5 Easy Tricks For A GREAT Night's Sleep

This article was originally published on April 21, 2015.

Does it really get any better than a good night's sleep? We're inclined to say no. New recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation insist that the average person in his or her early 20s needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, around 40% of Americans are considered sleep-deprived, and this can lead to some nasty consequences, both small and big.

To learn about some easy ways to fall (and stay) asleep, we talked to Joyce Walsleben, PhD, of New York University's Sleep Disorders Center. "The easiest and most powerful trick people can do to improve their sleep is to get rid of time cues in the bedroom," she says. So, that means no clocks, obviously, but also cover the blinking DVR light and make sure you're too far away from your phone to check it in the early morning hours.

However, if you need a few more ideas, click through to see five other surefire ways to get those crucial ZZZs. Sweet dreams are waiting for you.

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Set A Schedule
It's rough, but setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time will help your body get into a routine. Yes, even on the weekends. "If you do that and pay attention to how you’re feeling, you can pretty much figure out when your bedtime should be," says Dr. Welsleben. "You’re working on your biological clock and and giving it the opportunities to be awake when it should be and asleep when it wants to be."
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Stay Cool
Your body's temperature naturally drops when you fall asleep, hitting its lowest point at about 4 a.m. before warming up again. But, it's usually easier to get warmer during the night than cooler. So, Dr. Welsleben advises to keep your bedroom on the cold side: "Keeping it cool allows that [temperature] fall to happen," she says. The classic recommendation is to stay somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. But, the best temperature is whatever's most comfortable for you, and that sweet spot tends to vary a lot between individuals.
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Get Some Sweat In
There's a wealth of research out there suggesting that people who work out regularly have better sleep lives, too. But, timing can be important. Don't feel like you need to force yourself to wake up for a jog before dawn when you're a natural night owl — instead, research suggests you'll feel and perform better if your fitness rolls with the rest of your day.

Other research suggests doing cardio in the morning and strength training later in the day can improve your ability to drift off at night. Dr. Walsleben suggests working out about three hours before you want to fall asleep to both help the body start cooling down and blow off some stress.
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Limit Screen Time
"Certain wavelengths of blue light are alerting," says Dr. Walsleben. Normally, when we're starting to get sleepy, that doze-inducing hormone, melatonin, starts to flow. But, blue light can inhibit that process, causing us to stay awake. She suggests we either switch to reading a book (remember those?) or, if we really can't put down the phone/Netflix/email, take advantage of F.lux, software that can switch our screens' wavelengths. Or, try dimming the brightness as much as possible.
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Calm Down
Speaking of stress relief: "You can’t expect anybody to go from 99 miles an hour to nothing," Dr. Walsleben says. Hence, the importance of the bedtime routine: You need something that prepares your system for the fact that it’s going to lie down and get some shut-eye.

Some people read, some listen to music, but whatever you find generally calming should do the trick. Try some relaxing yoga or guided sleep meditation, like these downloadable exercises from MIT. Or, before you say goodbye to your phone for the night, give these stress-relief apps a quick try.
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