The medical community has become increasingly aware of the importance of a night’s worth of quality sleep as more research unfolds itself into the watchful eyes of a sleep-deprived America. By programming sleep rituals and systematic strategies into your life in the hours before bed, the quality and quantity of sleep you’re bound to get will keep you awake throughout the day and healthier throughout your life.

The amount of sleep the average person logs each night has been steadily decreasing over the past century. Today, the average American gets six-and-a-half hours of sleep a night during a five-day work week, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 International Bedroom Poll, and it’s only getting worse as technology enters the bedroom and inundates our senses out of a quality night’s sleep. Sleep medicine was at its infancy when researchers began uncovering links between sleep quality and disorders, quality of life issues, and adverse health.

Over the last 20 years, sleep doctors have accumulated some pretty hard epidemiological data to prove there can be devastating health impacts to the body and mind. Between 50 and 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Chronic sleep deprivation results in daytime sleepiness, slower reflexes, poor concentration, and increased risk of car accidents. Long-term problems, which pose more severe health consequences, include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and excessive weight gain, making it more important than ever to invest in your slumber.

6 Secrets For Better Sleep Quality

1. Sleepify Your Room

Designing a sleep friendly bedroom is arguably one of the most effective ways to ensure a healthy night’s rest. When choosing wall colors and decorations, choose ones that you love but make sure you save the bright yellows and pinks for other rooms in your house. Lavenders and light shades are best for your sleep environment. Make sure you choose a comfortable mattress and invest in quality sheets and pillows, and eliminate disruptive sounds or smells as best as possible. Also, try to keep the room between 60 to 67 degrees for optimal sleep, and if you still want to sleep under the covers, stick your feet out of the blanket to cool down, suggest sleep experts.  

In a national poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 73 percent of Americans said a dark room was important for them to get a good night’s sleep, which is why you should dim the lights. There’s a biological timekeeper within your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and it’s attached to your optic nerve, otherwise known as the windows into your eyes. It’s important to turn off your electronic devices, such as laptops, cells phones, and televisions, which are becoming increasingly omnipresent inside the bedroom. They don’t belong there, and 95 percent of people say they’re using electronics within an hour before bed, when they shouldn’t.

2. Be Loyal To Bedtime

Implement a consistent bedtime throughout the week and even on weekends when most people use the day to sleep in. Establishing a sleep schedule that works with your life, in addition to setting your alarm for the same time every morning, can allow your body time to develop natural waking and sleeping cues. Few people manage to stick to strict bedtime routines and time constraints, which makes it difficult when battling with life’s other demands such as children or work. However, remaining within the confines of an unchanging bedtime hour range can drastically change your body’s routine into something healthy and reliable. Most adults need at least seven to nine hours each night in order to live a healthy wakeful life.

3. Restful Rituals

Create a ritual for your body to recognize. Remember when you were a child and your mother or father read you a bedtime story, tucked you into bed, and kissed you with sweet dream wishes and night lights? Rituals help the signal to the body and mind it’s time to shut down. Try setting a consistent sequence for yourself, whether it’s taking a showering or indulging in a warm bath, brushing your teeth, then listening to soothing music before your head hits the pillow, make sure it stays the relatively similar each night. Just make sure paying the bills or other stressful activities aren’t saved for your ritual because they can activate the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, which produces adrenaline and causes restless stress.

4. Workout Zzzs

Exercise in the form of a brisk walk the hour before bed or a light yoga session can help the body boost the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. Postmenopausal women oftentimes have a difficult time sleeping well, and according to Harvard Medical School, those who exercised three-and-a-half hours a week had an easier time falling asleep than those who exercised less. But watch out, it’s important not to exercise too closely to bedtime or else it can work as a stimulant and make it harder to ease under the blankets at night.

5. Eat, Drink, And Be Sleepy

Eat and drink certain foods within an hour before bedtime to help the body produce the right hormones and suppress the ones that’ll keep you up late into the night. Pouring yourself an 8-ounce glass of warm milk before bed may sound like an old wive’s tale, but there is rhyme and reason behind this drinkable sleep potion. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid known for causing sleepiness. Add some low-sugar cereal or oatmeal to your bedtime milk and the combination of carbohydrates from the cereal and protein from the milk will work together to release the feel good hormone serotonin, which turns into melatonin. Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect, and can also be found in pill form for an extra boost before bed.

Dairy-rich cheese and carbohydrates supplied by cracks can also be a great combination to ramp up tryptophan levels in the blood to get you sleeping soundly. Bananas’ high levels of magnesium, which add up to 422 milligrams a pop, function as a muscle relaxer in the body and help to regulate sleeping patterns. Avoid drinking or caffeine alcohol along with eating any fatty, sugary, or spicy foods or else you’ll have a hard time settling your stomach, heart, and nerves before bed, according to WebMD.

6. Ban Sex And Screens

The bed is the optimal place for foreplay and sex, but experts advise you choose a place outside your bedroom. If the mind associates the bed with stimulation, such as sexual pleasure, it will have a harder time unwinding and resting. Reserve a bed for sleep and another bed in the house for sex. The same goes for the aforementioned electronics, which showed be prohibited from the bedroom to deter you from checking emails, watching late-night television, or mindlessly perusing through social media newsfeeds, which all leads to undesirable mental stimulation before bed.