5 Ways to Improve How Well You Sleep Tonight

sleepingwithboErica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online masters programs in nursing, which partner with Nursing License Map to offer nursing resources. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.

Nothing’s quite as much of a drag as waking up in the morning when you haven’t had a full night’s rest or going through the rest of the day when that just-woke-up-after-a-long-night-out feeling won’t fade. But what can you do to ensure the rest you get actually helps? Here are five ways to improve your sleep:

1. Keep a regular schedule.

The human body goes through a natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness throughout the day, which is called the circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the need for sleep in most adults peaks between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning, as well as between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon (peak times are later for teenagers). Being sure to keep a regular schedule that includes sleeping at these times (at least at night, if not also in the afternoon) will help you to sleep more deeply and wake feeling rested.

2. Exercise.

Particularly for light sleepers, exercising vigorously and regularly can help your body to recognize its own need for sleep. While you may feel drained for a short period during or after a workout (particularly if you’re not in the habit of working out), you should notice an overall improvement in sleep and wakefulness within two to three weeks. Sometimes the effects can hit you even sooner than that, depending on your body and habits.

3. Try UP.

So many factors affect the way we sleep that keeping track of how they affect us can be a complicated and aggravating task — not to mention the fact that we’re not actually conscious while we sleep and judge the quality of our sleep through indirect effects and hazy memories.

If you’ve got the cash, the audio technology company Jawbone offers a tool to scientifically track the quality of your sleep as well as the many factors that influence how you sleep (diet, exercise, mood, etc.). It’s called UP and is an inconspicuous bracelet that syncs to an iPhone app which can track your sleep, activity and diet, helping you better understand the various aspects of your day and how they can impact sleep.

4. Eat well throughout the day.

Eating a balanced diet and going to bed neither too hungry nor too full helps your body to achieve a natural state of restfulness. There are also particular foods that can help or hinder you in your quest for rest. According to Eating Well, fish, yogurt and fortified cereals all help the body to achieve a more-than-fleeting rest. Bon appetit!

5. Moderate your caffeine and alcohol consumption.

Caffeine, alcohol and other drugs all affect the body and brain in ways that can interfere with achieving deep states of rest. While drugs affect everyone differently, they do affect everyone. Consuming caffeine at night makes it more difficult for most people to sleep, and some people find that avoiding caffeine completely dramatically improves their sleep quality. Alcohol, on the other hand, helps many people to fall asleep, but it can still interfere with achieving the deepest and most restful kind of sleep. Be aware of your caffeine and alcohol intake, and consider moderating it if it interferes noticeably with your rest.

Photo credit: Joi on Flickr

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