12 Expert-Approved Tips to Get a Better Night's Sleep

Snooze your way to a full eight hours by following our expert advice in three key sleepy-time areas.

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We get it, life is busy. but here's something you should know: sleep used to be considered one of the three pillars of health and wellness, along with diet and exercise. Today, though, research points to sleep being the foundation to living a better life, says Terry Cralle, RN, certified sleep educator for the Better Sleep Council. Here, we review what to focus on in order to get the rest you need.

01 of 12

Block Out Noise

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You may not recall the racket caused by yesterday's midnight garbage pickup, but your body probably does. Even if you don't wake up, noise can disrupt your slumber and cause restlessness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and changes in breathing patterns, explains Cralle. "These interruptions can lead to fragmented sleep, which makes it harder to reach the deeper, more restorative stages." Earplugs are a great way to avoid disturbances. Try to find earplugs that mold to the shape of your ear canal, filtering out noise almost completely. Another idea: Consider buying a fabric headboard or a plush rug to help minimize noises.

02 of 12

Take a Whiff!

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Creating a bedtime ritual that includes diffusing (a process of dispersing) essential oils 30 minutes before sacking out is a simple and effective way to cue the body to rest, says Sara Panton, essential-oil expert and cofounder of Vitruvi. Not only are there certain scents that encourage drowsiness, but the very act of setting up a routine helps signal to your brain that it's time to start shutting off. Panton suggests this blend for ultimate rest: seven drops of lavender, four drops of frankincense, four drops of cedarwood, and two drops of bergamot.

03 of 12

Stay Slightly Chilled

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Body temperature regularly fluctuates throughout the day—it's usually at its highest in the afternoon and lowest in the early a.m. So if your room is hot, your body will work all night to cool down—and if you're sweating, you're more likely to wake up. The sweet spot: 65 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

04 of 12

Improve Ventilation

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Room stuffiness can hike nasal congestion and hinder your ability to breathe while you doze. Per a study in the journal Indoor Air, people who kept their window open overnight felt more alert the next morning than they did when it had been kept closed. If you live in a city and opening your window exposes you to noise, crack it open for 15 minutes during the day instead. No windows? No problem. Invest in a plant like a peace lily, which naturally purifies air.

05 of 12

Dim the Lights Early

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Not only does light send "stay awake" alerts to the brain, it also has an effect on circadian rhythm, which controls your body's natural sleep-wake cycle, explains Lawrence Epstein, MD, assistant medical director of Brigham Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Brightness also stops the production of melatonin (the tired hormone), suppressing your sleep signal. While you likely kill the lights before you get in bed, you actually need to dim them much sooner. Switch from overhead lights to lamps around dinnertime to help your body wind down.

06 of 12

Find the Right Mattress

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  • The problem: You wake up with a sore back.
  • Consider: Look for a mattress that has elastic support for maximum give-and-take. You want the heavier areas of your body—like your hips—to sink, while parts that need more support stay afloat. This kind of mattress is especially great for side sleepers.
  • The problem: You sweat all night long.
  • Consider: Look for a mattress that incorporates modern gel foam, which will help keep your body cool while you sleep. Bonus if the top materials are made out of natural, breathable fibers, like cotton or wool.
  • The problem: Your partner's tossing keeps you up.
  • Consider: Look for a mattress that is constructed with multiple layers of natural latex, which has an innate elasticity that allows it to absorb motion and impact well. That means your partner can toss and turn, and you won't feel a thing.
07 of 12

Rest Your Head Right

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Below, Michael Breus, PhD, sleep specialist and founder of TheSleepDoctor.com, prescribes the best pillow based on your go-to position, plus editor-tested picks.

Side sleeper:
If this is your nighttime move, you'll want to fill the space between your ear and shoulder, explains Breus. He suggests a medium-plump bolster (six or seven inches high) that keeps your nose aligned with your chest.

Stomach sleeper:
"When you're lying on your stomach, anything underneath your head lifts it backward and can cause lower-back problems," says Breus. He recommends a thinner option that will keep your head, neck, and spine aligned while you snooze.

Back sleeper:
Once again, it's all about alignment. "You want a flatter pillow that won't push your chin to your chest," says Breus. "It can be firm or soft, as long as it's low."

08 of 12

Skip That Chocolate Dessert

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Whether it's ice cream, brownies, cookies, or candy—all cocoa contains caffeine. Which means your nightly choco habit could be costing you precious z's. If you want to indulge your sweet tooth, consider yogurt (high in muscle-relaxing magnesium) topped with fresh cherries (which contain melatonin).

09 of 12

Pass on the Booze

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Alcohol is a double-edged sword. Yes, that nightcap might initially help you doze off, but don't be fooled—it reduces sleep quality, explains Dr. Epstein. That's because while booze is linked to increasing certain sleepy feelings, it also causes you to wake up repeatedly, interfering with restorative sleep. Instead of pouring yourself a glass right before you hit the hay, take your last sips two hours earlier.

10 of 12

Put Down Your Phone

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In theory, a feature like Apple's Night Shift is supposed to help reduce the impact of melatonin suppression (a.k.a. that wired feeling you get from staring at your phone) by enabling users to make screen light "more warm." However, a study in the journal Lighting Research & Technology showed that changing screen color alone does not completely eliminate the impact on melatonin levels. Unfortunately, scrolling yourself to sleep is a bad idea no matter how you look at it. Just as with alcohol, it's suggested that you try to avoid staring at any screen one to two hours before bedtime.

11 of 12

Think About What You Brush With

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Peppermint toothpaste and mouthwash might help bad breath in the morning, but it should be avoided at night. Minty flavors keep us alert, explains Cralle. Instead, opt for something milder to help you feel clean and calm.

12 of 12

Be Careful With Meds

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Along with some cough and cold remedies, certain over-the-counter migraine medications are packed with caffeine and could be the culprit for keeping you up. Make sure you check the label and go for pain relievers without the stimulant.

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