin is widely available in stores or online. Take around 1–5 mg, 30–60 minutes before bed.
Start with a low dose to assess your tolerance, and then increase it slowly as needed. Since melatonin may alter brain chemistry, it is advised that you check with a medical professional before use.
Bottom Line: A melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Take 1–5 mg, 30–60 minutes before heading to bed.
Several supplements can induce relaxation and help you sleep, including:
- Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it can aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction. Take 250 mg, 30–60 minutes before bed (51, 52).
- Glycine: A few studies have found that 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality (53, 54, 55).
- Valerian root: This root is backed by several studies that show it can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Take 500 mg before bed (56, 57, 58).
- Magnesium: Responsible for over 600 reactions within the body, studies show magnesium can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality (59, 60, 61).
- L-Theanine: An amino acid, l-theanine can improve relaxation and sleep. Take 100–200 mg before heading to bed (62, 63, 64).
- Lavender: A powerful plant-based supplement with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary-like effect to improve sleep. Take 80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool (65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71).
Bottom Line: Several supplements can help with relaxation and sleep quality. These can work well when combined with other strategies.
Drinking a couple of drinks at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones.
Bottom Line: Avoid drinking alcohol before bed, as it can reduce nighttime melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
Many people believe that the bedroom environment and its setup are key factors in getting a good night's sleep.
This can include aspects such as temperature, noise, furniture choice and arrangement, external lights and more (79).
One study investigating the bedroom environment of women found that around 50% of participants noticed improved sleep quality when reductions in noise and lighting were introduced (83).
To optimize your bedroom environment, try to minimize external noise, light and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and enjoyable place.
Bottom Line: Try to optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise and making it a generally relaxing environment.
Body and bedroom temperature can also profoundly impact sleep quality.
As you may have experienced during the summer or when on vacation, it can be very hard to get a good night's sleep when it's too warm.
One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality even more than external noise (79).
Around 70°F, or 20°C, seems to be a comfortable temperature for most people, although it always depends on your preferences and what you're used to.
Bottom Line: Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 70°F/20°C seems comfortable for most people.
That being said, a high-carb meal eaten a few hours before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.
This is likely due to its effect on the hormone tryptophan, which can make you feel tired (95).
Bottom Line: Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, eating carbs a few hours before bed may help.
Many people have a pre-sleep routine that helps them relax.
In one study, a relaxing massage improved sleep quality in ill patients (102).
There are many strategies you could try, including listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, deep breathing and visualization.
Test different methods and find what works best for you.
Bottom Line: Relaxation techniques before bed can be useful, and have even been used to treat insomnia.
A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better.
In one study, a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped participants get greater amounts of deep sleep (104).
Bottom Line: A warm bath, shower or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
An underlying health condition may be the cause of your sleep problems.
This condition may be more common that you think. One review found that 24% of men and 9% of women had sleep apnea (110).
If you've always struggled with sleep, it may be wise to speak to a doctor about it.
Bottom Line: There are many common conditions that can cause poor sleep, including sleep apnea. See a doctor if poor sleep is a consistent problem in your life.
Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.
One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days. They found it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60%, back stiffness by 59% and improved sleep quality by 60% (115).
It is recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years.
If you haven't replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick (although possibly expensive) fix (116).
Bottom Line: Research shows that your bed, mattress and pillow can greatly impact sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high-quality mattress and bedding every 5–8 years.
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health.
One study in the elderly found that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and helped them sleep 41 minutes longer at night (125).
In insomnia patients with severe issues, exercise provided more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night awake time by 30%, anxiety by 15% and increased total sleep time by 18% (127).
Although daily exercise is key for a good night's sleep, performing it too late in the day may also cause problems falling asleep for some people.
This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine or adrenaline. However, some studies show no detrimental effects, so it clearly depends on the individual (128, 129, 130).
Bottom Line: Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep.
Drinking large amounts of liquids before bed can lead to similar symptoms, though some people are more sensitive than others.
Although hydration is vitally important, it is wise to reduce your fluid intake in the late evening.
Try not to drink any fluids 1–2 hours before going to bed.
You should also make sure to use the bathroom right before going to bed, which may decrease your chances of waking in the night.
Bottom Line: Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.
Sleep plays a key role in your health.
One large review found that insufficient sleep increases obesity risk by 89% in children and 55% in adults (133).
If you are interested in optimal health and well-being, then you should make sleep a top priority in your life.