Shortcuts to a Good Night’s Sleep

Clock those zzz’s to do your best in school or at work

We’re all struggling to get enough sleep—the demands of work, school, and family can build up and cause us to cut corners on our self care. But sleep is really the cornerstone of good health and good performance, and we should do all we can to make it a priority.

You may have noticed that getting enough sleep can help you to avoid getting sick, put you in a better mood, give you more energy, and make you more effective at whatever work you’re trying to do.

If you’re on board with making sleep a priority, then here are some strategies that will help you to improve your quality of sleep. (Even if you can’t face implementing them all, try one or two consistently and see if you notice a difference.)

Power down the devices
The devices we stare at throughout the day—smartphones, computer screens, tablets, and televisions—have been shown to interfere with your body’s ability to produce melatonin. This chemical is a signal for your body that it’s time to relax, so you can fall into sleep. If you turn off all your devices for the hour or two before bed, this will help your body to get the message: “Time to sleep!”

Give yourself time to wind down
The time before bed should be soothing and relaxing. It’s not the time to work out, get into an argument, or even watch something highly stimulating. Make the three hours before shut-eye a calmer time. If you have the urge to move, try some yoga or gentle stretching. Reading something relaxing is also good way to go.

Don’t eat or and drink too much
Digesting food and drink takes work, and the time before bed is not when you want to be taxing your body with those tasks. Certain foods, such as anything rich or very spicy, will be even harder on your system. So give your body a break: if you decide to treat yourself to those foods, do it earlier in the day. And of course smoking and drinking are to be avoided—especially in the hours as you’re gearing up for sleep.

Tend to the room where you sleep
Keep any ambient light out of the room where you get your shut-eye. Are electronic devices pointing towards your bed, with digital readouts? If you must charge your smartphone and keep it near your head, put it screen-side down so it does not cast any light. Earplugs can be a good option if there are noises you can’t control. Treat yourself to a bed with clean, comfortable sheets and a comforter you enjoy snuggling up under. Comfort is the basis for good sleep!

Try out a few different things to discover what works best for your “sleep hygiene.” If you have chronic or serious or sleep problems, see a sleep specialist or consider undergoing a sleep study. But for most of us, taking some of these precautions will make a significant difference. Then you can have all the focus and energy you need to take on that demanding life of yours!


This article is part of the weekly blog of the American College for Medical Careers. We strive to write articles that promote our students’ health as well as their career readiness. Find out more about the 8 different programs we offer.