10 ways to sleep better, naturally

sleeping munchkin cat

Poor sleep! So necessary, so undervalued. Can you blame us? Everyone’s trying to shove 200 things into 24 hours, and the first thing to go — a full night’s sleep — is the very thing we need most. Sure, you can function on minimal sleep for a while, but perpetual fatigue is unsustainable. Plus, getting good sleep is a surefire way to look and feel better, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

I’m an excellent sleeper, rarely experiencing anything but a good night’s slumber. (Forgive the horrible brag, but it’s all I have.) I don’t take sleeping pills or supplements, but I did have to train myself to become the champion snoozer I am today. If you’re looking to sleep better naturally, here’s my advice:

1. Shift your goal from “survive” to “thrive.”
There’s a huge difference between getting just enough sleep and sleeping to the point of being rëenergized. The latter, if you can swing it, will actually help you get more done during the day, because you won’t feel sluggish or bleary-eyed. Also, measure your snoozy success by quality, not quantity. What would you rather have: seven hours of restful sleep or nine hours of tossing and turning? No contest.

2. Lights out.
If you feel wired after playing with your iPad in bed, you’re not imagining things. Research finds that the light from computers and other back-lit gadgets can disrupt levels of melatonin, which interferes with your body’s ability to fall asleep quickly. Read a book instead, but not a Stephen King novel, because then you will be too scared to doze off.

3. Get the TV out of the bedroom.
On that avoid-screen-light note, if you have a separate bedroom and living room, keep the TV in the living room. The bedroom is for two things: sleeping and relations.

4. Don’t eat before bed.
Give your digestive system a break, because otherwise, it’ll be busy-busy-busy while your body should be winding down for the night. I try not to eat after 9pm, which is pushing it, honestly. Drinking warm milk, by the way, doesn’t work. It will only make you farty.

5. Go dark.
Even a small amount of light can disturb your sleep. A couple of years ago, Dylan and I stayed at a trainside hotel in Nara, Japan. Instead of window curtains or blinds, the tiny room had a plastic blackout shade that eliminated all light. Best sleep of the trip! Now, when I need seriously deep sleep (or an afternoon power nap), I pop on an old-fashioned sleep mask.

6. Write out your morning.
You know how the minute you get into bed, you remember that you have to pay the phone bill, and that thank-you note is overdue, and oh no, you forgot to pick up the DRY CLEANING! Good luck falling asleep, worrywart. I used to lay awake, cycling through my to-do list. So I started writing that list down shortly before bedtime. Now, I can drift off easily because I already know what’s on the docket for the next day. Easy.

7. Get comfortable.
Maybe your mattress is too hard, or your blankets are too hot. If possible, change them! We recently bought new pillows and immediately experienced less tossing and turning. If noise is an issue, look into the White Noise app, which plays various relaxing sounds to lull you to sleep. It’s so Enya, but it’s a good way to block out the annoying little clanks and creaks that keep you from fully relaxing.

8. Watch your caffeine intake.
It’s a “duh” one, but caffeine stays in your system long after its buzz has worn off. If I have coffee or green tea after 2pm, forget it — I’m up way too late, wholly tired but unable to doze off. Instead, I like to chop up some ginger and lemon zest, pop it in a tea bag, and drink that before bed. Yep, it’s a nightly party over here.

9. Have a regular bedtime.
So old-fogey, I know! But our bodies can be trained, and over time, they “learn” to rest and revive at certain times. I know that no matter what, I’ll be up by 7 each morning — largely because I am almost always asleep by 11 the night before. And getting that full night’s sleep feels great.

10. Make sleep a priority.
That sometimes means that I leave a show early, or that I need to take a cat nap if I stayed up late. If you want to get A+ sleep, you have to commit to it — even if that makes you feel dorky. (Which it will. But hey, you’ll be well-rested.)

Finally, I highly advise not having a Munchkin cat, such as Milo above, in your room if you want to rest soundly. Milo “sings” to us around 5:30 every morning. Still, we love him.

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  • missjen

    oh Milos…

    • annie

      He just gets cuter and cuter.