Science-Backed Tactics For Better Sleep At Night

A scientific review in Endocrine Development recorded that adults today sleep less than they did a few decades ago. Less sleep screws up your hormonal system, including ones controlling appetite, mood, and weight loss. If you’re struggling with sleep deprivation, then it may be time for a change in your nighttime habits.

Scientists have analyzed everything affecting sleep, from showers to nap length to morning vs. nighttime dwellers. You might be surprised to learn how long you can nap, what scrolling through your phone does, and the effects of late-night workouts. Learn which techniques researchers recommend for better sleep.

Nap, or don’t nap? Researchers have settled on an answer to the long-winded debate.

Researchers Recommend A Relaxing Shower Or Bath

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It’s no secret that relaxing before bedtime will help you fall asleep faster. But several studies indicate that showers and baths, specifically, improve sleep quality. Research in the 1999 issue of European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology stated that older adults who bathed at night reported “good sleep” and “quickness of falling asleep.”

Alternatively, the researchers in 2008 added that soaking your feet in a foot bath for 40 minutes before bed increases REM sleep. If you don’t want to fall asleep with wet hair, consider employing a foot bath, hairdryer, or early evening shower.

Don’t Drink Coffee After 4 P.M.

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Not drinking coffee in the evening may sound obvious, but many people underestimate how long caffeine remains active in the body. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine issued a 2013 study which illustrated that participants who drank coffee six hours before bed experienced “important disruptive effects on sleep.”

Caffeine can remain in the blood for six to eight hours. If you want to hit the hay relatively early, limit your caffeine consumption to the morning or early afternoon. Should you crave coffee in the evening, drink a decaffeinated blend.

Limit Your Nap Time

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In 2012, scientists from Physiology & Behavior observed that research participants who took frequent naps felt sleepier during the day, and had increases slow wave sleep (SWS). Napping for too long can mess up your circadian rhythm, which leads to lower-quality sleep at night: SWS.

How long is too long? Researchers determined in a 2006 study that people who take naps less than 30 minutes felt more awake, while those who slept longer than 30 minutes during the day resulted in “a loss of productivity and sleep inertia.”

But You CAN Take Naps And Sleep Well At Night

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Although some sources claim that taking any nap will mix up your circadian rhythm, research demonstrates that the effect of napping varies per individual. In 2008, researchers of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society observed over 100 insomniac participants who took either daytime or nighttime naps. They found that some volunteers slept better with an evening nap, whereas others slept better after an afternoon nap.

“Napping does not negatively affect sleep,” states a 1995 Dutch research study. “Consequently, the assumption on which the advice against napping is based is wrong.” Understand own circadian rhythm and adjust to it.

Scientists recognize the importance of “morning people” and “night people.”

Get In And Out Of Bed At Consistent Times

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Remaining consistent with your bedtime and waking time aids sleep because your body learns when to produce the appropriate hormones. Research in the 2002 Journal of Sleep Research followed over 6,000 adolescents and concluded that irregular sleep patterns lead to impaired attention, lower achievement, and worse sleep at night.

A later 2009 study in BioMed Central recorded the correlation: the more irregular your sleeping schedule, the fewer hours you’ll sleep overall. Even sleeping in late during the weekend impacted participants’ schedule enough to disrupt the week’s sleep. If possible, aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Keep Your Phone Away From Your Bed

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If you huddle in bed and scroll through your phone, you’re relaxing, right? A 2015 study by Harvard researchers begs to differ. Research participants who used their phone in bed felt more awake than when they were out of bed and fell asleep at least ten minutes later than those without a phone.

The researchers also noted that those who used their phones before bed felt more groggy upon waking. If you need to, charge your phone on the other side of the room.

Trust In Your Morning/Night Person Habits

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Sleep scientists have accepted that people naturally gravitate toward “morning person” or “night person.” HHS Public Access published an analysis of these schedules in 2009 which confirmed that morning people feel active and awake two hours earlier than night people.

The researchers asserted that morning/night preference did not depend on gender, sex, employment, or race, although older people tend to gravitate towards mornings. Sleep schedules between the two sleeping types could vary between three to five hours. If you’re a night person, don’t struggle to adapt to a morning person’s schedule, and vice-versa.

Many people recommend not exercising at night, but the research tells a different story.

Exercising Regularly Enhances Sleep

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Exercising during the day enhances overnight sleep so much that researchers highly recommend it for insomniacs. Even moderate-intensity exercise four times a week will provide 41 more minutes of restful sleep, according to a 1997 JAMA study.

Research in the 2010 issue of Sleep Medicine clarified that aerobic activity, which consists of running, walking, or cycling, increases deep sleep and length of rest. Other studies do not specify what kind of exercise helped the most. We do know, from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, that any consistent work out reduces the time needed to fall asleep by 55%.

Yes, You Can Even Work Out Late At Night

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Exercise does stimulate alertness and active hormones. But although many recommend not working out at night, several studies disprove that idea. For instance, students analyzed by Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences illustrated that hitting the gym in the morning, evening, and late evening all had the same health effects.

Scientists writing for the 2011 Journal of Sleep Research recorded that “late-night exercise does not disturb sleep quality,” but it “may have effects on cardiac autonomic control of the heart during the first sleeping hours.” If you have a heart condition, then this route may not be for you.

Turning on the lights at certain times affects your sleep drastically.

Alcohol Disturbs Your Sleep

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Like coffee, drinking alcohol late can disrupt your sleep, but for different reasons. Alcohol consumption increases sleep apnea and breathing obstructions, according to the 1981 issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Several studies have also tested that ethanol in alcohol disrupts melatonin production.

Research from 1996 adds that alcohol consumption decreases natural nighttime human growth hormone (HGH) levels that also help people sleep. Cambridge scientists estimate that melatonin lowers 9% after two drinks, 15% by three drinks, and 17% with four or more drinks. If you drink religiously at night, limit it to one glass.

Open Your Windows During The Day

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Staying inside all day may sound relaxing, but it doesn’t help your sleep. The body acts on a circadian rhythm, which will release certain hormones based on whether it’s light or dark out. Natural sunlight and other bright lights tell your body to release more energy during the day and less at night.

One 1993 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicated that people with insomnia who face light during the day improve their nighttime sleep by 77.5% to 90%. Further research in 2003 found that two hours of light exposure aided sleep by 73% to 86%.

Turn The Lights Down At Night

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Just as bright lights in the daytime release more energy, so do bright lights at night. Your body won’t release melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep) unless it knows that it’s nighttime. Blue light, the wavelength emitted by the sun, also comes from TV, phones, laptops, and fluorescent lighting.

In 2011, research in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded that turning on bright lamps at night inhibits your melatonin production by more than 50%. In contrast, dim lighting allows for more melatonin release. To dim your lights, you can wear specialized glasses, or download apps block blue light from your electronics.

Your room’s environment can impact your night extensively, research says.

Keep Your Room As Quiet As Possible

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We can’t always control where we live or how noisy it is outside. But we can stop ourselves from falling asleep with the TV on or music playing. In Life Science, 2003, reported that people who slept in a quiet space received a faster cortisol response upon waking. Among other purposes, cortisol helps you wake up in the morning.

Researchers for Sleep Science 2014 stated that noisy sleeping environments increased stress, which “clearly affects sleep architecture, as well as subject sleep quality.” To optimize your rest, try to minimize external noise as well as you can.

Cool Down Your Room

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According to the 1991 issue of Sleep, temperature impacts sleep quality more than noise does. In general, environments that are too hot will disrupt your rest more than cold rooms. According to several studies, 70°F (20°C) seems to provide maximum comfort for most people.

A study in the International Journal of Biometeorology found that even in warm environments of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26°C) vastly improved sleep compared to 90 degrees (32°C). During warm weather, considering turning on a quiet fan or air conditioner, or keeping the window open.

Have a late night snack, or don’t? See what the research says.

Don’t Eat Meals Too Close To Bedtime

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“Don’t eat before bed” isn’t just an Old Wives Tale. Sleep researchers have confirmed that eating one hour before bed ruins sleep quality. This habit, labeled “night-eating syndrome” in 1955, can contribute to sleep apnea and obesity, according to The International Journal of Eating Disorders.

At the same time, eating too little before bed reduces REM sleep according to a review in Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. To strengthen your sleep, eat a couple of hours before sleeping or eat the right snacks.

…But You Can Eat A Couple Things

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The same sleep review that advised against eating meals close to bedtime also mentioned that certain foods “show sleep-promoting effects.” Milk products, fish, vegetables, and fruit have all demonstrated better sleep effects, although studies on these meals tend to be scattered and conflicting.

In 2007, research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that eating high-calorie meals four hours before bedtime improves sleep. A conflicting study in 2008’s Nutritional Neuroscience proposed that low-calorie foods before sleep increase rest. More studies need to be conducted before coming to a conclusion.

These sleep therapies may help you a lot…

Is It Time To Replace Your Mattress?

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If you’re struggling to catch some shut-eye every night, you’ll want to double-check how old your mattress is. Research in the 2002 Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics divulged that sleeping in new mattresses reduced participants back pain by 57%, lowered stiffness by 59%, and increased sleep quality by 60%.

Mattress companies recommend upgrading your bed every five to eight years. Although mattress preference and comfort varies, several studies confirm that newer mattresses ameliorate sleep quality for everyone.

Some Supplements May Help

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While many people consider herbal remedies like lavender and valerian root for sleep, many don’t know which vitamins could improve rest as well. A couple of studies expressed that the amino acid glycine supports sleep. Even ingesting a dosage as small as 3 grams before bed will make a difference, according to the Japanese Society of Sleep Research.

Magnesium can also help you doze off because it lowers inflammatory stress, according a 2002 and another 2010 study. Older adults may want to consider magnesium supplements for sleep and overall mood.

Implement Stimulus Control Therapy

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If you grapple with calming your mind before going to bed, you may want to look into stimulus control therapy. The therapy forces your brain to associate your bed and bedroom with sleeping, so you’ll habitually calm down when you finally hit the hay.

The American Psychological Association splits up stimulus control into steps: going to bed only when sleepy, getting up when you can’t sleep, and using the bedroom only for sleep. If you practice these steps consistently, your brain will signal “sleep” every time to slip under the sheets.

Rule Out Any Potential Disorders

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Everyone has times where they struggle to sleep. But if you’re suffering every night, then an underlying health condition might be ruining your schedule. Sleep apnea, a disorder that stops breathing repeatedly while sleeping, is more common than most think: 24% of men and 9% of women have it, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

Other potential health conditions include sleep movement disorders, circadian rhythm disorders, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. If you think you may have a disorder, go to a doctor before trying anything else.