The hardest about sleep is getting to sleep.
There are a million and a half reasons (read: excuses) you can't get enough sleep every night.
- I don't get any alone time otherwise
- I have too much work to do
- Caffeine will save me
- My job is at risk and it just keeps me up all night
- It's too early to go to bed
- Just one more episode of [Stranger Things, Black Mirror, The Office, any Netflix show]
- I'll sleep when I'm dead
It doesn't matter what your "reason" is. What you and I both know will happen is you'll miss out on a TON of benefits. [link to other article here] And, well, nevermind that other half of the coin.
To get the best sleep of your life, you don't have to adopt everything here. Sprinkle a few in and keep sticking to them. Skipping around and messing up your routine isn't going to do you any good.
Which brings me to #1.
1) Make a routine. More details follow
The key is to do the same thing every night so your mind and body are in sync when it comes to getting some well-deserved shut eye.
2) Have a bedtime
No matter what you do, keep doing the same thing every night. Yes, that includes the weekends -- as often as you can. Have some fun every now and then. But you're definitely going to want some sleep the next day and especially the following night.
3) Have a wakeup time
Figuring out the time you should wake up requires some tweaking. If you don't feel refreshed, try waking up 15 minutes earlier or later. Find what works for you and stick to it.
4) Douse the lights
At least a half hour before bed, turn on the mood lights. Your body will think the sun is going down, so it'll start producing the sleep hormone, melatonin.
5) Take a bath/shower
This is entirely up to you. Some people like a hot bath or shower before bed. Others just want to climb under the sheets. Whatever you do, keep it consistent.
6) Read a book
Jokes about having a bedtime routine like a baby aside, a book can help quiet your mind. Just stay away from thrillers and page turners. Or set a quiet alarm and commit to stopping at a given time. Your success depends on your will power. Can you do it?
Set the room
1) Your bedroom should be sacred
Specifically, that means the only things you should be doing in your bed are sleeping and having sex. Anything else, like watching TV or eating in bed, will subliminally teach you your bed isn't for sleeping.
2) Get blackout drapes
You shouldn't be able to see your hand when it's in front of your face. You'll keep your melatonin game strong and you'll probably be worried about navigating your way to the bathroom (That's a joke. If you have to go, you should go.)
3) Hide your eyes
If you don't want or can't get blackout drapes, put a sleep mask on. They're especially useful if you like getting up in the middle of the night.
3) Get low, low, low, low
The ideal sleeping temperature is somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees. You'll save money AND save your sleep since you won't get hot n' sweaty.
4) Ditch the blues
Blue light, especially from your phone or TV, will halt melatonin production immediately. That's part of the reason it's so hard to stop scrolling through social media or Reddit when you're in bed.
5) Turn notifications off
Nothing is worse than almost being asleep and having a notification light up your phone. Turn airplane mode on and flip your phone over. Resist the powerful urge to check what time it is.
During the day
1) Exercise (early)
Just like with kids, moving your body will tire you out. But if you exercise too close to bedtime, the endorphins might keep you up all night.
2) Let the sunshine in
Bright light during the day will help set your circadian rhythm and help produce melatonin at night.
3) No caffeine after 3
Caffeine is in soda, coffee, painkillers, pre-workout, etc. It has a half-life of about 6 hours. So that means you'll still have half a cup of coffee in you at 8pm if you last drank a cup at 3.
4) No night-caps
Fun fact (or not so fun fact)... alcohol doesn't help you sleep better. It's actually terrible for you. You won't get the deep sleep you need.
5) Watch the water
Cut yourself off if you find yourself in the bathroom at 2am... or at any other time you're supposed to be sleeping. The time depends on your bladder. Water is essential to life, but not to sleeping.
Food and supplements
WARNING: Stay away from sleep pills. Other than the strange eating habits and tendency to drive while sleeping, sleeping pills ironically are terrible for your sleep.
Generally speaking, anything that helps you genuinely produce melatonin will be helpful.
It's better to let your body produce than simply taking a melatonin supplement though. That way your body can produce what you need and use the leftover nutrients for other essential functions.
5-HTP, vitamin B6, and magnesium are all required to produce melatonin. That's the short of it. You can read the long of it at this 5-HTP post. [link to 5-HTP article]