How to sleep better at night naturally, according to experts

How to sleep better at night naturally, featuring a man sleeping on his side, facing away from a window
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Sleeping badly can have a knock-on effect on our whole day, making us unproductive, unlikely to eat well, or work out whilst also being moody or irritable – all symptoms of sleep deprivation. But it’s not uncommon, as many of us don’t know how to sleep better at night naturally.

For instance, research shows that 70% of adults use electronic devices in bed or in their bedroom. Evening screen time has been shown to have a negative impact on sleep, which means scrolling through TikTok or bingeing Netflix shows isn't the best way to wind down for bed. Meanwhile, relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to lull yourself to sleep may leave you feeling worse off the following morning, as well.

Thus, getting into a good sleep routine is paramount. Natural sleep aids can help, and so can the best sleep apps if you're invested in more high-tech solutions. But if you really want to sleep better at night naturally, you'll have to go cold turkey on some unhealthy habits and cultivate better ones to take their place. 

We've done our research and also spoke with several experts about ways to sleep better at night naturally through exercise, meditation, proper nutrition, and finding the best mattress. If you struggle to nod off at night, keep reading...

What are natural sleep aids, and do they work?

Natural sleep aids (herbal supplements) are non-prescription drugs containing ingredients that naturally produce or enhance sleep hormones in your body. If you want to ditch sleeping pills for natural sleep aids look for supplements with ingredients such as melatonin or valerian root. 

Melatonin is your body's natural response to darkness, and also known as the 'sleep hormone.' Those with sleeping disorders find melatonin supplements enhance the release of the hormone. As a short-term solution, melatonin is safe for most individuals to use.

Valerian root is a plant that's known for its calming effect on the body, especially as a response to stress or anxiety. It's also capable of inducing sleep, which is why it's often recommended for people who struggle with insomnia. 

Of course, it's best to talk to your doctor before introducing any supplements into your diet. An alternative is to try a herbal sleep tea – we spoke to a doctor about whether herbal teas actually help with sleep, and the ingredients to look out for. 

How to sleep better at night naturally

If you'd rather not take herbal supplements (or want to combine them with other methods), here are seven expert-approved tips for sleeping better naturally...

A photo of a woman doing crunches

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1. Hit the gym (at a reasonable time)

You may have signed up for the gym in a bid to get fitter or lose weight. But another benefit of regular exercise is that it can also help you sleep better. 

“Regular physical exercise will improve mental health due to the endorphins (feel-good chemicals) the brain releases. Stress and anxiety are connected to sleeping problems due to worries and brain overstimulation at night," says personal trainer Nicole Chapman, "There is also a positive correlation between the exertion of the physical activity and improvement in sleep drive as your body relaxes."

However, try not to exercise too close to your bedtime, as it will elevate your heart rate and keep you awake for longer.

2. Ditch caffeine after midday

Experts have been warning for years about drinking coffee too close to bedtime, with most advising to avoid caffeinated drinks after 2 pm. More specifically, a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that drinking coffee even six hours before your bedtime can negatively impact the quality of your sleep. It won't keep you awake but it can wreck your internal clock, similar to jet lag.

Alcohol can have a similar effect if you often like to imbibe it before bedtime. While it can help you fall asleep faster, alcohol can also hinder the quality of your sleep, especially if you ultimately develop a tolerance to its sedative properties.

Of course, there's also the bladder issue. If you regularly find yourself waking up in the night to wee, consider stopping drinking fluids around 3 hours before bed. 

 3. Create a bedtime routine

We’ve all felt the effect on our sleep after a few late nights: waking up groggy and being unproductive throughout the day. Creating a bedtime routine, and sticking with it consistently, can help us sleep better so we can be more alert and aware.

“The best way to hack good sleep is to stick to your routine, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day no matter where you are or what you are doing," says Hope Bastine, Hope Bastine, sleep expert for mattress manufacturer Simba.

You don’t have to be completely strict with your schedule, and you can miss one night for special occasions here or there. Otherwise, decide on a time to get into bed and when to set a wake-up alarm – no hitting that snooze button, either.

Creating the ideal bedroom for sleeping will make it easier for you to sleep naturally, follow a consistent bedtime routine, and overall employ good habits. 

A man looks at his phone whilst in bed

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4. Keep blue light out of bed

With so much technology at our fingertips, it’s the norm to be switching from your laptop to your mobile, and even to the TV. But scrolling through your TikTok For You Page or engrossing yourself in your latest Netflix obsession won't help you sleep better. 

Our gadgets emit blue light, which studies show can throw off your internal clock and affect the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. "Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, halting the melatonin production and making it harder to fall asleep," says Jamin Lee, sleep writer for EachNight Mattresses.

So when should you ditch the phone or tablet? “Try to avoid any electronic devices for an hour or two before bed," suggests Lee, "If you need to scroll through your phone, use your night settings or the apps that filter out blue light.” 

Most smartphones have a Do Not Disturb mode that turns off notifications within a certain time frame. You can set this up so that your phone automatically goes into this mode at a select time each night – further encouraging you to properly wind down for bed.

5. Stretch it out

Yoga is incredible for improving flexibility, alleviating pain, and relieving stress – but it can also help you fall asleep naturally. Per one study, 55% of yoga practitioners reported an improvement in their sleep quality. 

If you’re not a massive yogi a simple stretch can do wonders, too. Even a simple lower-back stretch can help relax your body. The benefits of stretching at night are two-fold – provided you do it consistently, of course.

“During the week in particular we’re often sat down at a desk all day, so working through some postures before you get into bed will help work out any stiffness or tension," says Catherine Quinn, president of the British Chiropractic Association, "If you keep it up each evening it will also start to train your brain that it’s relaxing time, helping you drift off to a great night’s sleep.”

6. Remember to breathe

If you’ve yet to get into mediation or breathwork it could be the healthiest new habit you create. It calms down your nervous system, which relaxes you enough so that you feel ready to sleep at bedtime. 

Download a mindfulness app such as Calm or Headspace for guided breathing or meditation. If you want group or 1-2-1 breathwork sessions, sign up for the Mind You Club , a portal for live and pre-recorded guided breathwork sessions. 

You can even browse YouTube for guided sleep meditations. We tried one of YouTube's best deep sleep meditations, but ultimately you'll need to be comfortable with emptying your mind and letting go of the day's worries, no matter which guided meditation you try.

When to change your mattress: couple sleeping in a bed facing different directions

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7. Invest in a good mattress

If your mattress has seen better days, it’s time to browse the best mattress sales for something new. However, there's a possibility your bed is fine, but you're sleeping on the wrong mattress for your body type or sleep style, which can lead to back pain and a loss of quality sleep.

The sleep industry has improved considerably in the last 10 years with high-tech mattresses to suit everyone’s needs, whether you want to regulate your temperature or prefer a certain type of firmness for optimal pressure relief or motion isolation if you sleep with a fidgety partner. Once you've found the right mattress, it'll be much easier for you to fall asleep naturally.

You can't overlook the benefits of resting your head on the best pillow, either. When paired with the right mattress, you'll have no more issues with nodding off (and staying that way). In the meantime, if you're searching for a better mattress check out this year's Labor Day mattress sales, or check out a selection of today's deals on top brands below...

Learn how to fall asleep fast

If you really struggle to sleep here are some tried-and-true sleep techniques and methods that will help you fall asleep in minutes...

  • 4 7 8 sleep method: This is a breathing method very similar to box breathing. You simply take a deep breath in through your nose, and from your belly for four seconds, holding it for seven seconds, then breathing out for eight seconds. The technique is said to calm the nervous system and relieve any anxiety around sleep or thoughts.
  • Military sleep method: This method is a lot less harsh than it sounds and has two main parts. For the first part, relax your whole body, starting with your face. Then as you move downward, concentrate on one part of your body as you take a deep breath and allow it to completely relax. For the second part, visualize yourself in a calm place, like in a canoe on a calm lake, or in a forest with nature around you. 
  • Navy SEAL sleep technique: This is more suited for napping, but it's a remarkable way to naturally fall asleep and boost your energy levels. Lay in a position that permits you to elevate your feet above your heart, then set your alarm for eight to 10 minutes. Wake up feeling more refreshed.

There's a reason sleep hacks are popular on TikTok. Even if we're getting six-to-eight hours of sleep, many of us are still dragging our feet throughout the day due to seemingly innocuous habits. Learning how to sleep better at night naturally may take some time as your body adjusts to the changes but the payoff will be worth it – for your sleep quality and overall wellbeing.

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Sarah Finley

Sarah is a freelance writer who has been published across titles including Woman & Home, The Independent, and the BBC. Sarah covers a variety of subjects, including health and wellness. For Tom's Guide Sarah often writes about sleep health and hygiene, and interviews leading sleep experts about common issues such as insomnia and sleep deprivation.