Set yourself up for success during the dayA good night’s sleep starts when you’re awake. Sunlight, especially in the morning, helps regulate the circadian rhythm and allows people to fall asleep more quickly and experience less disturbed sleep. Wu suggests getting anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight a day to counteract the effects of looking at screens during the evening. “If you go outside during the day and get sunlight, then your screen in the evening will not impact your sleep,” she says, “because the point is that you need to have a big contrast between day versus night in terms of how much sun exposure or how much light exposure you get.”
According to Hill’s research, people often delay their bedtime because they don’t have enough “me time” or time spent socializing during the day, and, as a result, they stay up late catching up on news, scrolling social media, or texting friends. To combat this, Hill suggests interspersing a few short moments of solitude or social interactions during the day — think five minutes of meditation or social media here, a quick 30-minute phone call with a friend there — so you don’t feel the need to binge at night.
In an effort to help combat perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of sleep — waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall asleep again — Sara E. Benjamin, an instructor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, says to have a plan for what you’ll do in such situations. You might want to be prepared to put on headphones and listen to a podcast, watch some TV, or have a routine of breathing exercises you turn to in times of stress. Using your phone is fine, but be intentional with its use in your plan and set a time limit for how long you’ll use it. The danger, Benjamin explains, is when people don’t have a plan, reach for their phone, and end up scrolling for hours.