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6 Smart Tactics for a Good Night’s Sleep

6 Smart Tactics for a Good Night’s Sleep

Anyone can enjoy a peaceful slumber. Here’s how.

It’s no secret that getting quality shut-eye does more than just keep you from feeling groggy. Sleep is essential for health and well-being, and adequate ZZZs are linked to reduced anxiety levels and enhanced memory plus a lower risk of depression, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Ideally, adults 18 to 64 years old should get between seven and nine hours nightly, while seniors should sleep seven to eight hours.

If getting enough sleep is a constant challenge, these strategies can help boost your chances of a successful slumber.

Drop a few pounds
Slimming down may lead to extra time in Snoozeville, according to a 2012 Johns Hopkins study of 77 overweight or obese patients. Researchers placed the participants—all of whom had type 2 diabetes or prediabetes—on one of two weight loss programs for six months. The 55 people who completed the study lost an average of 15 pounds—and improved their sleep quality by 20 percent.

If you're looking to lose a few, start by adopting a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein—and by getting more physical activity. Speaking of fitness…  

Sweat it out
Regular exercise may actually help you sleep better. According to a 2013 National Sleep Foundation survey of 1,000 adults between the ages of 23 and 60, people who were physically active on a regular basis were more likely to report quality sleep than self-reported "non-exercisers." In fact, adults who labeled themselves “vigorous exercisers” were nearly twice as likely as non-exercisers to sleep soundly and were the least likely to suffer from issues like difficulty dozing off.

But you don't have to be a frequent gym goer to reap the benefits. Even light exercise, like a 10-minute walk, can help improve sleep quality.

Clean up your routine
To improve your snoozing, try these simple steps before crawling into bed:

  • Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Keep tablets, phones, laptops and televisions turned off or out of the bedroom entirely.
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
  • In the hours before bedtime, steer clear of caffeine and foods that might disrupt sleep.

Stay in the moment
If you’ve had so-so success with the sleep hygiene route, a few minutes of meditation might help. For some people, practicing mindfulness—bringing one’s attention to the sensations of the present moment—can help bring on the sweet dreams. 

In one study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015, researchers tested two techniques—standardized mindful awareness practices and sleep hygiene education. The volunteers who practiced mindfulness meditation showed more improvement on a sleep quality questionnaire, which included measuring secondary problems of sleep disturbances, like depression and fatigue, than those who participated in a traditional program.

So, carve a few minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness. Try sitting quietly and take note of the feeling of your breath moving in and out of your body, the sights and sounds around you or subtle sensations, like an itch or the breeze as it crosses your skin.  

Find your purpose
A sense of purpose can improve your heart health and may help you get better sleep, too. For one 2017 study published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice, researchers gathered survey data from 825 adults with an average age of 79. They found that participants who believed their lives have meaning were less likely to have conditions like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome and were more likely to have higher quality sleep.  

How do you find your sense of purpose? Think about what you love to do most or set a goal you'd like to accomplish. A daily affirmation—whether you say it out loud or write it down—may help you define and attain your purpose.

Track your progress
Keeping track of the amount of shut-eye you rack up each night can be as simple as downloading an application to your mobile device.

Free apps like Sharecare, available for iOS and Android, can automatically monitor your sleep each night and help pinpoint the sleep-promoting techniques that may work best for you. You can also manually log your hours slept, along with your meals and physical activity—all of which can work together to help you optimize your sleep-wake balance.

Medically reviewed in January 2018. Updated in January 2020.

Sources:
National Sleep Foundation. “National Sleep Foundation Poll Finds Exercise Key to Good Sleep,” “Sleep Hygiene,” “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”
Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Losing weight, especially in the belly, improves sleep quality." ScienceDaily. November 6, 2012.
Lecia Bushak. “Mindfulness Vs Meditation: The Difference Between These Two Pathways To Well-Being And Peace Of Mind.” Medical Daily. March 10, 2016.
DS Black, GA O’Reilly, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015;175(4):494-501.
AD Turner, CD Smith, et al. “Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults?” Sleep Science Practice. 1, 14 (2017).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tips for Better Sleep."

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