A good night’s sleep is as essential to overall good health as food, water or breathing. We need regular, healthy sleep to feel and be our best selves – and adequate rest is a right, not a privilege. However, due to circumstances both within and beyond our control, many of us spend too much time staring up at the ceiling instead of letting our mind and body rest, repair and restore each night.
Here are 11 things you might want to learn how to have a good night’s sleep. We saved the best one for last, but feel free to pick and choose among them all to find the ones that work for you.
1. Sniff your way to sleep.
A lot of us have signature scents that we’re drawn to, and scent can also trigger memories. So how about choosing a calming, relaxing scent to signal to your mind that it’s time for bed? An obvious choice is lavender, which has been shown to have relaxing qualities. Other scents – including rose, chamomile and clary sage – are also good night sleep scents.
Try lighting a candle an hour before bed (but be sure to blow it out!), diffuse an oil blend or use a spray on your pillow and linens.
2. Breathe deep and exhale.
Once you have that soothing scent around you, breathe it in deeply – then focus on your exhalation. The exhale segment of breathing stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, or the part that’s tasked with relaxation, rest and digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite of the sympathetic, or “fight-or-flight,” response.
As you wind down for bed, aim for eight breaths a minute (the optimal length according to researchers) with longer exhales.
3. Eat a healthy balanced diet.
What we eat during the day can definitely impact our sleep. In fact, a 2014 study found that women who ate few vegetables and more starches and sweets were more likely to have poor sleep quality!
A grumbling belly is also a definite obstacle between you and a good night’s sleep, so have a small, healthy bedtime snack if need be. Avoid spicy, sugary, fatty or overly heavy foods, which could keep you up. Instead, reach for something simple like a banana with a tiny bit of peanut butter, a cup of yogurt, crackers or tart cherry juice (which has been linked to better sleep).
4. Chill out to drift off.
This tip is definitely a personal choice, but the temperature of your room can impact your sleep – even more than noise. Cooler temperatures signal to your body that it’s bedtime, since your core body temp drops a little during the night. Humidity and heat can be a double-whammy for sleep, especially as the night goes on, so go ahead and turn on the AC or turn down the heat if you tend to wake up hot.
5. Turn down the lights.
Ideally, our circadian rhythm works in sync with the sun, waking us at sunrise and signaling that it’s bedtime after sunset. However, our busy modern lives don’t quite align so perfectly. At the very least, we should start dimming the lights and avoiding screentime an hour or two before bed. The blue light emitted by phones, TVs and computers can wreak havoc on sleep!
After dinner, start to lower the lights or rely on lamps instead of bright overhead lights as a hint to your body to start winding down. Hello, mood lighting!
6. Tune out the noise.
It’s hard to fall asleep and stay asleep if you are constantly exposed to noise, including the TV or music. Studies, including this one from 2003, have found that nighttime noise impacts our sleep quality and triggers the hormones tasked with waking us up.
If peace and quiet aren’t always possible where you live, try earplugs, a white noise machine or noise-cancelling headphones. As you’re experimenting with how to get a good night’s sleep, eliminating excess noise is a great place to start.
7. Soak in a warm bath.
While you likely don’t need science to tell you that a warm bath is an excellent way to ensure a good night’s sleep, there is a study to back up this self-care habit. A warm bath or shower – with a relaxing scent and maybe some Epsom salts to ease muscle tension – can be just the ticket to sleeping like a baby, especially after a physically demanding day.
8. Go inward to shut down.
Want to learn how to have a good night sleep? Start a meditation practice. Meditation – especially mindfulness meditation — has been shown to help. It makes perfect sense: If your brain feels like a hamster on a wheel, it’s hard to turn it off and go to sleep. Meditation teaches you to harness your thoughts, clear your mind and focus your energy where you need it to go.
If you’re a meditation newbie, let your phone help you out. Download a meditation app or google sleep meditations if a racing mind awakens you in the wee hours.
9. Upgrade your linens and pillow.
Lumpy pillow? Itchy or hot sheets? While these aren’t always sleep deal-breakers, a comfy bed feels a whole lot more inviting – and with them you’ll actually look forward to sleep. Cotton-poly sheets get hot and clammy, and flannel ones are great in winter but too hot in summer. In warmer months (or if you’re a hot sleeper), choose cool fabrics like linen or eucalyptus fiber.
And if you haven’t replaced your pillow in… who knows how long… go ahead and upgrade that, too. Choose a pillow designed for how you like to sleep – a side sleeper will need different support than a back or belly sleeper.
Another tip: Consider using a pillow under your knees and lower legs if you’re a back sleeper, to relieve some low back pressure. Side sleepers might like one between their knees to keep hips even (and maybe in front of their chest, too).
10. Tense and release.
Sometimes you have to get tense before you can relax. Try a body scan meditation before bed to get into that “rest and digest” mode (the same one you trigger with each exhalation). This one works for kids, too!
- Lie in bed on your back. (You can move to a different position after.)
- Close your eyes.
- Starting with your feet, tense up one body part at a time as you inhale, then relax it completely with an exhale.
- Keep going from your feet to your lower legs, upper legs, hips, belly, shoulders, arms, neck, face and even the crown of your head.
- Each time you release the tension, visualize your day melting away.
- Repeat if needed.
11. Feel your day melt away.
Speaking of melting away, we love pairing that body scan with a fast-acting Hello Dreams™ sleep strip with Melatonin & Calm Down™ herbal blend. Place one on your tongue as you begin your meditation, ideally about 10 minutes you want to drift off. Feel the refreshingly minty and herbal strip melt away as you scan your body. Whether paired with some of these tips or on their own, they’re formulated to help you sleep deep and awake restored.* Within a few nights of drifting off soon after the strip melts on your tongue, we think you’ll agree they’re the best way to get a good night’s sleep!*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.