Learn how to sleep better at night

March 11, 2024 Providence Health Team


In this article:

  • Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to stay healthy.

  • If you don’t get enough sleep, try paying attention to your sleep hygiene habits.

  • To get better, healthy sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

You know you need sleep — you feel better when you’re well rested. But there are so many items on your to-do list, and when you finally do lie down, it’s hard to settle your mind. If you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s sometimes difficult to get back to sleep.

In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week, here are some useful tips for better sleep habits — and how you can maximize what you do during the day by making the most of what you do during the night.

How much sleep do you need?

First, let’s take a look at what experts consider a healthy amount of sleep. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends the following amounts of sleep (including naps):

  • Newborns younger than 4 months: sleep patterns vary
  • Babies 4 months to 1 year old: 12-16 hours per day
  • Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours per day
  • Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours per day
  • Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours per day
  • Teens 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours per day
  • Adults: 7-9 hours per day

If you’re an adult and receive less than seven hours of sleep per night, you may have more health issues than those who sleep more. That’s because sleep supports healthy brain function, regulates your hormones, and helps with learning and long-term memory. Sleep deprivation can build up over time and create more and more problems for you.

Tips for better sleep

For some people, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done, either because they don’t have enough time or because they have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Here, we offer 10 tips for good sleep hygiene, allowing you to sleep longer, better and more restfully.

  1. Limit your caffeine intake after 2 p.m. As millions of people who drink coffee in the mornings will tell you, caffeine is an effective stimulant. However, you should only drink it early in the day — don’t be tempted to use caffeine to overcome daytime sleepiness.
  2. Reserve your bed only for sleep and intimacy. You may be tempted to read, watch TV or even eat in your bed. But when you develop a mental association between your bed and other activities, you may have trouble sleeping. The process of falling asleep can be psychological, and you want to give yourself the best chance.
  3. Stay away from screens. Try to reserve the hour before bedtime as a no-screen time zone, since the light from tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, which helps you relax.
  4. Find a good mattress and pillow. You can’t sleep well if your body isn’t comfortable, and that depends largely on the type of mattress and pillow you use. Your bedding also should help you stay at a comfortable body temperature throughout the night.
  5. Set your alarm for the same time each day. Your body is hard-wired to adjust to a routine, so it’s best to wake up at the same time — even on weekends. Snooze alarms are a bad idea — they just train your body to ignore wake-up time.
  6. Go to bed at the same time every day. Similar to wake up times, your body will quickly get used to a regular bedtime and sleep schedule. If you’re constantly changing your bedtime routine, your internal clock will become confused and not know when to settle down for the night, leading to sleep problems.
  7. Exercise every day. When you exercise regularly, you’re more likely to be able to relax for sleep. Studies have shown that workouts can help with sleep-related problems and lead to a better night’s sleep.
  8. Don’t smoke, and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Exposure to tobacco smoke has been linked with poor sleep quality.
  9. If you don’t fall asleep right away, don’t lie in bed for more than 20 minutes. Get up and read a book or magazine. When your brain starts to associate bedtime with frustration, it can become even harder to fall asleep.
  10. Block light out of your room. It’s much more difficult to fall asleep — and stay asleep — if there are streetlights and other lights disturbing you in your sleep environment. The sunrise also may wake you up much earlier than you would prefer. Invest in blackout curtains or a sleep mask. Blocking out bright light can contribute to your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.

While you may get less sleep some nights than others, adults should aim for seven to nine hours each night. These tips can help you set up a routine that will improve your overall health — and help you feel better during the day, too!

Find a doctor

If you are looking for a Providence sleep specialist, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory.

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Related resources

How can sleep apnea affect heart health?

The importance of sleep and its connection to mental health

Providence’s Sleep Medicine Clinic

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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