A good night's sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance and brain function (, , , , ).
For both adults and children, it can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk (, , ).
In contrast, good sleep can help you eat less, exercise better and be healthier (, , , ).
Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people regularly get poor sleep (, ).
If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, then getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
Here are 17 evidence-based tips to sleep better at night.
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm (, ).
It affects your brain, body and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it's time to sleep (, ).
Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration (, , ).
In patients with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83% ().
A similar study in the elderly found 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80% ().
To date, most of the research is in patients with severe sleep issues. However, even if you have average sleep, daily light exposure will most likely help improve it.
You can achieve this by getting daily sunlight exposure or, if this is not practical, invest in an artificial bright light device or bulbs.
Bottom Line: Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially in those with severe sleep issues or insomnia.
Exposure to light during the day is beneficial, but nighttime light exposure has the opposite effect (, ).
Again, this is due to its impact on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep (, ).
Blue light is the worst in this regard, which is emitted in large amounts from electronic devices like smartphones and computers.
There are several popular methods you can use to reduce nighttime blue light exposure. These include:
- Wear glasses that block blue light (, ).
- Download an app such as to block blue light on your laptop or computer.
- Install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone. These are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights 2 hours before heading to bed.
Read more here: How Blocking Blue Light at Night Can Transform Your Sleep.
Bottom Line: Blue light tricks your body into thinking it's daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening.
Caffeine has numerous benefits and is consumed by 90% of the US population (, , , , ).
A single dose of it can enhance focus, energy and sports performance (, , ).
However, when consumed late in the day, the stimulation of your nervous system may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
In one study, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality ().
Caffeine can stay elevated in the blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended, especially if you are caffeine sensitive or have trouble sleeping (, ).
If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, then stick with decaffeinated coffee.
Bottom Line: Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if large amounts are consumed in the late afternoon or evening.
While short "power naps" have been proven beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep.
Sleeping in the daytime can confuse your internal body clock, meaning you may struggle to sleep at night (, ).
In one study, participants actually ended up being more sleepy during the day after taking daytime naps ().
Another study found that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can negatively affect health and sleep quality ().
However, some studies have shown that those who are used to taking regular daytime naps did not suffer from poor quality or disrupted sleep at night.
If you take regular daytime naps and sleep well, then it's likely not an issue. As always, it depends on the individual (, , ).
Bottom Line: The effects of daytime naps depend on the individual. If you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps.
Your body's circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset.
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid in sleep quality in the long-term ().
One study found those who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep ().
Other studies have highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep (, , ).
If you struggle with sleep, try to get in a habit of waking up and going to bed at a similar time each day and night. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
Bottom Line: Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle, especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that signals your brain when it's time to relax and head to bed ().
A melatonin supplement is an extremely popular aid to fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.
Often used to treat insomnia, it may be one of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster (, ).
In one study, 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day, and helped people fall asleep faster. Another study found half the participants fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality (, ).
Additionally, no withdrawal effects were reported in either of the above studies.
Melatonin is also useful when traveling and adjusting to a new timezone, as it helps your body's circadian rhythm return to normal ().
In some countries, you need a prescription for melatonin. In others, melatonin is widely available in stores or online. Take around 1–5 mg, 30–60 minutes before bed.
Start with a low dose to assess your tolerance, and then increase it slowly as needed. Since melatonin may alter brain chemistry, it is advised that you check with a medical professional before use.
Bottom Line: A melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Take 1–5 mg, 30–60 minutes before heading to bed.
Several supplements can induce relaxation and help you sleep, including:
- Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it can aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction. Take 250 mg, 30–60 minutes before bed (, ).
- Glycine: A few studies have found that 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality (, , ).
- Valerian root: This root is backed by several studies that show it can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Take 500 mg before bed (, , ).
- Magnesium: Responsible for over 600 reactions within the body, studies show magnesium can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality (, , ).
- L-Theanine: An amino acid, l-theanine can improve relaxation and sleep. Take 100–200 mg before heading to bed (, , ).
- Lavender: A powerful plant-based supplement with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary-like effect to improve sleep. Take 80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool (, , , , , , ).
Make sure to only try these supplements out one at a time. Of course, they are not a magic bullet for fixing sleep issues, but they can be useful when combined with some of the other tips in this article.
Bottom Line: Several supplements can help with relaxation and sleep quality. These can work well when combined with other strategies.
Drinking a couple of drinks at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones.
Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns (, ).
It also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body's circadian rhythm (, , , ).
Another study found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations in growth hormone, which plays a role in the circadian rhythm and has many other key functions ().
Bottom Line: Avoid drinking alcohol before bed, as it can reduce nighttime melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
Many people believe that the bedroom environment and its setup are key factors in getting a good night's sleep.
This can include aspects such as temperature, noise, furniture choice and arrangement, external lights and more ().
Numerous studies have highlighted that external noise, often from traffic, can cause poor sleep and long-term health issues (, , ).
One study investigating the bedroom environment of women found that around 50% of participants noticed improved sleep quality when reductions in noise and lighting were introduced ().
To optimize your bedroom environment, try to minimize external noise, light and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and enjoyable place.
Bottom Line: Try to optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise and making it a generally relaxing environment.
Body and bedroom temperature can also profoundly impact sleep quality.
As you may have experienced during the summer or when on vacation, it can be very hard to get a good night's sleep when it's too warm.
One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality even more than external noise ().
Other studies show that increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness (, , , , , ).
Around 70°F, or 20°C, seems to be a comfortable temperature for most people, although it always depends on your preferences and what you're used to.
Bottom Line: Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 70°F/20°C seems comfortable for most people.
Late-night eating may negatively impact both sleep quality and the natural release of growth hormone and melatonin (, , , , ).
That being said, a high-carb meal eaten a few hours before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.
This is likely due to its effect on the hormone tryptophan, which can make you feel tired ().
In one study, a high-carb meal eaten 4 hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster (, ).
Interestingly, one study found that a low-carb diet also improved sleep, indicating that carbs are not always necessary, especially if you are used to a low-carb diet ().
Bottom Line: Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, eating carbs a few hours before bed may help.
Many people have a pre-sleep routine that helps them relax.
Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia (, , ).
In one study, a relaxing massage improved sleep quality in ill patients ().
There are many strategies you could try, including listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, deep breathing and visualization.
Test different methods and find what works best for you.
Bottom Line: Relaxation techniques before bed can be useful, and have even been used to treat insomnia.
A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better.
Studies have shown it can improve overall sleep quality and help people fall asleep faster, especially the elderly (, , , , ).
In one study, a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped participants get greater amounts of deep sleep ().
Alternatively, if you don't want to take a full bath at night, studies have shown that just bathing your feet in hot water can help you relax and improve sleep (, ).
Bottom Line: A warm bath, shower or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
An underlying health condition may be the cause of your sleep problems.
One common issue is , which causes inconsistent and interrupted breathing. People with this disorder stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping (, ).
This condition may be more common that you think. One review found that 24% of men and 9% of women had sleep apnea ().
Other common medically diagnosed issues include sleep movement disorders and circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders, which are common in shift workers (, ).
If you've always struggled with sleep, it may be wise to speak to a doctor about it.
Bottom Line: There are many common conditions that can cause poor sleep, including sleep apnea. See a doctor if poor sleep is a consistent problem in your life.
Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.
Well, apart from the relaxing environment, bed quality can also have an effect (, ).
One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days. They found it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60%, back stiffness by 59% and improved sleep quality by 60% ().
Other studies also found that new bedding can enhance sleep. Additionally, poor-quality bedding can lead to increased lower-back pain (, ).
The best mattress and bedding is extremely subjective. If you are upgrading your bedding, base your choice on personal preference (, , , , ).
It is recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years.
If you haven't replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick (although possibly expensive) fix ().
Bottom Line: Research shows that your bed, mattress and pillow can greatly impact sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high-quality mattress and bedding every 5–8 years.
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health.
It can enhance all aspects of sleep, and has been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia (, , , , ).
One study in the elderly found that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and helped them sleep 41 minutes longer at night ().
In insomnia patients with severe issues, exercise provided more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night awake time by 30%, anxiety by 15% and increased total sleep time by 18% ().
Although daily exercise is key for a good night's sleep, performing it too late in the day may also cause problems falling asleep for some people.
This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine or adrenaline. However, some studies show no detrimental effects, so it clearly depends on the individual (, , ).
Bottom Line: Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep.
Nocturia is the medical term for excessive urination during the night. It affects sleep quality and daytime energy (, ).
Drinking large amounts of liquids before bed can lead to similar symptoms, though some people are more sensitive than others.
Although hydration is vitally important, it is wise to reduce your fluid intake in the late evening.
Try not to drink any fluids 1–2 hours before going to bed.
You should also make sure to use the bathroom right before going to bed, which may decrease your chances of waking in the night.
Bottom Line: Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.
Sleep plays a key role in your health.
One large review found that insufficient sleep increases obesity risk by 89% in children and 55% in adults ().
Other studies have concluded that less than 7–8 hours per night increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes (, , ).
If you are interested in optimal health and well-being, then you should make sleep a top priority in your life.