5 Secrets for a Good Night's Sleep

Do you often wake up before your alarm? Lots of things can rob you of precious sleep. Follow these daytime tips to make your nights more restful.

1. Ease Stress and Worry

It's not a smart sleep strategy to keep up a frantic pace until you collapse into bed. "A revved-up mind remains in a mild state of alertness even while you sleep, making you susceptible to nighttime awakenings," says Michael Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.

Before turning in, try these tips to unwind:

  • Meditate.
  • Do some light stretching .
  • Read (but not on an electronic device, because the light can make it hard to get sleepy).

You can also write in a "worry journal." You may ease stress if you jot down your concerns or tomorrow's action items before calling it a night.

Another way to settle down before bed: Count backward by 3s from 300. It can be a helpful distraction when nagging thoughts keep you awake.

2. Update Your Bed

It's no secret that pain can disrupt your sleep. If an achy back or hip routinely wakes you up, it's time to make some changes to your bed.

Get a new mattress. It loses support with age and use. Breus recommends buying a new one at least every 7 years. Research suggests a more flexible mattress eases back pain better than an ultra-firm one.

Swap out your pillows. Do this once a year. Choose a thick one if you're a side sleeper, a flatter one if you like to doze on your belly.

3. Get the Temperature Just Right

A too-warm room can have you awake and kicking off the covers at 2 a.m.

"The sweet spot for sleep seems to be somewhere between 68 and 74 degrees," says Tracey Marks, MD, author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified.

So if you find you're overheated during the night, turn down the thermostat.

Also, spicy or acidic foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks can rev you up and make you sweat more in the middle of the night. Avoid eating or drinking them too close to bedtime.

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4. Solve Sleep Apnea and Snoring Problems

Snoring can make you wake up in the middle of the night. So can sleep apnea, a disorder that causes you to stop breathing for several seconds while you sleep.

"Many people don't realize that the reason they're waking at night is because they can't catch their breath," Marks says.

If you have sleep apnea, your bed partner may say that you jerk a lot at night or may complain that you snore loudly.

"Morning headaches and excessive daytime drowsiness also indicate a problem," Marks says.

To get help, you’ll first need to get diagnosed. Talk to your doctor about a sleep study. If you have apnea, you may need to wear an airway pressure mask or oral appliance at night. You may also get some relief if you lose weight, but back on alcohol, and stop smoking.

5. Turn Off the Electronics

If it lights up and beeps, it disrupts sleep, Marks says. That includes smartphones, tablets, computers, and other gadgets.

For a better night's rest, keep them out of the bedroom. Save the work and social media for anywhere else in your house.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 08, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep."

Michael Breus, PhD, author, Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's Four-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, Dutton, 2006.

American Academy of Pain Medicine: "AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain."

National Sleep Foundation: "The Sleep Environment," "Menopause and Sleep," "Sleep Apnea and Sleep," "2012 Bedroom Poll Summary of Findings," "Bedroom Conditions," "Annual Sleep in America Poll."

Tracey Marks, MD, author, Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified, Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2011.

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