There’s no doubt about it– we have a sleeping problem, America.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a third of U.S. adults aren’t getting the minimum recommended amount of 7 hours of sleep per night, which is alarming considering sleep deprivation is linked to health issues like heart disease, obesity, and depression. The CDC also notes that good sleep isn’t a luxury, rather it’s a necessity for living long, healthy lives.
So if you’re in the market for ways to improve getting some much-needed shut-eye, here are five ways you can get a better night’s sleep:
1. Design your room with sleep in mind
Even the soundest of sleepers will get better Z’s if in a well-designed bedroom. As sleep specialist Micheal Breus wrote for Fast Company, you want to set up your bedroom with all five senses in mind to create a sleep utopia.
Use soothing sound machines or earplugs while falling asleep, sleep with clean, natural fibers on your bedding and pajamas, and consider putting air filters or humidifiers in your room to control air quality. Most importantly, know that light directly impacts your ability to fall asleep. Use blackout curtains and a nightlight if you need to wake up in the middle of the night, and avoid your electronics’ emitted blue light leading up to your bedtime.
2. Fall asleep in 20-minute stages
Breus also recommends a staged process to help you fall asleep each night, ideally at the same time each day. The idea is to follow a process that winds you down, rather than expecting your body to go from “on” to “off” instantly. To fall asleep, spend 20 minutes wrapping up last-minute tasks for the next day, 20 minutes for your nightly hygiene routine, and then 20 minutes doing a relaxing, mindful activity like meditation or reading.
These can be personalized depending on your needs. As an example, a parent might pre-make tomorrow’s lunches or a sedentary desk worker might go for a jog around the block in that first 20-minute phase. But when planning said bedtime routine, time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders says to avoid things that excite us. This includes staring at bright screens, listening to upbeat music, or eating a big meal.
3. Prioritize healthy relationships
Ever tried going to bed upset with your partner or family member? Royette Tavernier reported for Fast Company that the quality of how satisfied we are with our relationships affect how we sleep– even if we’re sleeping alone. Studies have pointed to the idea that having healthy, active social lives helps manage our stress, and thus give us better sleep in return.
4. Stay active so you’re actually tired
Laura Vanderkam interviewed Lisa Mercurio, cofounder of The Bedtime Network, and learned her secret to good sleep–she’s a marathoner.
“If you don’t have some quotient of physical exhaustion, if you don’t move your body, good luck with that,” she said. Maybe you’re not running miles every day like she is, but keeping active will help your body feel naturally tired when it’s time for bed.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommend exercising for 20 to 30 minutes a day, but not within the few hours before your bedtime.
5. Build more “Me” time into your days
Mercurio also told Vanderkam that people see bedtime as their only “me” time for the whole day, thus they sacrifice sleep to do pleasurable things during bedtime like scrolling on social media.
“You need to build in me time at other points in your life,” Mercurio said.
Maybe that means scheduling coffee with a friend, taking breaks throughout the workday, or planning an hour during the afternoon to do something just for you. That way, sleeping doesn’t feel like it’s taking away from your personal time.