You’ve heard all about good sleep hygiene (go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, evening weekends; avoid screens and alcohol before bed; and keep your room dark and cool), but there are several other little things you can do to rest easy.
Below are nine of our favorite sleep hacks. Are any likely to cure chronic insomnia? No. Are they still worth trying at least once? Indeed. Experiment to find which one works for you. (Get your doctor’s advice before trying these sleep hacks if you have sleep apnea or suffer chronic insomnia).
- Take a warm shower. The reason you want to keep your bedroom cool at night is that a drop in body temperature at bedtime can cue you to fall asleep. Taking a hot bath or shower an hour before you hit the sack can enhance this effect by raising your body temperature slightly higher than normal, so this cooling effect is more pronounced.
- Switch to yellow light. Bulbs that cast a yellow-orange glow are less sleep disrupting than the blue light emitted by digital screens or fluorescent bulbs. If you make a bathroom run (or a baby feeding) in the middle of the night, try using nightlights outfitted with low-watt, yellow bulbs.
- Lose the random little lights. Phone chargers, humidifiers, air conditioners, stereos—just about every electronic device has a light, which often stays on even when the unit is off. If these itty-bitty bulbs illuminate your room, move them to another room or cover them with black electrical tape.
- Choose light reading material. Reading before you get into bed can be a ritual that relaxes you, provided you choose something that doesn’t demand focus or trigger intense emotion. That means skip work-related reading or scary novels. Flip through a healthy cookbook or lose yourself in a mindless romance.
- Take it all off. Night sweats? Hot flashes? Crawling under the covers naked will make it easier for your body to regulate temperature. You can also try pajamas made of bamboo fabric; it’s naturally moisture-wicking, which can keep your body at a more comfortable temp.
- Sniff lavender. Research suggests that breathing lavender before bed may help folks with mild insomnia sleep better. Spritz a bit of lavender-scented spray around the room.
- Split the sheets. If your partner who tosses and turns, he or she will be less likely to wake you if you aren’t playing tug-of-war with the covers. Consider using two sets of sheets and blankets.
- Talk about it later. Busy couples often don’t have a chance to chat until their heads hit the pillow. But bedtime conversations that take an emotional turn can sabotage sleep. To rest easier, find time during the day to talk.
- Test your pillow’s bounce. Sleep experts swear supportive pillows are essential for quality sleep. To find out if your pillow is too floppy to do any good, fold it in half and place a shoe on top. If the pillow instantly unfolds, it passes the test. If the shoe doesn’t move, it’s time to invest in new ones.