10 Steps to Improve Sleep

2 June 2020
Group of people in a yoga class, with hands on knees and palms up in meditation

1. Make the room cold
For most people, the ideal temperature for sleep is somewhere between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Set your thermostat to somewhere in the mid-sixties. If you can’t control the temperature of your room, aim a portable fan directly at your bed and avoid sleeping with a heavy comforter.

2.  Make your room as quiet as possible.
White noise like a fan can help with sleep, but exposure to things like traffic noise has been shown to decrease overall sleep quality. It’s difficult to drift off to sleep when people are loud and blaring their horns outside your place. Grab some earplugs if it is really noisy. If you live with roommates or family, tell everyone to keep it down.

3. Make your room dark. Really dark.
Even a tiny amount of light can interfere with melatonin production and impair your sleep. Turn off all devices and seal all light out of your room. Turn off any electronic devices with LED’s or cover the lights with a small piece of electrical tape. Hang a blanket or towel over your bedroom window if light creeps in.

4. Ditch the cell phone.
Radiation emitted from cell phones can increase the amount of time required to reach deep sleep cycles and decrease the amount of time spent in those cycles. Stop using your cell phone as an alarm clock. Replace it with a normal battery powered clock and turn your phone off. You’ll get the added benefit of not being distracted by the buzz of an incoming text or email.

5. Control red and blue light.
Wakefulness is triggered primarily by blue light, like midday sunshine or what’s emanating from your computer screen right now. A warm red glow, say, from a fireplace, does almost nothing to impair sleep. That’s a good thing

6. Improve the Cortisol Awakening Response 
A good way to improve your sleep quality is to strengthen the initial spike in wakefulness that occurs in the morning. In other words, the more awake you feel in the morning, the more tired you’ll feel in the evening. The best way to do this is to expose your body to natural sunlight shortly after waking for as little as ten minutes. Sunlight brings the bonus of increased vitamin D production, which is important for overall health. If natural sunlight exposure is unrealistic or you’re waking up before the sun rises, artificially simulated sunlight can work, too. For example, there are alarm clocks available that emit light gradually in order to prepare your body to wake up. Finally, remember that vitamin D is what your body normally produces in response to sunlight and it's tied into your wakefulness patterns. So if you’re supplementing vitamin D, try taking it in the morning

7. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
This one requires some discipline, but it’s worth it. Wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Your body can’t establish an effective rhythm if you don’t allow it to normalize to a pattern. If you stay up late, don’t sleep in. Instead, plan on going to bed a little earlier the next night. The sleep you get before midnight will be more valuable than the sleep you get after midnight, so always think in terms of making up for lost sleep by going to bed early the next night rather than sleeping in

8. Establish a sleep ritual.
Once you find out what helps you sleep the most consistently, make it a consistent ritual so that as soon as you’re an hour away from bedtime you’re already on a reliable path to good sleep.

9. Read for 15 minutes before bed.
Avoid intellectually stimulating fare and use this time for “candy” reading. It will reduce mental chatter and allow you to relax and let go of the day’s preoccupations. “Candy” reading, by the way, is whatever you normally wouldn’t read. So if you normally read non-fiction, try reading fiction. If you prefer to read fiction, try reading some history. Pick up a book you wouldn’t normally read and read for 15 minutes before bed.

10. Sleep on a good mattress.
A quality bed is one of the best investments you’ll ever make and it doesn’t have to be ludicrously expensive to work. Whatever you do, don’t put up with a lumpy mattress or an uncomfortable futon