5 things experts do before bed to get the best sleep possible
- Many people don't get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep because of poor sleep hygiene.
- When improving your sleep, the amount and quality matter most, one sleep researcher said.
Getting a good night's sleep is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, according to Dr. Meena Khan, a neurologist and sleep expert at Ohio State University.
One of the main reasons people have trouble falling asleep and getting enough rest is poor sleep hygiene, Khan said. Her knowledge of the field has led her to adopt a few important sleep habits that help her fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night.
The importance of good sleep
Dr. Mathias Basner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said that when it came to getting good sleep, there were two key components: the amount you get and the quality.
Generally, seven to nine hours is the recommended amount a person should get every night to function normally during the day, Basner said. Sleep quality is a broader concept, but it typically relates to how often your body's sleep cycle is interrupted during the night.
The deep-sleep stage is particularly important. The body completes a series of important functions during this period, such as cell repair, memory processing, and muscle repair, Girardin Jean-Louis, a sleep researcher, previously told Insider.
Another sleep expert, Olivia Arezzolo, said a lack of rest or low-quality rest could make us more fatigued, anxious, and prone to getting sick.
With their research as a foundation, Khan, Basner, and Arezzolo have all implemented helpful habits to ensure a good night's rest. Here are five things they do before bed.
1. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule
The key to getting your body ready for rest at the end of the day and feeling refreshed when you wake up is consistency, Khan told Insider.
"We all have a sleep clock in our brain," she said. So the more regular the time in and out of bed is, your sleep clock can get trained for when you want to go to sleep and when you want to wake up."
A sleep schedule can also help your body wake up at the end of its sleep cycle, which improves the quality of your sleep.
When Khan gets out of bed, she also tries to go outside and get sunlight as soon as possible to let her body know that the day has started.
2. Limit your exposure to bright lights before bedtime
When it's time to get to sleep, you can let your body know by dimming the lights in your house an hour or so before bed, Basner said. Just operating in a darker environment will help your body adjust for sleep.
If you have lights next to the mirror in your bathroom, he recommends using just the overhead light or opening the door and using the light from the hallway. This helps limit the amount of direct blue light, which can make it harder to fall asleep, entering your eyes before bed.
One way Arezzolo eliminates light exposure before bed is by wearing blue-light-blocking glasses two hours before she goes to sleep. She started this practice after a 2016 study found that blue-light glasses reduced the number of times people woke up at night.
3. Establish mundane nighttime routines
Another way Basner winds down before bed, he said, is by doing the same routine every night. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth or putting away the dishes, he said. As long as you do the routine consistently, he said, you'll start to associate it with a signal to start winding down.
These bedtime tasks should be generally uninteresting, Khan said. While some people may feel compelled to catch up on work before sleep, that work can be too stimulating and make it harder to fall asleep, Khan added. Instead, she likes to listen to a low-energy podcast or read a dull book right before bed.
Arezzolo said taking a hot shower could also help relax your body before sleep.
4. Keep your bedroom cool and dark
When it comes to your bedroom, make sure it's as dark as possible and relatively cool, Basner said. Bright lights not only make it harder to fall asleep but also can decrease the quality of your sleep, Arezzolo said.
She added that she used a sleep mask to make sure that light didn't interrupt her sleep.
5. Unwind and release anxious thoughts by journaling before bed
Another reason people have trouble falling asleep, Khan said, is that they're still thinking over and stressing about their day.
One way she avoids this is by journaling before bed.
"Just sit down and write down a list of things that are bothering you, a list of things you have to do, so you're going through it before bed rather than processing it in bed," she said.
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