10 Tips to Better Sleep

by Patty Davidson

As we age, getting better sleep increasingly becomes a challenge. Many individuals wake in the middle of the night and then find themselves still tired and struggling to fall asleep again. But sleep is vital to keep our hormones balanced and help prevent many disorders and health issues, such as unexpected weight gain/loss, increased cholesterol levels, heart disease, strokes, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

For the sake of our health and well-being, we have to do everything we can to get a quality night’s sleep every night. Start by employing these 10 tips to better sleep:

1. Institute a sleep schedule.

When you go to sleep at the same time each night and get out of bed simultaneously each day, you are helping to keep your entire body in balance.

It typically takes 28 consecutive times for good habits to take effect, so expect to make a conscious effort at this every day for approximately one month before your body fully adjusts to the schedule. If you accidentally oversleep, make sure you take on enough physical and/or mental exercise that day to ensure you are tired enough to fall asleep at your planned bedtime that night.

People who work different shifts or have obligations that may be earlier on some days and later on others will find scheduling especially challenging. However, most will find they can establish a solid sleep schedule for at least one month at a time, which will still serve as a great benefit.

2. Cooldown.

According to the sleep and mattress experts at  Tuck, the best temperature for adults to sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Those who tend to sleep “hot” may want to try the cooler temperatures of this range. Others who “run cold” will sleep better under slightly higher temperatures, so their bodies do not expend too much energy trying to get warmer in bed.

Other factors to consider are outdoor temperatures and humidity, whether your mattress or mattress topper has a temperature regulation quality to it, and how much clothing you wear to bed. (Tuck recommends wearing socks to bed, which helps to dilate your blood vessels and redistribute heat throughout your body.) 

3. Slow down before bed.

Exercise is a wonderful contributor to the quality of sleep; however, you want to be careful of how close to bedtime you are exercising and what type of exercise you are performing. Gentle exercise such as walking or stretching can help to calm down your body for sleep, while more strenuous exercise like aerobics or weight lifting may stimulate your brain and encourage alertness.

Typically, you will want to slow down your activity at least two hours before bedtime. However, keep in mind that if you are experiencing unusual levels of stress or anxiety one evening, your body may need this outlet at that time to get more satisfying sleep.

4. Try natural supplements.

Many people have found natural supplements to be the key to unlocking better sleep. There are a variety of available supplements and oils claiming to help with stress and sleep. Some of the most popular of these include magnesium, ashwagandha, melatonin, and CBD oil. Any supplement may impact the effectiveness of your prescribed medications, so be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking them. Don’t take anything that makes you uncomfortable, and discontinue use if any negative results or side effects occur.

You may also want to discuss your current medications with a pharmacist to determine if any might be keeping you awake or if a specific combination of medications and/or supplements could have that side effect. A change in dosage or the timing for these medications could become a simple solution.

5. Write it out.

Much of what keeps us up at night is the anticipation of an upcoming event or activity, an ongoing concern, or the worry that we will forget an important task. Some people find it helpful to keep a pen and notebook next to their bed, so that if this anxiety awakens them, or if they find they cannot “shut off” their mind to fall asleep, they can start making lists or write out their worries or concerns on paper. This is, in effect, telling your mind it is all right to let go of this information tonight; that it will be dealt with another time.

6. Work from home, but not bed.

In an article from Tuck , which explores how working from home during COVID-19 has impacted sleep, evidence suggests that those who perform work tasks in bed struggle more with sleep. The takeaway: Make a point to save your bed for activities that lend themselves to sleeping.

When you use your bed for working, eating, studying, watching television, sifting through social media, or typing emails or text messages, you are sending mixed signals to your brain as to whether or not you are actually ready for sleep when you get into bed. Do all of these activities outside of bed, and there will be no confusion when you climb into bed: it’s time for sleep!

7. Lighten up.

You may have heard the term “blue light” when it comes to devices such as smartphones and electronic tablets. Blue light gets its name from the blue color of the wavelengths emitted in this type of light.

Blue light can be useful to us during the day – it helps us to stay alert – but it is detrimental to our ability to sleep. While all light suppresses the secretion of our natural melatonin (the primary hormone controlling our sleep/wake cycle) blue light appears to wreak the most havoc on this system.

In addition to modern electronics, blue light is also emitted from energy efficient light bulbs, such as LEDs and CFLs.

In a recent article , Harvard Health suggests exposing yourself to lots of bright light during the day and then avoid bright screens and lights in the evenings, 2-3 hours before bed. They also suggest using dim red night lights, instead of traditional night lights. Red light is easier on the eyes at night and is less likely to suppress melatonin. If you find yourself to be especially susceptible to blue light, you may want to purchase blue light filtering glasses as well.

8. Count sheep

There’s a reason counting sheep became a cliché – sometimes it actually works! The next time you find yourself staring at the ceiling in the dark, try closing your eyes and imagining a vast flock of the little wooly creatures before you begin counting them.

You can also just begin counting to infinity, or try repeating a phrase over and over again, such as “I’m falling asleep,” “I’m falling asleep,” “I’m falling asleep.”

To help get the dreaming process underway, some people will use creative visualization. You could visualize something mundane (such as a detailed process of getting ready and dressed for the day), a happy memory, or a desired future event.

9. Relax the senses.

In addition to relaxing our eyes by reducing light in the evenings, also consider relaxing your other senses as well. Some people enjoy the sounds of the ocean or rain or even white noise from a sound machine. Others benefit from soft, instrumental music. These sounds can help distract an anxious mind and allow you to fall asleep faster. Some clocks feature these types of sounds as alarm options as well, to help to gently wake you after a good night’s sleep.

You might also enjoy a light, relaxing scent, such as lavender, which is known for its anti-stress benefits. Essential oils and diffusers are available that will allow the scent of your choice to permeate your sleep space.

10. (Watch what you) Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.

Just a few small adjustments to what you eat and/or when can make a world of difference to your sleep. For example, see if you sleep better after having chicken, turkey, or fish for dinner. The tryptophan found in chicken, turkey, and canned tuna helps your brain to produce serotonin, which has a calming effect that promotes sleep. The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon and halibut also have a de-stressing effect, which is great for sleep. After a little experimentation, you may decide to reduce or eliminate red meat or pork from your diet, or simply consume these proteins earlier in the day instead.

More and more people are learning that they are sensitive to the chemicals found in foods via pesticides. These chemicals can block your body from releasing hormones needed for sleep at night. Try substituting organic foods for others – especially within 4-6 hours before bedtime – and see if your sleep improves as a result.

Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and fall asleep faster, but the sugar in alcoholic beverages can actually reverse that effect and wake you up in the middle of the night. Alcohol can also cause dehydration, which negatively impacts sleep. If you are having trouble with falling or staying asleep, you may want to limit this consumption to dinner or dessert.

Also, consider limiting your caffeine intake to several hours before bed. Some people can process caffeine into the afternoon or evening and not have their sleep impacted. If you are already struggling with sleep, though, try opting for caffeine-free choices of coffee and tea starting as early as 8 hours before bedtime. Remember that chocolate contains caffeine, as well as some headache medications.

Finally, limit your evening snacks and desserts. These carbs are packed with sugars that are difficult for your body to process, and they harm your body’s attempts at hormone regulation. When you consume these snacks and desserts within two hours of bedtime, your body does not have the opportunity to use up that energy, causing it to lurk around, keeping you awake. You can start satisfying your sweet tooth only at lunchtime or try taking a nice walk or doing light exercises after dinner/dessert every evening to help your body to burn off the excess before bed.


If you still find yourself tired and awake after 20 minutes of trying to fall asleep, it’s time to take a break from trying. Do something relaxing – such as stretching, listening to soft music, praying, reading, drawing, or writing – for approximately 20 minutes and then try to fall asleep again. Remember to protect yourself from blue light when doing any of these activities.

If you have difficulty sleeping on a nightly basis and these tips do not work for you, it may be time to talk to your doctor or a counselor for additional treatment.