Dim lights at dusk
One of the biggest culprits of your lack of sleep is the blue light emitted by the screens you’re constantly staring at — your phone, computer, tablet or even TV. This blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, which over time, will inevitably affect your circadian rhythm.
Scheduling blue light filters — like Night Shift or f.lux — to kick in at your local sunset time can help by reducing the amount of blue light your eyes see after sunset.
If you have smart bulbs in your house, you can do the same. After sunset, try minimizing the time you stare at device screens, but also dim the overhead lights and lamps and switch them from harsh white to a much warmer tone.
Play audio games to give your eyes a rest
Whether it’s bingeing YouTube videos or playing games, we often look to our phones, tablets and televisions for late-night entertainment. Try giving your eyes a rest.
Instead of using your phone, use your smart speaker to listen to an audiobook or podcast. You can even play games with your Alexa-enabled or Google Home speakers, such as choose-your-own-adventure stories, trivia or even blackjack.
When you’re finished and ready to doze off, try using your smart speaker as a white-noise machine. Google Home and Alexa speakers are capable of playing all sorts of nature, city or other relaxing sounds. Just say something like, “Play thunderstorm sounds.”
You can even follow it up with a sleep timer command. Say, “Alexa, stop in 20 minutes,” or “OK, Google, stop in 45 minutes.”
Leave your phone out of the bedroom
Many of us now rely on phones at our bedside to wake us up in the morning, check all those overnight notifications and so much more. If you’re supplementing your evening entertainment with audiobooks or games from a smart speaker, you might as well take it one step further.
Try using your smart speaker as your alarm clock and for your morning routine. Better yet, wake up to light instead of a noise alarm.
If you do either, you can leave your phone out of the bedroom altogether, which will keep you from browsing Twitter until you doze off (an hour or two later than you would have) or waking up and checking those late night notifications.
Smart speakers have come a long way and handle alarms with ease. You can wake up to your favorite song or playlist or, if it’s your thing, wake up to the weather and news of your choice.
Track your sleep
You may be getting enough sleep, but that sleep might not be quality rest. Fortunately, these days, there is no shortage of ways to track it.
In addition to counting steps, wearable fitness trackers like the Fitbit Versa and Garmin Vivomove HR also track your sleep. Just wear it to bed and it will track you through the night to tell you how much deep sleep you actually got, how many times you were awake and how long you were restless.
If you don’t want to wear something to bed, sensors like the iFit Sleep HR and Eight Sleep Tracker work with your existing bed and tell you how you slept. There are even all-in-one smart mattresses that can track the quality of your sleep.
Automatically change the thermostat
You may find it difficult to fall asleep if you’re too warm or too cold. With your smart thermostat, you can set a schedule to begin warming or cooling just prior to bedtime.
Pair this with dimming the lights and you’ll know when it’s about time to head to bed and you won’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable when you finally lie down.
Wake up naturally
One of the quickest ways to ruin a great sleep session is to be yanked out of a deep sleep by a loud, annoying alarm.
Instead, try switching to a calm alarm noise and pairing it with a smart bulb near your bedside. When it’s time to wake up, you can slowly fade the light on as the alarm sound rises.
Avoid sleeping in to ‘catch up’ on sleep
After a few nights of staying up late to get some extra work done or study for that upcoming exam, it’s easy to feel behind on sleep. But the phrase “behind on sleep” is a misnomer.
Sleep debt, what Scientific American describes as the “difference between the amount of sleep you should bet getting and the amount you actually get,” exists. But sleeping until noon the next day or over the weekend isn’t going to help you get caught up. In fact, it can make matters worse.
Sleeping for hours past when you normally wake up can easily and quickly get you caught up in a really obscure sleep pattern that can be difficult to break.
The best way to eradicate your sleep debt is by sleeping an extra hour or two every day until you feel caught up. In other words, force yourself go to bed an hour earlier each night for a week or wake up just a little later.
Stick to your natural circadian rhythm
To further that point, your body has a natural circadian rhythm that’s loosely based on the daylight hours. You probably wake up within an hour or two of the sun rising and begin to get sleepy after it sets.
That said, artificial light from screens (and even overheads) in your home can affect this. That’s why it’s not recommended to watch TV right before you should go to sleep (yeah, sure) or why you shouldn’t play on your phone in bed.
Fighting your natural circadian rhythm or inadvertently altering it with your computer or phone can seriously affect the quality of sleep you get. It can also be frustrating to lie in bed at 2:00 AM and not feel tired…at all.
If you feel like your circadian rhythm needs a fix, consider spending an extended weekend in the woods. The technology detox and mostly natural light will help you course correct.
Cut back on coffee
While you might need a boost to help you power through the mid-afternoon slump to make it through your workday, you may want to forgo another cup of coffee.
The effects of caffeine differ from person to person — it can not only keep you up late at night, it can also affect the quality of sleep you get. It can stay in your blood for up to eight hours, so drinking a cup after lunch might do more harm than good.
While it may not always be possible, a 10- to 20-minute nap can have similar effects to downing a cup of coffee.