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How to Improve Sleep

How to Improve Sleep
Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

Sleep is important for health and happiness. However, sometimes we know we need to sleep but still stay up later than we should or have difficulty falling asleep fast enough. There are certainly some things you can do to help improve your sleep habits. 

However, it is important to note that mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can disrupt sleep, contribute to insomnia, or cause a person to sleep too much. If this is the case, then your best bet may be to speak to a mental health professional at BetterHelp

In addition to reducing stress and improving mental health, you can also work on better sleep hygiene. There are tons of factors that impact the quality of your sleep, and you may be disregarding them. 

Circadian Rhythm

Our body is designed for a natural sleeping cycle. One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep is to keep a regular routine, even on weekends. Having a certain time to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night can get your body and mind ready when bedtime comes around. 

Also, while a nap can be extremely tempting, especially on the weekends, it may not be the best choice for restful sleep later that night. If you do plan on napping, try to limit it to a very short catnap that lasts only 30 minutes at the very most. This will help you stay within your regular sleep schedule. 

Another factor that affects circadian rhythm is light. Our bodies are designed to wake up and go to sleep with the sun. Light exposure can help to influence a normal sleeping cycle. When nighttime comes, we produce melatonin that makes us sleepier. 

During the daytime, it is important to get sunlight. When the sun rises in the morning, try to go outside for a few minutes or at least open up your curtains. This can help you wake up and prepare mentally and physically for the day ahead. You may also want to take an afternoon walk well before the sun goes down. Both exercise and getting a little more sunlight during the daytime hours can help you sleep better at night. 

At night, avoid light exposure within an hour or two of the time you go to sleep. This includes light from televisions, tablets, phones, and computers. Instead, choose to read or engage in an activity that you can do without screen time. 

Finally, make sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible. This may mean that you need to get blackout curtains or that you should cover up any light emitting from electronic devices around the room. 

Healthy Habits

Your lifestyle also impacts the quality of your sleep. Taking care of yourself could have more of an effect on your sleep than you realize. 

Exercise is important for sleep, and increasing your exercise routine may help to combat insomnia and other sleep disruptions. Even light exercise, like a short walk, can have an impact on your ability to achieve restful sleep quickly. However, more vigorous exercise has an even greater impact. 

If you do not sleep better immediately after beginning an exercise routine, stick with it. It may take weeks or even months for regular exercise to encourage more restful sleep. It is also important that you do not exercise too close to bedtime because then it could have the opposite effect. Try to finish your workout or exercise routine at least three hours before you go to bed.

Furthermore, eating heart-healthy foods high in vegetables and fruits can also help you sleep better. Sugar and refined carbs can harm the quality of your sleep as well. You should also avoid large meals at night but should also avoid going to sleep while your stomach is growling. Finally, reducing your caffeine and nicotine intake can also help you to sleep better.  

Learn to Relax

A lot of times, we do not sleep well because we are restless, and our thoughts are still racing when we lay our head down. You may be able to greatly improve your sleep by learning how to relax and reduce stress levels. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

A relaxing nightly routine can be great. This could mean reading, drinking hot milk or chamomile tea, or taking a hot bath. Whatever works to make you relax without excessive stimulation may help to improve your sleep habits. 

You can also try deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation to relax the body and mind prior to bedtime. In addition, creating an environment that promotes sleep and relaxation in the bedroom can also be beneficial. This means it should be dark, cool, and quiet without stressors and stimulation. You should also choose blankets, sheets, pillows, and a mattress that you find very comfortable. 

Sometimes our poor sleep comes only when we wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. If this happens, try not to stress. While that can be difficult, it is best to clear your mind and relax. One tip is to focus on rest and relaxation without worrying about whether or not you will actually be able to fall back asleep. 

If you have trouble falling asleep or falling back asleep, it is not good to remain worrying and stressed in bed. Instead, get up and engage in an activity that is not overly stimulating. You could read or crochet, for example, until you are sleepy again before heading back to bed. This is a key principle of Stimulus Control Therapy for Insomnia.


It can be frustrating and stressful to have a hard time falling or staying asleep. However, worrying about it or trying to catch up on sleep with naps can worsen the problem. Instead, focus on living a healthy lifestyle and improving your sleep hygiene. Getting into a regular routine may improve the quality of your sleep more than you realize. 

Bio: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

Featured Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst