How to Get More Sleep

Six Methods:Getting More Sleep Every DayGetting More Sleep As a New ParentCreating the Right Sleep EnvironmentAvoiding Certain Things Before BedUsing Herbal RemediesUsing Supplements

A sleepless night can be miserable, and can it be even worse if it happens often. Sleep deprivation, or a lack of sleep, increases your risk of chronic diseases and addictions. Chronic diseases include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours a night while adults need seven to nine hours.[1][2] If you find yourself getting less sleep than you need, there are a number of approaches to help you get more sleep.

Method 1
Getting More Sleep Every Day

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    Catch up on sleep. If you find yourself getting less than the required seven to nine hours of sleep a night, you can amass a sleep debt. If you do this routinely, you may find yourself constantly tired and in need of more sleep. This cuts down on productivity and decreases your overall health. To catch up on sleep (or "pay back" your sleep debt), try taking a consistent nap every day for a few days. This can help make up for the hours you missed over the days before.
    • You can also try catching up on sleep on the weekends, but this can throw off your normal sleep routine, so be careful with how much you sleep in. This change in sleep pattern can make it hard for you to fall asleep on Sunday, which can start the process again the next week.[3]
    • This can be helpful if you are a student and you have to cram for exams or spend all night writing a paper. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to catch up on the sleep the next few nights.
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    Make gradual changes. If you find yourself with a busy schedule that makes it hard for you to get enough sleep, you need to start changing your schedule to include more sleep. Don't try to change it all at once. If you usually go to bed at midnight or 1 am, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier for a few nights. Continue doing this each night, going back an additional 15 minutes every few nights.
    • Eventually, you can move back your bedtime an hour or two, which will help you get more sleep each night.[4] This will help you avoid sleep debts, since you will be getting more sleep each night.
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    Make sleep a priority. If you are working with a hectic schedule that is constantly filled with things you have to do, make time for sleep. If you schedule every part of your day, move things around in your schedule so you have time to sleep. This may mean letting go of some extra activities that aren't necessary or required.
    • Even if you have a busy schedule that has just a little room for change, make those changes to benefit your sleep schedule. The more sleep you have, the more productive you will be at the rest of your necessary activities.
    • This is really helpful if you are a student. Even if you have a ton of school related commitments and a ton of homework, you should always make it a priority to sleep. If not, your grades and overall productivity will fail.[5]
    • If these other methods don't work, improve your sleep routine, as described below, to help change your approach to sleep and increase your quality of sleep.[6]

Method 2
Getting More Sleep As a New Parent

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    Alternate nights. If you are a new parent, it may seem hard to get enough sleep while taking care of the baby. If you and your partner are having trouble getting enough sleep, split up the night shifts. Alternate nights with each other, so that you are responsible for waking up with the baby one night and then your partner is responsible the next night.
    • This can help you get a few nights of adequate sleep a week, which is better than none.
    • You can even have the person who is staying up with the baby sleep in a separate room so you get more undisturbed sleep.[7]
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    Take it in shifts. In order for you and your partner to get at least some solid hours of sleep per night, you can also try taking shifts. Split the night into two equal shifts, where you take one shift and your partner takes the other. This way, you will be responsible for your child while your partner sleeps soundly and vice versa.[8]
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    Prepare your milk ahead of time. For those late night feeding sessions, pump your milk before you go to sleep. This way, you won't have to wake up each time your baby needs to feed and your partner can handle it some during the night.[9]
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    Go to bed when your baby does. One way to get more sleep is to go to bed when your baby does. This way, you get more sleep before she wakes up for the first time. This may be hard with how much you have to do in a day, but if you find yourself with a serious sleep deficit, this can help you and your partner get some much needed sleep during those first hours when she is sleeping soundly.[10]
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    Sleep with your baby. To help your baby sleep better at night, you may choose to sleep with him in the bed with you. This can help him feel more comfortable at night, wake up less when he is just fussy, and help him only wake up when he is hungry.[11]
    • There are some hazards to having your baby sleep with you, so make sure you ask your pediatrician if there are guidelines you need to follow before you do this.

Method 3
Creating the Right Sleep Environment

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    Create a nightly routine. You need to make a nightly routine that signals to your body that it is time to sleep. What goes on in your routine should vary depending on your needs, but once you have a routine, stick to it. You can drink a cup of herbal tea, read a book or magazine, wash your face, put on your sleep clothes, or get your clothes and food ready for the next day.
    • Make sure the activity you choose isn't too exciting or energizing, such as exercise or reading a stressful book. You want to calm yourself down, not keep yourself awake longer.[12]
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    Make your bed comfortable. In order for you to sleep more each night, you need to make sure that your bed is comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, you are more likely to wake up during the night. Get sheets that feel good against your skin in a fabric that is breathable. You don't want to get a material that is irritating to you or for you to get too hot at night. Your comforter should also be light or heavy enough depending on the time of year and the temperature in your bedroom.
    • Also make sure the temperature in your room is at a comfortable level for you to sleep.[13] What is comfortable may change at different parts of the year. Make sure you figure out what is best for you.
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    Wear comfortable sleep clothes. When you go to sleep, you need to make sure that you are wearing clothes that are comfortable and won't cause you to wake up during the night. The type of clothes will depend on your personal preference. You may not be able to wear anything but underwear and a t-shirt or you may feel more comfortable in full pajamas. Pick what is best with you.
    • The material that you wear should also be taken into consideration. Cotton breathes better than most fabric, so look into that for movable, breathable sleep clothes. [14]
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    Relax before bed. There are certain things you can do to help yourself relax before bed. You can perform breathing exercises to help relax your mind and calm your body. You can try progressive muscle relaxation, during which you tense and then relax every muscle in your body. These will help you be more calm overall, which will make it easier to go to sleep.
    • If you find that your mind won't shut off, try positive visualization, which helps you focus on happier, calmer thoughts instead of your hectic life.[15][16]
    • These methods may help you get more sleep because they may help you go to sleep faster. This leads to more sleep each night.

Method 4
Avoiding Certain Things Before Bed

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    Avoid other activities in your bed. In order to get more sleep, you need to make sure your bed is associated only two things: sleep and sex. To ensure that, use your bed only for activities that should be done there.
    • Try not to watch TV, do work, read, or eat in bed. This will make you look at your bed as a place for activity, which may cause you to lose sleep.[17][18]
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    Drink less caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which can help you get through your day. However, if you drink caffeine late in the day, it can keep you awake. Try to avoid caffeine late in the day.
    • The specific time you should stop drinking caffeine depends on your sensitivity to it. For some, any caffeine after noon can cause sleeplessness. For others, caffeine can be consumed later in the day without sleep loss.[19][20] Learn your limits and cut off caffeine early enough so that it won't affect your sleep. And remember that chocolate contains caffeine, so you should avoid it late at night as well!
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    Avoid heavy foods at night. Eating large amounts of food or heavy foods late at night can make you lose sleep. The digestion can cause restlessness and your body will gain energy from the food you ate. Try to avoid eating at least two hours before bed.[21][22]
    • However, if you need to eat late in the day, try foods that can help induce sleep. These foods include milk, almonds, oats, eggs, and bananas.
    • Also try cherries or cherry juice. Cherries are one of the only foods that naturally contain melatonin, which is the hormone that encourages sleep. Drink a glass of cherry juice or eat a small bowl of cherries if you are hungry before bed.[23][24]
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    Exercise earlier in the day. Exercise in the morning or early afternoon to work off your excess energy every day. However, make sure it is earlier in the day instead of late at night. If you exercise too late at night, the extra intensity and body activities will keep you up.
    • If you do have to work out later in the day, choose less strenuous activities such as walking, stretching, or weight training.[25]
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    Try not to think about not being able to sleep. If you are struggling to fall asleep, don't stay in bed. Instead, get up from your bed to avoid additional frustration. Try to redo part of your nightly routine to get you back into the sleeping mindset. If this doesn't work, try any relaxing activity, such as reading a book, drinking warm milk, or deep breathing exercises described later.
    • If these don't work, try stretching to help you relax. Just make sure it is calm and gentle stretching.[26]
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    Reduce exposure to light. Exposure to too much light at night can actually impede your sleep. This can be from outside lights on the street, from a TV, or from electronic devices. Getting too much light late at night reduces the production of melatonin, which is a hormone naturally produced by your body that induces sleepiness.
    • The more darkness you are exposed to, the more melatonin your body will produce.[27]

Method 5
Using Herbal Remedies

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    Use lemon balm. Lemon balm is an herb that is thought to have anti-anxiety properties and may help you get better sleep. Lemon balm can be found in many herbal teas as well as essential oils. Get dried lemon balm to add to make into a tea.
    • You can also buy 100% pure lemon balm essential oils as well.
    • Talk to your doctor if you have thyroid issues or are pregnant before using lemon balm. It can have an adverse effect.
    • Lemon balm tea is safe for children. For any child three years and older, make a watered down version of your tea by adding half a cup of water to half a cup of normally steeped tea.[28]
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    Try chamomile. Chamomile is a popular herbal tea that is thought to induce relaxation and help lower anxiety levels. There are two types of chamomile, German and Roman, which can be used in teas. Either is safe to drink.
    • Children can also have chamomile tea, but add half a cup of water to each half a cup of tea you brew.
    • Tell your doctor you are drinking chamomile if you are taking any prescription medications. They have some possible drug interactions.[29]
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    Take kava kava. Kava kava is an herb, sometimes known as just kava, that has been use in traditional Polynesian medicine to lower anxiety levels. Although there has been some negative research associated with this supplement, the dried herb should be safe to drink in tea.
    • Before you use kava kava (or any supplement), talk to your doctor to ensure that it doesn't react to any medication you are taking.
    • This herb has not be safety rated for women who are pregnant, those who are nursing, or any person under the age of 18. [30]
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    Use passionflower. Passionflower is a South American remedy that helps lower your anxiety levels. The herb has been used historically as far back as the Aztecs and is known for its agreeable taste.
    • It may be safe for children, but it has not been tested. Talk to your pediatrician for possible healthy doses for your children.
    • The herb has a tendency to lower blood pressure, so consult your doctor before you take it if you are on blood pressure medication.
    • Pregnant women should not take passionflower. It may cause contractions of the uterus.[31][32]
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    Try ashwaganda. Ashwaganda is a herb used in India to help you sleep. The herb can be stirred into tea or milk to help you sleep at night. For children, give them half a normal adult dose of ashwaganda in milk.[33]
    • Ask your doctor before using it if you are diabetic or have high blood pressure since it can interact with medications that treat these conditions.
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    Take valerian root. Valerian root can help you sleep because it has the same qualities as a sedative. In addition to helping you fall asleep, it can also help you sleep longer. Valerian is generally made into tea, but it can be quite cloying, so add some lemon, honey, cloves, or cinnamon to your tea to help hide the strange taste.
    • Valerian root is not safe for anyone three years old or younger.
    • Ask your doctor before taking valerian root if you are on medications. It can cause interactions, especially with medications for anxiety and depression.[34]
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    Make an herbal sachet. If you don't want to try herbal tea, you can smell the herbs to get the relaxing qualities from some of them. Get a small cloth pillowcase or bag. Add ½ a cup of any one of these herbs to the bag, then tie the end. Place it next to your pillow or on your bedside table. These herbs include:
    • Hops
    • Lemon balm
    • Lavender flowers
    • Chamomile flowers[35]
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    Make a warm footbath. Another good way to use herbs to relax is by using essential oils in a footbath. Fill a small tub with warm water. Add one to two drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils to the water.
    • Ensure that the water isn't too hot. You don't want to burn your feet.[36]
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    Mix an herbal balm. If you would rather use a topical remedy, you can make a balm. Get some shea butter or caster oil and add one ounce to a small dish. Stir in one to two drops of lavender or chamomile oil into it. Once it's mixed, rub it onto your temples.
    • This method is safe for children. [37]

Method 6
Using Supplements

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    Buy the right herbal supplement. There are many herbal supplements specifically made to help sleep. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the bottle for dosage and frequency of use. These change based on the type of supplement you take. You should always speak with your doctor before starting any supplement — just like medications you get from the pharmacy, supplements can have negative interactions with other medications and can be harmful to some.
    • When buying a supplement, make sure it is of a good quality. Quality supplements can be organic, should be fresh, and should be verified with a seal of approval. These seals can be from companies such as Consumer Labs, the US Pharmacopeia (USP), or the Natural Products Association (NPA).[38][39][40]
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    Take melatonin. In addition to herbal supplements, you can also take another natural supplement called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body, but if you are having trouble sleeping, you can take it as a supplement. This will help add to the melatonin already in your body, which will help you get to sleep faster.
    • Do not take more than 1 to 3 mg of melatonin on any given night unless you are told to by your doctor.
    • Ask your doctor if you are taking any medications because supplement melatonin may interact with some of them.
    • Do not take melatonin if you are pregnant or nursing.[41]
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    Try 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP helps produce serotonin in your body, which helps promote sleep. Dosage is 50 to 100 mg at night. However, do not take more than this unless instructed by your doctor. It can have adverse effects.
    • Do not take 5-HTP of you are pregnant or nursing.[42]

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Categories: Better Sleeping | Sleep and Dreams