Lately, for me, getting a good night’s sleep was a struggle. Thanks to some stressful circumstances, I had trouble falling asleep. I’d wake up at 3 a.m. with anxious thoughts, and I’d feel groggy and useless in the morning until I had three cups of coffee.
With my under-eye circles darkening and anxiety levels rising, I realized I needed to change how I approach bedtime. Experts call this “sleep hygiene”—the practices and habits you can do to help improve sleep quality and your alertness during the day. After doing some research, I came up with these 8 tricks and tips to improve my sleep hygiene. Some are based on science, others are old wives’ tales, but no medications were involved. For one week, I put them all to the test. Here’s what worked best in my quest for more restful nights.
Turn on white noise
I’ve had this
Verdict: Buy. One. Now. After a few nights, I was addicted to the soothing hum, and now I can’t imagine sleeping without it. You don’t need to spring for the pricey machine either—you can just download this
I haven’t gotten around to putting up shades in my new apartment, so there’s some ambient light from streetlights and lots of sun in the morning. I have a couple friends who
Verdict: Maybe I need more time to get used to it or to buy a nicer one, but it felt fairly constrictive, and would fall off during the night. I did find it helped me fall back asleep for an hour one weekend morning when I wanted to sleep in, and the sunlight had already started streaming in.
Turn down the thermostat.
Is there anything worse than waking up hot and sweaty in the middle of the night? That kept happening to me, and waking me up. Experts suggest keeping your bedroom cool,
Verdict: No more midnight sweats! I also found that wearing warm, cozy pajamas—baggy pants, an old T-shirt, even socks—was more comfy than the tank top and shorts I’d been wearing when I kept my room warmer. I highly suggest rocking the sweatpant-chic look at night; no one’s there to judge!
Follow a bedtime routine
A relaxing pre-sleep ritual can help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep, according to the
Verdict: I’m not sure which element of the routine was the magic bullet or if the whole nighttime ritual was to thank, but I felt relaxed and calm by the time I got in bed at 10 p.m. every night.
Checking your phone late at night is a surefire way to feel stressed—and anything but sleepy,
Verdict: The night shift mode helped by reducing the brightness of the screen if I needed to check my phone, but what helped even more: keeping my phone out of sight and out of mind by charging it in the bathroom. That was the only way to ensure I wouldn’t get back on Instagram after I was in bed.
Journal before bed
For anyone who struggles with anxious thoughts or worries, journaling can be a great way to help clear your head before bed—especially if you write about what’s good in your life.
Verdict: I loved this trick. I felt much more relaxed on nights when I took the time to write in a notebook for a few minutes. Of course, I am a writer by trade, but as the research proves, anyone can benefit from this practice. I don’t think I’d commit to it every night, but I’ll definitely reach for my journal (instead of Instagram) after stressful days moving forward.
Verdict: After I drank, I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t fall back to sleep for over an hour. Plus, my mouth was dry, and I felt slightly headachy—gross. I’m not saying I’ll give up drinking for good, but now I understand how detrimental it can be for catching quality zzz’s.
If all else fails, just relax
Verdict: This was one of my last-ditch attempts at 3:30 a.m. after I’d been lying away for nearly an hour. I tried all of the above, and while I’m not sure how long it took exactly, I did drift off to sleep within a few minutes. Sounds like this is one free and fast fix that works!
Over a week later, I’m happy to report my sleep schedule is back on track, and I’m logging 7 to 8 hours per night. I think it’s a combination of all of the strategies above, but I believe that following a relaxing bedtime routine and keeping my phone away from my bed delivered the most benefits. Plus, they’re totally doable and don’t require any big purchases. There have been a couple times when I woke up during the night, but overall, I feel way more rested today than I did one week ago—and I only had one cup of coffee!