5 Ways to Get Better Sleep Tonight

Better sleep is just around the corner with these five simple tricks.

We all want to sleep well, and our busy lifestyles these days can make that hard to achieve every night. Here are five simple things you can start doing now to get better sleep tonight from Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California Berkeley.

1. Regularity is key

Put your best effort in to get eight hours of sleep every night. Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday no matter what day of the week it is. Even if you didn’t sleep good, still get up at the same time and allow your body to reset.

2. Dim the lights and set the mood for better sleep

We are a dark-deprived society in this era, and we actually need darkness in the evening in order for our bodies to release melatonin, which helps the healthy timing of our sleep. One hour before bed, dim all the lights in your house and avoid bright computer or phone screens. These LED lights actually put the brakes on melatonin production and fool your brain into thinking it’s still daytime when it’s actually nighttime!

3. Keep it cool

Many of us keep the room too warm. An optimal temperature is about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Your brain and body actually need to drop their core temperature about 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit to get good sleep.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime

Yep, sorry. Alcohol is so misunderstood. You may think it helps you sleep, but it actually does the opposite. Alcohol is in the class of drugs called the sedatives. This means that by drinking before bed, you are just knocking your brain out – you’re not putting it into good sleep mode. It is also known that alcohol fragments your sleep, causing you to wake up many times throughout the night. It’s also a very potent chemical for blocking your dream sleep, or rapid eye movement. Caffeine, on the other hand, is a stimulant, an alerting chemical. Even if you can have a coffee after dinner and fall asleep fine, the depth of the deep sleep you have is not as deep as it would be if you didn’t have the coffee. You may likely wake up feeling groggy and reach for two or three cups of coffee the next morning, easily creating an addiction cycle.

5. Don’t stay in bed awake

If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes or you wake up in the night and can’t fall back asleep, don’t stay in bed. Your brain quickly learns the association of your bed being a place of being awake vs. being asleep. Instead, get up and go to another room and read a book in dim light (no phones, no food). When you feel sleepy, go back to your bed. An alternative here would also be meditation. Meditation helps quiet the mind and body, triggering the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of you that says it’s ok to relax.

Getting better sleep means you have to become aware of what is causing the imbalance, so be curious and experiment on yourself by eliminating certain foods or habits before bed time, or putting some of these new habits in place.

Pay attention to how you’re feeling and look at all the parts as a whole. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day and eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Sleep time is recovery time, so better sleep means fueling your body well throughout the day so it can use those nutrients to recover over night.

Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California Berkeley and the author of the book, “Why We Sleep.”