Sleep science is murky territory, riddled with big questions (why do we sleep?) and little consensus (raise the issue of whether humans "naturally" sleep in one eight-hour chunk or multiple phases, and prepare for fisticuffs). Still, there are a few hard and fast rules everyone should follow to achieve their #hardeight. Study them, memorize them and you'll be rewarded with straight Zzzs.
1. Stop drinking coffee by the afternoon.
The precise cut-off time varies. Some experts will say 2 p.m.; others might allow another hour or two. All agree, however, that having caffeine after a designated post-lunch quit-time will stall shuteye. Why? Over the course of a day, levels of a drowsy-making chemical called adenosine increase. Caffeine disrupts sleep, in part, because it blocks adenosine.
2. Only use your bed for the two "S's"
And no, we're not talking about Seamless-ing and streaming "Southern Charm." We mean sleep and sex. While this tenet of bedtime behavior (a bedrock of what sleep-folks call "stimulus control") is a bit of a killjoy, it works. The goal here is to keep stimulating activities outside of the bedroom, thereby conditioning yourself to associate bed with sleep (and the one admittedly stimulation-heavy pastime that has gone down in beds since long before Jebediah was milkin' and plowin').
3. Keep a consistent schedule.
Various lifestyle constraints can make it hard to turn in and get up at the same time every day. But, to the extent that you can, be the creature of habit that you (mostly) are. Stable bed-and-wake times correspond to less difficulty falling — and staying — asleep.
4. Log somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night (if you're an adult).
Nightly rest recommendations vary somewhat by age, among other demographic and health metrics. And individual differences in sleep-need do exist. But, most of us aren't bonafide short-sleepers and should aim for that #hardeight when we can. Without it, you'll slowly start to suffer from the lack of regenerative shuteye.
5. Banish blue light from bed.
Read the old-fashioned way, get yourself a blue-light-filtering thingamajig or go sit on the floor. Better yet, create a blue-light buffer period and ditch your digital devices an hour or two before hitting the sack. Artificial light, particularly of the blue variety, messes with the release of melatonin, the light-responsive hormone that helps regulate our sleep-and-wake cycles.
6. Move your body around before you lay it down (preferably leaving time between the two).
Experts may disagree over evening exercise (and how late is too late). But no one who's a credible anything will recommend leading a sedentary lifestyle over regularly working out. Among other reasons, exercise promotes mental well-being and combats obesity. Combined, psychological and emotional unrest (in the form of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders) and cardiometabolic disease are associated with the bulk of sleep disorders. Bust a move or curl a dumbbell — you'll sleep, and feel, much better.
Bonus: Don't use booze as a sleep aid.
A few glasses of Merlot may bring on the Zzzs, but you won't actually sleep better: Among other things, alcohol shortens your normal sleep cycle, promotes snoring and makes you more likely to crave calzones. If you must imbibe, stick to one not-too-stiff drink.