Imagine a world where stress doesn't follow you to bed. Your phone doesn't keep you company under the covers, and sleep is a restful, uninterrupted activity. Does that seem far-fetched?

Getting quality sleep can feel like an elusive dream in today's fast-paced world. About 70% of American adults use technology the hour before sleep, and that number increases among children, with 75% using devices. Habits like these are known to affect sleep quality, suggesting that what we do before bedtime has a lot to do with how well we slumber.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to improve your sleep and recharge your body. Pulmonologist and sleep expert Preethi R. Dendi, M.D., shares her insights.

“It’s all about the basics and sticking to good habits that make a difference," says Dr. Drendi.

Avoid These 5 Mistakes Before Bed

The path to better sleep begins by avoiding common pitfalls that can disrupt your nightly rest. From that late-night caffeine fix to the hypnotic allure of clock-watching, try to avoid these sleep-disrupting habits:

  1. Blue light too close to bedtime: The screens on your electronic devices emit blue light, which can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. The solution? Avoid electronic devices within an hour of bedtime. If you can't resist that last-minute text or email, consider wearing blue light glasses, which can help mitigate the impact of screens on your sleep.
  2. Clock watching in the middle of the night: You’re tossing and turning while peeking at the clock to see how many precious minutes of sleep you've lost. This subconscious habit can trigger stress and make it harder to fall back asleep. Instead, turn your clock away from your bed. If you wake up during the night, focus on keeping your body relaxed, keeping your eyes closed, and thinking calming thoughts.
  3. Alcohol or caffeine in the evenings: That nightcap or late-afternoon coffee may seem harmless, but they can disrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol might help you fall asleep initially, but it often leads to fragmented and less restorative sleep. Caffeine, on the other hand, is a well-known stimulant that can keep you awake. Avoid both in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  4. Large meals before bed: Eating large meals before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep. Foods high in fat or protein take longer for the body to digest, which can cause digestive discomfort. Opt for lighter evening meals and snacks.
  5. Drinking fluids within two hours of bedtime: Waking up in the middle of the night to use the restroom disrupts your sleep cycle. To minimize nighttime awakenings, limit your fluid intake in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Follow These 9 Sleep Best Practices

Now that you've cut out habits that hurt your sleep, you can embrace the practices that are proven to promote a deep, restorative slumber. From maintaining a consistent wake-up time to setting the ideal sleep environment, these tips will help you get the quality sleep your body craves.

  1. Maintain a consistent wake-up time: Your body's internal clock thrives on routine. Even if you have a late night, try to wake up at the same time every day. Consistency helps regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.
  2. Establish a bedtime routine: A calming bedtime routine signals to your body that it's time to wind down. Try activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation exercises like meditation.
  3. Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime: Physical activity can enhance the quality of your sleep. However, avoid vigorous exercise within two hours of bedtime, as it actually stimulates the body and can make it harder to fall asleep.
  4. Choose complex carbs for evening snacks: Complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables are excellent choices for bedtime snacks because they don't take as long to digest. They can provide a steady source of energy while you sleep.
  5. Keep your room cool: Keep your room temperature between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 degrees Celsius). The Sleep Foundation says the best room temperature for sleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Why? The lower body temperature encourages a good night's rest.
  6. Block out disruptive noise: A sound machine can help drown out external noise, ensuring a quieter, more restful environment. Try pink noise, which research has shown to help promote deep sleep when compared to having no sound machine.
  7. Keep the room dark: Invest in room-darkening shades or curtains to block out excess light, creating the perfect sleep-friendly ambiance.
  8. Explore sleep-enhancing supplements: Certain supplements, like magnesium or astragalus, have shown promise in promoting better sleep. Another option is tart cherry juice, which contains tryptophan and melatonin precursors that can help regulate sleep. Remember that supplements and herbal remedies aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so talk to your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your routine.
  9. Aromatherapy with calming scents: Aromatherapy with scents like lavender or chamomile has been shown to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. In fact, research shows that lavender essential oil and its components can improve sleep problems.

As you make changes to improve your sleep hygiene, keep in mind there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to improve sleep. Try different tactics to see what works best for you.

"People often rush to get fancy watches to track sleep patterns, or they invest in sound machines and apps, but they tend to overlook the fundamentals,” says Dr. Drendi. “Sticking to a routine, especially when it comes to diet and sleep, is the best approach.”

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