Updated: Apr 30, 2019
A good night's sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
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.
1. Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day
In people with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83% (19).
A similar study in older adults found that two hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by two hours and sleep efficiency by 80% (20).
While most research is in people with severe sleep issues, daily light exposure will most likely help you even if you experience average sleep.
Try getting daily sunlight exposure or — if this is not practical — invest in an artificial bright-light device or bulbs.
SUMMARY Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.
2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure in the Evening
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 (23, 24).
Blue light — which electronic devices like smartphones and computers emit in large amounts — is the worst in this regard.
There are several popular methods you can use to reduce nighttime blue light exposure.
Wear glasses that block blue light (24, 25).Download an app such as f.lux to block blue light on your laptop or computer.Install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone. These are available for both iPhones and Android models.Stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights two hours before heading to bed.
SUMMARY Blue light tricks your body into thinking it's daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening.
3. Don't Consume Caffeine Late in the Day
However, when consumed late in the day, coffee stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.
In one study, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality (34).
Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended — especially if you are sensitive to caffeine or have trouble sleeping (31, 35).
If you do crave a cup of coffee in the late afternoon or evening, stick with decaffeinated coffee.
SUMMARY Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening.
4. Reduce Irregular or Long Daytime Naps
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep.
In fact, in one study, participants ended up being sleepier during the day after taking daytime naps (37).
Another study noted that while napping for 30 minutes or less can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps can negatively affect health and sleep quality (38).
However, some studies demonstrate that those who are used to taking regular daytime naps do not experience poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep at night.
SUMMARY Long daytime naps may impair sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps.
5. Try to Sleep and Wake at Consistent Times
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 long-term sleep quality (42).
One study noted that participants who had irregular sleeping patterns and went to bed late on the weekends reported poor sleep (43).
If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
SUMMARY 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.
6. Take a Melatonin Supplement
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it's time to relax and head to bed (46).
Melatonin supplements are an extremely popular sleep aid.
In one study, 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality and energy the next day and helped people fall asleep faster. In another study, half of the group fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality (48, 49).
Additionally, no withdrawal effects were reported in either of the above studies.
Melatonin is also useful when traveling and adjusting to a new time zone, as it helps your body's circadian rhythm return to normal (50).
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.
You should also speak with a healthcare provider if you're thinking about using melatonin as a sleep aid for your child, as long-term use of this supplement in children has not been well studied.
SUMMARY A melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Take 1–5 mg around 30–60 minutes before heading to bed.
7. Consider These Other Supplements
Several supplements can induce relaxation and help you sleep, including:
Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it may aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction, but the evidence is limited. Take 250 mg 30–60 minutes before bed (51).
Make sure to only try these supplements one at a time. While they are no magic bullet for sleep issues, they can be useful when combined with other natural sleeping strategies.
SUMMARY Several supplements, including lavender and magnesium, can help with relaxation and sleep quality when combined with other strategies.
8. Don't Drink Alcohol
Downing a couple of drinks at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones.
Another study found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations in human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in your circadian rhythm and has many other key functions (76).
SUMMARY Avoid alcohol before bed, as it can reduce nighttime melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
9. Optimize Your Bedroom Environment
Many people believe that the bedroom environment and its setup are key factors in getting a good night's sleep.
These factors include temperature, noise, external lights and furniture arrangement (77).
In one study on the bedroom environment of women, around 50% of participants noticed improved sleep quality when noise and light diminished (81).
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.
SUMMARY Optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise to get better sleep.
10. Set Your Bedroom Temperature
Body and bedroom temperature can also profoundly impact sleep quality.
As you may have experienced during the summer or in hot locations, 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 more than external noise (77).
Around 70°F (20°C) seems to be a comfortable temperature for most people, although it depends on your preferences and habits.
SUMMARY Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 70°F (20°C) is best for most people.
11. Don't Eat Late in the Evening
That said, the quality and type of your late-night snack may play a role as well.
In one study, a high-carb meal eaten four hours before bed helped people fall asleep faster (93).
SUMMARY Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, certain meals and snacks a few hours before bed may help.
12. Relax and Clear Your Mind in the Evening
Many people have a pre-sleep routine that helps them relax.
In one study, a relaxing massage improved sleep quality in people who were ill (98).
Strategies include listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, meditating, deep breathing and visualization.
Try out different methods and find what works best for you.
SUMMARY Relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, may help you fall asleep.
13. Take a Relaxing Bath or Shower
A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better.
In one study, a hot bath 90 minutes before bed improved sleep quality and helped people get more deep sleep (100).
SUMMARY A warm bath, shower or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
14. Rule Out a Sleep Disorder
An underlying health condition may be the cause of your sleep problems.
This condition may be more common than you think. One review claimed that 24% of men and 9% of women have sleep apnea (106).
If you've always struggled with sleep, it may be wise to consult with your doctor.
SUMMARY 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.
15. Get a Comfortable Bed, Mattress and Pillow
Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.
One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days, revealing that it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60% and back stiffness by 59%. It also improved sleep quality by 60% (111).
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 (112).
SUMMARY 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.
16. Exercise Regularly — But Not Before Bed
Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health.
In people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30% and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18% (123).
Although daily exercise is key for a good night's sleep, performing it too late in the day may cause sleep problems.
This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline. However, some studies show no detrimental effects, so it clearly depends on the individual (124, 125, 126).
SUMMARY Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep.
17. Don't Drink Any Liquids Before Bed
Drinking large amounts of liquids before bed can lead to similar symptoms, though some people are more sensitive than others.
Although hydration is vital for your health, 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 use the bathroom right before going to bed, as this may decrease your chances of waking in the night.
SUMMARY Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.
The Bottom Line
Sleep plays a key role in your health.
One large review linked insufficient sleep to an increased obesity risk of 89% in children and 55% in adults (129).
If you are interested in optimal health and well-being, then you should make sleep a top priority and incorporate some of the tips above.