5 Tips Sleep Doctors Follow to get the Perfect Night's Sleep

Counting sheep optional

May 23, 2017

Sleep. Everyone needs it, not everyone is able to get their required hours. Developing a good sleepy time routine takes time and patience. Sleep doctors swear by these helpful tips that leave them feeling well rested and alert come morning. Having a little trouble getting some quality shut eye? Read on to see what the experts recommend.

1. PRACTICE CONSISTENCY

No matter your routine, make sure you’re going to bed at around the same hour whenever possible and waking up at a consistent time. Bonus points if you develop a relaxing nighttime routine. Dr. Christopher Winter, Medical Director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center said consistency will lead to better quality rest in the long run. "Whether you have the best night of sleep or a night where you toss and turn, the key to long-term sleep success, in my opinion, is to have a consistent wake time every morning,” he said.

2. TURN THE LIGHTS DOWN LOW

Around 6 or 7 pm, start dimming the lights around your home. A brightly lit room interferes with the sleep hormone melatonin, which is the body’s natural response to darkness. “I really turn them down,” Winter says. adding that he uses dimmers for more control. “If my kids are doing homework, I have them turn on a lamp instead of something really bright.” It also helps to switch off iPads, computers, and smartphones before bed.

3. REFLECT ON YOUR DAY BEFORE HITTING THE SHEETS

You climb into bed and immediately, your mind starts thinking about the day and the billions of things you need to accomplish. Make it a point to address your anxieties or concerns before getting into bed. “Take some time in the evening to work through the day, make lists to do tomorrow and clear your mental desktop of all the stuff that you still have to think about. Then, get into bed," advised Dr. Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania.

4. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET 

Sometimes, you can do everything “right” and still not fall asleep immediately. Dr. Winter says a mindset change could be all you need. “I go to bed to rest, not to sleep,” he says. “It’s important to make that distinction. The goal was to turn off the lights and computer, get in a comfortable bed in a quiet, dark, cool room. If you take away the performance aspect of sleep, it works much better.”

5. LET THE LIGHT IN

Clete A. Kushida, MD, PhD, medical director of Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, told Oprah that he uses natural light to jumpstart his internal alarm clock. Within 30 minutes of waking up, I open the curtains to let in natural light. “This morning light puts a kind of timestamp on the brain and shifts your internal clock for sleep earlier—that will help you feel sleepy at the other end of the day, too."

REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.

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