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How To Sleep Better PLUS The Benefits of Sleep, Sleep Aids That Work, And Tips To Fall Asleep Fast

Master these habits and give our recommended sleep aids a go - The 'morning you' will thank us for it!

All opinions are our own and never influenced by brands. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here's our process.

Good quality sleep is especially beneficial when it comes to feeling fresh and rested in the morning, and helping your muscles recover quicker from exercise and endurance workouts.

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But healthy sleep habits are not always that easily attained.

So many people find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep through the night, or have difficulty waking up feeling well-rested.

In this post we’re sharing some top tips on how to sleep better and improve sleep quality, as well as some ideas for sleep aids you can consider to help overcome issues you may have with falling asleep, waking up well-rested, and recovering well.

The following suggestions for a good night’s sleep are based on our own research and personal experience and so this is not an exhaustive list or a substitute for any expert advice you may wish to seek out for your own personal sleep aid or training recovery needs.

We don’t want you to have to resort to sleep medicine because we never would ourselves! If there’s a natural solution to a health problem, we ALWAYS go that route first, and this is a practice that’s deeply rooted in our beliefs here at Trail and Kale.

Although some people may require some form of sleep medicine (like a melatonin supplement for example) in order to get their circadian rhythm back on track, we urge you to try our natural sleep remedies and methods first.

We are not doctors and do not pretend to be, so if you have trouble sleeping and believe that you may have a more serious health issue that could be affecting your sleep, please visit your doctor.

A guide on how to sleep better including the benefits of sleep, sleep aids that work, tips to fall asleep fast, improve sleep quality and ultimately get a good night's sleep

Table of Contents


The Benefits of Sleep and the relationship between sleep and recovery

The benefits of sleep and the relationship between sleep quality and exercise recovery (including muscle repair and recovery) is well-documented.

Sleep is known to be key in helping your body release the hormones necessary for muscle growth and repair.

How does lack of sleep affect the risk of injury?

Well, as endurance athletes we know that if we don’t feel rested or allow our muscles to adequately recover from training, races, or long intensive workouts then we are putting ourselves at more risk of injury.

Without enough recovery, we also put ourselves at great risk of over-training, which is described by the NASM as being where an athlete experiences a form of burnout and declining performance or fatigue.

There’s a lot more information on the signs and remedies for overtraining on their website – with getting more, better quality sleep, and resting more, being one of the top areas to consider.

Getting a good night’s rest is also beneficial to mental health as you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and with a clear mind – and not that fuzzy, clouded headache that you may be accustomed to right now.

Ok, so we’re convinced that getting more sleep (of high sleep quality) is important for our post-exercise recovery, as well as supporting us in having a healthy, well-balanced life in general, but how do you sleep better? Read on if you’re having trouble sleeping and want to learn about our top tips on how to sleep better.


How to sleep better by developing a good sleep routine

One of the first healthy sleep habits to dial in when it comes to getting better sleep is having a good sleep routine.

The US CDC also refers to having a consistent, adequate sleep schedule or routine as practicing ‘good sleep hygiene’.

Here are some steps for developing a routine to get a good night’s rest:

  • Count backwards from your wake-up alarm time
  • Determine how long you want to sleep for, eg. 7.5 hours (learn more about that precise sleep time below)
  • Make a note of when you would need to be in bed, eg. by 10pm
  • Allow yourself the necessary time to get ready for bed, for example, you may need 30 minutes to finish household tasks and get yourself ready, which brings you to 9.30pm.

So based on the example above, 9.30pm is pretty early!

But that is the time when I’ve found it helpful to stop doing certain things (listed below), in order to fall asleep faster at night:

  • Avoid intensive exercise too close to bedtime
  • Avoid too much screen time by turning off the TV and trying to avoid looking at phones/laptops
  • Lower the lighting in your home, and/or change the light color to a ‘warmer’ tone, which can be achieved by having warm white lightbulbs (as opposed to bright or neutral ‘cold’ light), or looking into getting smart lightbulbs like Hue, which you can change via an app to whatever tone or color you wish as a specific time in the evening.

Hue lights can even be set to gradually fade up, starting 30 minutes before your alarm to act as a natural light effect in the winter for example. We love our Philips Hue lighting setup at home, can you tell?


How to go to sleep earlier

Going to bed earlier should hopefully give you better sleep as you will have had less blue screen TV time before hitting the sack, although this is more easily said than done for some night owls who are just more naturally suited to going to bed later than most.

If you want to consistently go to sleep earlier than your current routine, then it helps to have a couple of days of earlier alarms (and correspondingly earlier bedtimes).

It’s easiest not to drastically change your sleep schedule frequently as this can throw off your body clock (circadian rhythm) and be the cause of difficulty falling asleep when you’re not quite tired enough, or over-tired and bizarrely too tired to sleep.

Investing in good natural sleep aids will also help if you’re still struggling to fall asleep even when you’re tired – more on that below.

It’s also particularly helpful – especially in the darker winter months – to consider getting a natural light alarm clock with a light like the Hatch Restore, which is designed to emulate natural daylight.

This is going to be especially beneficial for those who are susceptible to Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), like ourselves.

This can REALLY help motivate you to get out of bed when it’s dark and early in the morning because the gradual fading up of the light tricks your body clock into thinking it’s time to wake up and start the day.


How long should you sleep for?

There is much debate around how much is enough hours of sleep per night, and ultimately this is going to vary by individual.

According to an interview quoted in this article, tennis star Roger Federer claims to sleep 12 hours a day!

Personally, I’ve found that depending on how tired I am, I generally benefit from getting around 7.5 hours or 9 hours of sleep a night – plus life’s too short to be sleeping 12 hours a day! 🙂

Side note – A sleep app I used in the past informed me that we tend to sleep in cycles lasting around 90 minutes, where the depth of your sleep cycles from being almost awake to being in a very deep sleep, and back again, and so it’s best to plan to wake up in around 1.5-hour intervals from the time you went to sleep, to avoid that ‘groggy’ feeling you get when you’ve been awoken from a deep sleep.

I was skeptical about this but tried it and I definitely wake up feeling fresher if I sleep for 7.5 or 9 hours as opposed to the typical ‘8 hours sleep’ I was aiming for previously.

It’s worth considering whether making this simple change can help you feel like you’ve had a better night’s sleep, too.


15 tips to fall asleep fast and get better sleep throughout the night

In this section, I’m sharing a load of great tips which may be useful if you have trouble falling asleep and are wondering how to fall asleep fast when you’re not tired, or simply have difficulty falling asleep and are looking for some natural sleep aids to help.

These tips can also help improve the likelihood of you staying asleep so you get better sleep through the night.

These sleep tips fall into two categories – environmental, which is how you can create an environment that is good for sleep relaxation and should help you sleep, and behavioral, which are some things you can do during the day and when getting ready for bed that may help prepare your mind and body for rest.

All of these are what I consider to be natural sleep aids, with no medication.

Tips to create the right sleep environment to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night

Many sleep problems stem from having a sleep environment that sub-par for getting a good night’s sleep. I mean imagine random sounds waking you up throughout the night like some sort of torture routine. Or a cold environment that leaves your extremities feeling like ice blocks, or even dusty particulates in the air you’re breathing.

There are so many factors that come into play when we start analyzing our sleep environment that it’s very important to be as thorough as possible – this is where this checklist will come in useful if you want to finally get some good sleep.

1. Darken the room

Unless you’re incredibly tired, having a darker room encourages you to relax and helps promote sleep-related hormones to activate at the right time.

2. Get the room temperature right

The best room temperature for sleeping is going to depend on a number of factors, not least you individually but also what you’re wearing and the bed linen you’re using to sleep in.

According to Sleepfoundation.org, the best temperature to keep your room at is generally between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius). Incidentally, this is, in my opinion, the ideal comfortable temperature range for running or working out in 🙂

3. Block out noise

While you can’t necessarily control noises outside of your house, it helps you relax and not be awoken by noises if you can minimize their impact on you and the room you’re sleeping in.

If you need to block out noises and don’t want to wear earplugs, you could also consider a white noise machine, which, incidentally, we found invaluable when training our dog Kepler to relax and fall asleep in his crate, so he didn’t startle at noises going on in our outside of the house.

For a fancier version, the Hatch Restore natural daylight alarm clock also offers a white noise function.

While we’re on the subject of noise, make sure your phone and other gadgets are set to the ‘do not disturb’ setting for the hours you intend to be asleep.

If you want to be available to emergency contacts in case there’s an emergency in the middle of the night, most smartphones will allow calls from specific contacts even with the ‘do not disturb’ function active.

4. Invest in a comfortable mattress

If you’re going to be lying (and not moving often) on a mattress for hours at a time, then it follows that it should be comfortable, yet supportive, for your body and sleep style (whether you prefer to lie on your side, back, or front).

If you add up how many of your day’s 24 hours, you will spend in bed, then it’s around one-third of your time, every day!

So it pays to invest in one that’s comfortable and will encourage you to fall asleep quickly, as well as wake up feeling fresh and rested, rather than achy and still tired.

5. Don’t forget the pillows

Don’t forget to also get the right pillow for your sleep style, and consider using pillows as bolsters if you sleep on your side especially, it can really help with sleep-inducing relaxation.

6. Sleep in quality, breathable bed linen

Bedsheets and covers that are comfortable and breathable are going to be much more enjoyable to sleep in than cheaper sheets that are not as soft, thick, or helpful when it comes to temperature and sweat regulation – especially in summer when the nights may be warmer.

There’s a whole lot of choice when it comes to good quality bedsheet sets – look out for brands such as Brooklinen, that offer luxe high thread count sheet sets that are comfortable and luxurious to sleep in.

It also helps, both from personal hygiene as well as sleep hygiene perspective, to help you fall asleep more easily, to make sure you regularly wash your bed linen and sleep on clean sheets.

7. Heated mattress pad

While a cooler room is generally more conducive to a good night’s sleep, a heated mattress pad can be really helpful in the colder winter months if you have difficulty falling asleep because you feel cold.

These heated pads sit underneath your bed sheet and you can pre-set them at a given temperature and set them to stay on in half-hour increments.

So you can have a heated mattress pad on for the first hour in bed, to help encourage a warm, sleep-inducing environment even on cold nights.

These are so nice for when your first get into bed as you don’t have to wait for your own body heat to heat up the trapped air beneath your duvet.

8. Fresh air

Molekule Air Purifier Healthy Sleep Habits for Athletes
The Molekule Mini air purifier is effective at clearing the air where you live and sleep.

Make sure you have clean, fresh air in your bedroom environment. A clean environment will certainly give you better sleep quality during the night.

Waking up with a stuffy nose is no fun and probably not very good for you.

It pays to have your heating system checked to ensure the ducts are all clear and free from contaminants such as dust and mold, especially in older properties.

Also, consider an air purifier or humidifier to help get the air in your room to a more comfortable balance for your personal needs.

This innovative purifier from Molekule, for example, will eliminate a range of airborne contaminants, including dust mites, pet dander, black mold, and even the COVID-19 virus.

Behavioral tips to prepare your body to be ready for sleeping

9. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake

Many people don’t realize what an impact their caffeine consumption has on their ability to get a good night’s sleep – remember, we are talking sleep quality here, rather than time asleep!

Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine, even many hours after consuming it. Our co-founder Helen, for example, cannot sleep if she has any coffee after midday that day.

Equally, in addition to the many short and long-term effects, it can have on you, alcohol is also known to affect your sleep.

So cutting down on drinking is definitely worth considering if you think it could help you sleep better.

10. Drink post-workout recovery shakes

I make a point of having a protein recovery shake within 30-40 minutes of completing a tough workout or run.

Recovery shakes (or even a high protein fruit, vegetables, and leafy green smoothie) combined with an appropriate cool-down and stretching session, can make a huge difference between sleeping comfortably that night, or being kept awake or woken active by overly warm or twitchy post-workout legs!

Visit our list of the best plant-based protein powders if you’re in search of some new recovery shakes to help speed up your muscle recovery after exercise.

11. Keep your feet warm

Wearing warm wool or merino socks can also really help if you’re one of the many people out there who struggle to fall asleep if they have cold feet. Helen is one of those people and she always gets better sleep quality when her feet are not cold during the night.

She also wakes up with fewer minor aches and pains in her feet in the mornings due to better blood circulation in her feet.

12. Stretch out before you go to bed

Address any discomfort the best you can before you get into bed.

A guide on how to sleep better including the benefits of sleep, sleep aids that work, tips to fall asleep fast and improve sleep quality.
Stretching your back out on a Chirp wheel is a nice way to end the day

That could include some basic stretching, a few minutes of yoga, or simply rolling on a Chirp wheel for a few minutes to help stretch out your back after a long day.

Having a warm shower or warm bath can also really help your body relax before you go to bed. A shower will also get you more comfortable and improve your sleep quality, if you’ve been active all day and have sweat to wash off.

13. Wind down before going to sleep

Get into bed before ‘bedtime’ to help you relax in time for sleep. It helps to cut down on screen time at this point, too.

14. Consider whether your sleep quality is affected by your pets

Decide where your pets are going to sleep. I’ll admit, our cats definitely do interrupt my sleep pretty frequently.

But I have made that choice to let them sleep with us so I choose to put up with the cat-related disruption! Yes, I’m a pushover when it comes to our pets.

If you’re really struggling with sleep quality, consider whether it may be better for you if your pets sleep in a different room.

15. Maximize daylight exposure

Get plenty of daylight during daylight hours, even if it’s just a brief walk at lunchtime, something is better than nothing.

Exposure to daylight helps your body maintain your Circadian rhythm and regulate the production of Melatonin at the right time (Melatonin is an important hormone for telling your body when it’s time to sleep).

This includes light absorbed through your eyes, so think about this the next time you find yourself religiously wearing sunglasses all day – consider taking them off for a bit to help restore your melatonin levels.


What to do if you can’t sleep

Usually, if I can’t sleep, it’s because of one of the factors above.

Often it’s because I’ve had a coffee or exercised too late in the day, I’ve had a lot of screen time (blue light exposure), or I’m stressed and thinking about a work problem.

It helps to think about the reasons you can’t sleep because then you can work out how to stop it from happening again.

Another common reason you can’t sleep is that you may have lots of things on your mind.

If that’s the case and you’re running through a to-do list or a difficult conversation or work problem in your head, for example, then a tried and tested way to prevent this from stopping you from sleeping that night is to get up and write it all down.

Write that to-do list down, write down your thoughts or what you need to say or do the next day, and this will help you clear your mind enough that you can sleep, knowing that all that ‘stuff’ is documented and you can come back to it tomorrow.

My personal view on taking medications or supplements to aid with sleep is… don’t do it.

In my experience, there are so many more natural sleep aid products out there that those, together with changing your sleep environment and how you behave in the day and when getting ready for bed, should be helpful without resorting to things such as Melatonin supplements.

But that’s just my opinion 🙂


Other non-medicinal sleep aids to try

Here are some other popular non-medicinal sleep aids to help improve sleep quality, instead of or as well as the suggestions listed above.

Weighted blanket

Gravity Weighted Blanket Healthy Sleep Habits for Athletes
A weighted blanket like these Gravity blankets is worth a try if you’re struggling to sleep

Some people swear by weighted blankets, like those made popular by Kickstarter hit Gravity.

I have two cats so really I don’t need a blanket if I have them draped over me already, haha.

But, these blankets are a great, natural sleep aid to try.

Blue light-blocking glasses

Yes, really.

If you must have screen time in the two hours leading up to bedtime, then shifting the temperature of the light radiating from the screen can really help with sleep later. The ‘warmer’ the light temperature, the better.

Apple iPhones, iPads, and macs all have this feature built-in and it’s called ‘Night Shift’ – this simply makes the screen a warmer white color rather than those strong harmful blue tones.

Sensate meditation and anti-anxiety device

The Sensate ‘pebble’ is a wearable stress relief and anti-anxiety device that can make a difference after using it for just 10 minutes per day. It’s actually incredible how well, and how quickly it is able to relax the mind and body.

Don’t forget it’s the mind that controls the body, so don’t overlook the power of the mind and all the things you can do to improve the strength of your mind with regards to improving sleep quality.

You can be sure as day that the person who never gets stressed has a better night’s sleep than someone who gets stressed easily and tends to worry about things more.

Sensate Review vibration stress relief by Trail and Kale 10
I’ve found it easier to relax before bed and get to sleep more quickly after a 10 or 20 minute Sensate meditation session

Sensate undertook an efficacy research study in 2022, which reported that over 65% of participants with anxiety disorder and over 50% with a depressive disorder reported an improvement in their condition while using Senate for emotion-based coping.

If a little pebble wearable can help with that, it’s surely worth a shot. Given that Sensate offers a 40-day, no-questions return policy, you can order one, try it, and return it if you don’t feel like it’s working for you.

Read our full Sensate review to learn more about this clever little meditation device.

Apple Watch

If you already own an Apple Watch or are considering buying one – you can actually track ALL your sleep data by wearing the watch at night. I have been doing this for the past 3 months or so now and it’s incredible how useful all the data is.

I’m using all this data to determine how ready I am to train the next day because the App I’m using as an AI fitness trainer can tell me how well I recovered during my sleep phases, and then it lets me know how much training I should do for the day.

I love it and really must put a detailed post together outlining how I use my Apple watch and Athlytic App to determine my training program.

If you’re worried about battery life using your Apple Watch overnight, don’t be – the Series 7 & 8 (and Watch Ultra series) onwards are all capable of tracking sleep though out the night and you can then recharge the watch while you get ready for the day each morning.

If you need to you can also give it a 20-minute top-up charge just before bedtime.

Feel free to ask me anything in the comments about my training routine and how I use the Apple Watch in conjunction with training Apps and Apple Health and also my Garmin Fenix altogether successfully.

Oura ring

This innovative wearable tech ring tracks your sleep and heart rate, among other things, and is a much more minimal and comfortable option than sleeping with a smartwatch to track your sleep patterns.

Using the data you gather from wearing the ring, you can monitor your sleep quality and work out how to improve your sleep overall. I love that it tracks your body temperature and Blood Oxygen level as you sleep so that you can see if you actually got a good night’s rest or not.

Hot drinks

Drinking a non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic hot drink can be a natural sleep remedy in that it can help put your body in the right state to encourage sleep.

Herbal teas, like these from Pique Teas, are a popular choice.

Finally, if you’re curious to learn more about sleep and developing healthy sleep habits, including the science behind it, you may want to check out the Masterclass series by sleep expert Matthew Walker.

He is a true sleep genius and his Masterclass series is a really insightful and educational watch!

Alastair
Alastairhttp://www.trailandkale.com
Hey, I'm Alastair and I'm totally obsessed with discovering the latest, greatest & coolest gear for outdoor pursuits. Learn more about Trail & Kale, and everything we stand for as an outdoor gear & healthy foods publication.

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