Not getting enough sleep can cause multiple problems. On average, adults need eight hours of sleep each night, but most Americans only get about six hours. Not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain, depression, stress, and less productivity.
There is a science to a great night’s sleep! There are resources, fitness trackers & apps to help track and improve sleep. We know that this can be hard to do if you work multiple jobs or are a student, have a new baby or have other life circumstances. But consistent good sleep is an investment worth making – a tradeoff that can improve your well-being in many ways.
Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep every night! Try some strategies to see what works for you!
- Stick to a sleep schedule – try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends (limit your sleeping-in to an extra 1-2 hours). Your body will get used to the schedule over time and you will naturally get sleepy around your bed time!
- Plan for at least 8 hours in bed – even if you spend 8 hours in bed, you won’t get 8 hours of sleep since we all wake up periodically during the night (even if you don’t notice it!). If you need to adjust your bedtime to make this possible, take it slow; lower your bedtime by 15 minutes every 3 or 4 days until you get to the bedtime you want!
- Exercise – daily exercise will help you sleep better at night. Vigorous exercise is best, but light exercise will also help. If you are doing an energetic workout in the evening, try to plan to finish the workout about 2 hours before bedtime, so that your body can calm down after that boost of adrenaline!
- Put away your screens 2 hours before bedtime – Looking at screens like your phone, tablet, TV or computer before bed can make it harder to fall asleep because the light from the screens confuses your brain and body by making it seem like it is daytime. If you can’t manage 2 hours, even putting your screens away 30 minutes before bedtime can be helpful
- Follow a relaxing evening ritual – have a set of relaxing activities that you do every night before bed. This will help calm you and get you ready for sleeping, and overtime, your body and brain will associate those activities with preparing for sleep. Some activities to consider are taking a warm bath or shower, stretching or restful yoga, drinking a cup of herbal tea (no caffeine!), journaling and reading (but not on your smartphone, tablet or laptop)
- Create a good sleep environment – for the best sleep, your room should be cool (60-67 degrees Fahrenheit), dark, and quiet. Light blocking shades or eye masks can help you if your room gets a lot of light, and ear plugs or a white noise machine can help if your sleeping environment is noisy
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, and large meals in the evening – these can disrupt your sleep. Eat a small dinner and if you are hungry, have a small snack at least 45 minutes before bed
Here are our favorite sleep resources:
- The Science of Sleep – Learn how sleep works, why it is important, and how to improve sleep from experts at Harvard School of Medicine
- Sleep Cycle – An app to track your quality of sleep and set alarms that wake you up when you are in a stage of sleep closest to being awake to improve energy. Available for Apple and Android
- MyNoise.net – A white noise generator app that can be used to create a better sleep environment. Available for Apple and Android
Sleep impacts so much of your entire body, day, and wellbeing. Getting enough sleep during pregnancy is important. Lack of sleep during pregnancy has been tied to a number of complications, including preeclampsia (a serious condition that affects your blood pressure and kidneys). This condition could result in premature birth. Now is the time to take sleep seriously. Learn more about sleep and pregnancy.
Everyone deserves to sleep in safety. Everyone deserves an environment that can help their body rest including protection from loud noises like trains in the middle of the night. Everyone deserves to sleep in peace. If sleep brings you nightmares and other problems, talk to someone.
Not everyone has access to good sleep. Adults working multiple jobs–15% of the American workforce–are 61% more likely to report sleeping less than 6 hours on weeknights. Structural racism has led to Black people and Asian and Latinx folks reporting short sleep (less than 5 hours) 2-3 times more that White folks.
More on Sleep: Sleep is key for many important functions of our bodies, including immunity, memory, emotional stability, weight maintenance, insulin stability, and heart health, among others. Sleep Cycle is a free app that helps you track your sleep so you can see how many hours of sleep you get each night.
Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It can vary from person to person, and studies have shown that age, gender, and biology can factor into how much sleep you need. It is normal to have some times of your life when it is a struggle to get enough sleep, but there are short and long-term risks to know about.
Short-term risks include irritability, fatigue, inability to focus or concentrate. You may also notice the lack of proper sleep makes you feel anxious. Be mindful if you are operating equipment, such as a car or bike.
Some long-term effects from lack of sleep include anxiety and depression, paranoia, mood changes, memory issues, weakened immune system, weight gain, lower sex drive, poor coordination, and higher risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.
Tips for better sleep:
- Follow a regular schedule – go to bed at the same time each night
- Make a calming bedtime routine, such as listening to music
- Create a comfortable environment – a quiet, dark room at a comfortable temperature
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, which all lead to poorer sleep quality.
- Don’t use your phone or tablet before bed – the bright light keeps your brain awake
- Be more active during the day
- Meditate or find relaxation routines
- Keep a sleep diary with times that you go to bed, wake up, take naps, exercise, and drink alcohol or caffeine