Wellness·3 min read

How To Get Good Sleep and Get by Even When You Don’t

How to Get Good Sleep and Get by Even When You Don’t
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
July 20, 2020

The Story

Sleep: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. In a pre-COVID world, around one-third of adults said they’ve suffered from sleep problems. Right now, a restful night may seem like a distant memory. Here are some tips to drift off at night and stay on during the day.

FROM 9 to 5 

The daytime is just as important as the nighttime for a good night’s zzz. Say “lights out” to bad habits and “good morning” to the ones that will leave you more rested: 

For when you barely leave your desk…Go outside. It isn’t just for taking a break. It’s for getting your circadian rhythm—or your body’s internal clock—on track. Your circadian rhythm works together with melatonin (hint: the hormone that makes you tired). When it starts getting dark, that internal clock tells your body to produce more melatonin. Sunlight, on the other hand, suppresses melatonin production and tells your body it’s go time. Studies have shown that getting more sunlight during the day will help even people with insomnia shut down come bedtime. So count those steps during the day to avoid counting sheep later. 

For when you’re sweating the small stuff…

Get in an actual sweat. It won’t blow your mind to read that working out helps you sleep. But it may surprise you that the time of day can make a difference. Some studies have shown that morning workouts are best for deep sleep. One study found that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and added about 41 more minutes of sleep at night. When should you avoid a work out? Right before bed. Your increased heart rate will interfere with shut eye. Feel free to use this as an excuse to have a glass of wine instead. 

For when you’re meal planning…

Cut your afternoon cup of coffee. Obvious. Eat some kiwi to help you sleep. Not so obvious. Turns out, the foods you choose to eat can make a difference in your sleep. Foods that contain melatonin—including cherries, bananas, kiwis, pineapple, and orange juice—can help ease you into bed. 


What happens in bed doesn’t stay there. Despite trying all of the above, there will be some nights where you can’t get to sleep quickly enough. Enter: damage control. Here are some ways to cope after a night of tossing and turning (and scrolling and stalking)...

For when you’re too tired to remember to eat…

Fuel up. Food is fuel. And fuel is your friend. When you’re super tired, you need to eat super regularly. One option is to skip the three large meals and instead eat something smaller every two to three hours. Let’s call them power snacks. Here are some of the best options: Bananas, fish, brown rice, sweet potatoes, apples, yogurt, and dark chocolate should all stay on your “to-eat” list. 

For when your eyes are closing in the afternoon meeting...

Power nap. Like the snacks, a power nap will give you a much-needed kick—since getting seven to nine hours of sleep is just not realistic for a lot of people, especially new parents. And no, your body doesn’t quite 'get used to' getting less sleep. Instead of taking that afternoon social media break, take a 20 minute nap if you can. 20 minutes will get you into the first stages of sleep and help you feel refreshed afterwards. 

For when you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again…

Track yourself before you wreck yourself. Get a sleep tracker like a Withings watch or a Whoop so that you can see exactly how long and how deep you’ve been sleeping. 


Good sleep is one of the foundations of your waking life. “Sleep on it” isn’t just an excuse to procrastinate a decision—it’s the first step to feeling refreshed and in control.

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