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tips from our sleep expert, Dr. Shelby Harris

how to get better zzz’s every night

Good sleep makes everything better: your mood, heart health, memory, even your immune system. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of shut-eye a night to maintain health and happiness. We asked Dr. Shelby Harris, psychologist and board-certified behavioral sleep expert, for tips on how to get more restful sleep.

Dr. Shelby Harris

optimize your environment

Light is a common sleep stealer. Make sure you have light-blocking shades as the brain can sense even the faintest bit of light peeking through your curtains on a sunny morning.

A quiet sleep space helps set the stage for sleep. A white noise machine, silicone earplugs, or even noise-canceling earbuds can all help keep your bedroom quiet.

Allergies can lead to congestion and snoring, disrupting sleep quality. Make sure to use hypoallergenic bedding and consider an air purifier in your room – even some popular household plants are known for their ability to purify the air.

choose the right sheets

If you prefer a simple bed, go with crisp, light percale sheets that feel unfussy and uncomplicated. If you’re a cold sleeper, soft and silky textures that feel amazing will invite you into your bed. Think cotton sateen sheets that are smooth and lovely to the touch.

find a supportive pillow

Make sure the pillows you choose are conducive to your sleep style. For example, get a flatter pillow if you sleep on your stomach, or a more supportive one for your neck if you sleep on your side. You may even put a fluffy down pillow or two in bed next to you for some extra added coziness at night.

dial in the perfect temp

A cool bedroom is best, ideally in the mid- 60s°F up to 72°F maximum. It takes a bit of practice to figure out what temperature works best for you – a room that’s too warm makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, but you also don’t want to be cold and uncomfortable.

Fluffy, warm down comforters are the ultimate in comfort, but make sure to layer your bed so you don’t get too warm at night. Multiple layers (sheets, blankets, down comforter) will help keep you cool and deepen your sleep.

stay asleep

Eye masks are popular and help keep the light out, especially on mornings when the sun comes up far earlier than you’d like. Find one with an appealing texture and weight, and if it has a fun pattern on the outside, even better. If wearing a mask feels strange at first, wear it a bit during the day to get used to the feeling.

wind-down time

Sleep is not an on/off switch, and it’s best to set the stage for relaxation by practicing a brief evening mindfulness session before bedtime. Create a simple space in your room where you can sit for 5-10 minutes to relax, practice a self-led or guided meditation, and let your brain settle down for sleep. Reading, knitting, restorative yoga, and gentle stretching are all great ways to wind down as well.

A hot shower or bath helps warm you up inside and out. Make sure to do so 1.5 to 2 hours before lights out, to give your body time to cool down and allow your brain’s melatonin to start working.

While you might love a cup of herbal decaffeinated tea in the evening, try to be mindful of your liquid consumption as it can lead to middle-of-the-night bathroom trips. Try to cut off liquids 3 hours before bedtime. If you really want that cup of tea, limit it to 1 small cup in the hours before bed.

good morning!

Although darkness is very helpful for falling asleep, bright sunlight upon awakening can wake you up quite nicely. Get out of bed, open up the shades and bathe your brain with light while you take on a few deep breaths to begin your day. A regular wake-time paired with bright light (sunlight through the window even on a cloudy day is fine!) helps set your body’s internal clock and can even help with falling asleep easier at night.

Keeping the same wake time 7 days a week helps set your body’s own internal clock, allowing for an easier time falling asleep at night. Alarm clocks are tech-packed today, with many that have lights that mimic the sunrise and sunset. Consider an alarm clock that also has a programmable wind-down routine/bedside light to help you keep on track with winding down before bed.

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