Sleep is just as important to a person’s health as food, water, and oxygen. Prolonged sleep deprivation has been linked to cardiovascular disease and a predisposition to diabetes. Despite knowing the importance of sleep, falling asleep is a nightly challenge for millions of Americans. Fortunately, there are simple, practical tips that anyone can implement to make falling asleep less of a feat.

Get the perfect lighting

Every part of the body needs to relax comfortably for restful sleep, and the eyes are no exception. Since the eyes are sensory organs, any visual stimulation alerts the eyes and the brains, making it harder for a person to fall asleep. For various reasons, some people have developed the habit of sleeping with lights on. Ideally, a person should go to sleep surrounded by as little light as possible. Blackout curtains are a great solution for people who must sleep during the daytime.

For centuries, humans either lived outdoors or relied on natural light from the sun and moon. In these circumstances, people would be surrounded by gradually dimming light every night. Although the average person does not live outside anymore, humans can still let their bodies know that sleep is approaching by investing in a dimming light switch. As bedtime draws closer, progressively dim the lights, and sleep in a room that is as dark as possible.

It is also essential to reduce the amount of blue light from electronic screens, such as televisions and cell phones. The light receptors in the eyes perceive this blue light to be daylight. Rather than triggering the secretion of melatonin, blue light stops the body from secreting this sleep-inducing hormone. Blue light is also produced by many white light bulbs and especially LED light bulbs. This makes sleeping in a dark room even more important. There are non-prescription glasses that block blue light from reaching the eyes if electronics or bright lights cannot be avoided before bedtime. Harvard recommends using red bulbs in any lights that may be on in the bedroom.

Maintain a circadian rhythm

The human body is a well-oiled machine that works best on routines. Many people live hectic lives with an unpredictable work schedule and plenty of obligations at all times of the day and night. Nevertheless, we still have the same bodily functions that our ancestors, who woke up at the same time every morning and went to sleep at the same time every night, had.

Even on days when a person does not have to be at work or school at a certain time, it is wise to wake up at the same time every morning. Pick a bedtime that will allow for eight hours of sleep each night. By sticking to the same routine each day, the body will form a circadian rhythm and start to trigger sleep on its own at the perfect time each night.

Watch what you drink

Beverages during the day and before bedtime can have a huge impact on sleep. Drinking anything right before bed increases the possibility that a person will need to urinate during the night. The urge to urinate as well as getting up, turning on a light, and getting out of warm covers are all very jarring. Getting up to use the bathroom is a rude interruption to a good night’s sleep. If a person is already prone to having trouble with sleep, this pesky bodily function can cause a person to stay up for the rest of the night. Stop drinking an hour and a half before going to bed to avoid needless interruptions to sleep. For some people, drinking may need to be curtailed even earlier if their bodies take longer to produce urine.

Caffeinated beverage make falling asleep more difficult. Although coffee is usually considered the biggest culprit for caffeine, this substance is also commonly found in sodas and teas and can be added to any beverage. It is important to understand the ingredients of anything one drinks. Regardless of where the caffeine comes from, caffeine is a stimulant that gives a person energy. The effects of this stimulant can last for hours after a person has consumed caffeine. If at all possible, caffeinated drinks should be completely avoided by people who have trouble sleeping. If avoidance is not possible, it would help to only drink caffeine in the morning, long before bedtime. Certainly, avoid drinking caffeine with dinner.

Alcohol is very counterproductive when it comes to sleep. Many people believe that alcohol helps them go to sleep, and this may be true on an individual basis. Nevertheless, alcohol takes a negative toll on the quality of sleep. There are different stages of sleep, and alcohol has been found to shorten the length of time a person stays in the REM phase of sleep. REM sleep is the phase that makes a person feel well-rested, so, under the influence of alcohol, a person can sleep all night and still feel exhausted in the morning. Alcohol is another substance that people with severe sleep problems would do best to avoid. Everyone should allow for at least four hours to pass between drinking an alcoholic beverage and going to sleep.

When to see a doctor

There are dozens of practical tips for falling asleep with less difficulty and improving sleep quality. If nothing seems to work, it may be best to see a doctor. Although many people experience problems sleeping, some people have chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders. A person with a sleep disorder needs a combination of medical treatment and practical tips to get the kind of nightly rest that is necessary for being healthy.