Everyone needs a good sleep schedule in order to function in their day-to-day lives. In fact, sleep is just as important as exercise, a balanced diet, and proper hydration! Did you know that a full night’s sleep can help boost your immune system, improve brain functioning, and even strengthen your heart?

So, what are the secrets to unlocking a better sleep schedule? The keys to a better sleep schedule include sleeping an appropriate amount of time, incorporating activities into your bedtime routine to help you sleep better, and making sure you do things throughout the day to promote better sleep at night.

How many hours do you need?

The first step to building a better sleep schedule is to make sure you’re sleeping long enough. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. The exact number is going to vary from person to person; one may only need seven and a half hours of sleep while another needs the full nine. But as long as you’re getting an amount of sleep that is somewhere in that range, you should notice a difference in the way you feel throughout the day.

If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough sleep, try asking yourself these questions: Do you feel naturally happy and productive during the day, or do you tend to feel sleepy? Do you depend on caffeine to get you through? Do you expend a lot of energy at your job? The answers to these questions may give you insight into whether you’re getting enough sleep or even too much sleep. When you’re trying to decide how large of a window to give yourself each night, take into account your daily energy levels since these will often give you the most insight.

If you’re trying to build a better sleep schedule for your child, you should plan on giving them more hours each night than you give yourself. Toddlers could need up to 14 hours, school-age children up to 11, and teens up to 10. Experiment with the exact number of hours you give your child, but keep in mind that it’s better to give them a longer window of time so that there’s a bit of wiggle room for them to get comfortable and actually fall asleep every night.

How long should you give yourself to fall asleep?

Experts recommend giving yourself 10-20 minutes to lie down before you plan on falling asleep. If you want to be asleep by 9:30 p.m., you should lie down somewhere between 9:10 and 9:20 p.m. To make sure that you’re able to fall asleep during those 15-20 minutes, try doing some relaxing activities before you lie down, like reading a chapter of a book, taking a bath, or drinking a hot mug of decaffeinated herbal tea.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, there might be a few reasons why. For example, you may be trying to go to bed too early. Your body has a natural circadian rhythm that it follows, and if you try to go to bed earlier than your body wants you to, it might fight you on it. You can fix this by going to bed at the same time every night, but you should also pay close attention and listen to the natural rhythms of your body. Another reason you may have trouble falling asleep is having a poor nighttime routine. It would help if you avoided late-night exercise, caffeinated beverages, and screen time before bed. If you still have trouble falling asleep at a reasonable hour, you might have a sleep disorder, so you should contact your doctor.

What goes into a sleep routine outside of actual sleep?

Believe it or not, a bedtime routine doesn’t just include the things you do right before you go to sleep; it also includes what you do all day. For example, you should exercise every day to make sure that you’re tired enough to fall asleep at night, but you should avoid exercising right before bed since doing so can actually keep you more alert than you want.

Make sure that you have a set schedule to wind down including closing the kitchen up, avoiding screens, changing out of your daytime clothes into pajamas or some other sleepwear, and brushing your teeth, etc. This helps your mind begin the process of sleep preparation!

One more thing you can do throughout the day to help your sleep schedule is adhere to a daily routine that follows your body’s natural rhythms. This routine shouldn’t just involve the things you do to get ready for bed, but also a regular time to wake up, eat, exercise, and then wind down for the night.

A good night’s sleep is necessary to help you function and may actually improve your quality of life. If you want to build a better sleep schedule for yourself, start by incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine, lie down with enough time to fall asleep, and set aside enough time to sleep from 7 to 9 hours every night.