Woman Eating Dog RelaxingA healthy diet has been scientifically proven to provide numerous health benefits, such as reducing your risk of several chronic diseases and keeping your body healthy.
However, making major changes to your diet can sometimes seem very overwhelming.
Instead of making big changes, it may be better to start with a few smaller ones.
This article discusses 25 small changes that can make a regular diet a little bit healthier.

1. Slow Down

The pace at which you eat influences how much you eat, as well as how likely you are to gain weight.
In fact, studies comparing different eating speeds show that fast eaters are up to 115% more likely to be obese than slow eaters (123).
Your appetite, how much you eat and how full you get is all controlled by hormones. These hormones signal your brain whether you’re hungry or full.
However, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive these messages, so eating more slowly would give your brain the time it needs to perceive that you are full.
Studies have confirmed this, showing that eating slowly may reduce the number of calories you consume at meals and help you lose weight (45).
Eating slowly is also linked to more thorough chewing, which has also been linked to better weight maintenance (67).
Therefore, simply by eating slower and chewing more often, you can reduce your risk of eating too much and gaining excess weight.

2. Choose Whole-Grain Bread — Not Refined

You can easily make your diet a bit healthier by choosing whole grain bread in place of traditional refined-grain bread.
As opposed to refined grains, which have been linked to many health issues, whole grains have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer (891011).
They are also a good source of fiber, B vitamins and several minerals, such as zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese.
There are many varieties of whole-grain bread available, and many of them even taste better than refined bread.
Just make sure to read the label to ensure that your bread is made with whole grains only, not a mixture of whole and refined grains. It’s also preferable that the bread contains whole seeds or grains.

3. Add Greek Yogurt to Your Diet

Greek yogurt (or Greek-style yogurt) is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt.
It has been strained to remove its excess whey, which is the watery part of milk. The end result is a yogurt that is higher in fat and protein than regular yogurt.
In fact, it contains up to three times the amount of protein found in the same amount of regular yogurt, or up to 9 grams per 100 grams (1213).
Eating a good source of protein helps you feel fuller for longer, helping you manage your appetite and eat fewer calories overall (1415).
Furthermore, since Greek yogurt has been strained, it contains fewer carbs and lactose than regular yogurt, making it suitable for those who follow a low-carb diet or are lactose intolerant.
Simply replace some snacks or regular yogurt varieties with Greek yogurt for a hefty dose of protein and nutrients.
Just make sure to pick the non-flavored varieties, as flavored ones may be packed with added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

4. Don’t Shop Without a List

There are two important strategies to employ when you go grocery shopping: make your shopping list ahead of time and don’t go to the store hungry.
Not knowing exactly what you need makes room for impulse buying, while hunger can further exacerbate your impulses.
To make sure you don’t give in to your impulses, plan ahead and write down what you need beforehand.
By doing this and sticking to your list, you will not only buy healthier items but also save money and have healthier foods around the house.

5. Eat Eggs, Preferably for Breakfast

Eggs are incredibly healthy, especially if you eat them in the morning.
They are rich in high-quality protein and many essential nutrients that people often don’t get enough of, such as choline.
When looking at studies comparing various types of calorie-matched breakfasts, eggs come out on top.
Eating eggs in the morning increases feelings of fullness. This has been shown to cause people to consume fewer calories over the next 36 hours, which can be quite helpful for weight loss (161718).
One study in healthy and fit young men showed that eggs caused significantly more fullness, less hunger and a lower desire to eat, compared to a breakfast consisting of cereal or croissants (19).
In fact, the men who had eggs for breakfast automatically ate 270–470 fewer calories at lunch and dinner buffets, compared to those who ate other breakfasts.
Therefore, simply replacing your current breakfast with eggs may result in major benefits for your health.

6. Increase Your Protein Intake

Protein is often referred to as the king of nutrients, and it does seem to have some superpowers.
Due to its ability to affect your hunger and satiety hormones, it’s the most filling of the macronutrients (2021).
One study showed that simply increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories made people eat 441 fewer calories per day, without actively restricting their intake (22).
What’s more, protein helps you retain muscle mass, which determines the rate of your metabolism. A high protein intake may increase the number of calories you burn by 80–100 per day (2324).
This is especially important for preventing the loss of muscle mass that can occur during weight loss and as you age (2526).
Aim to add a source of protein to each meal and snack. It will help you feel fuller for longer, curb cravings and make you less likely to overeat.
Good sources of protein include dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans and lean meat.

7. Drink Enough Water

Drinking enough water is important for your health.
Many studies have shown that drinking water may benefit weight loss, weight maintenance and even slightly increase the number of calories you burn daily (272829).
Studies also show that drinking water before meals can reduce appetite and calorie intake during the subsequent meal in middle-aged and older adults (2830).
That said, the most important thing is to drink water instead of other beverages. This may drastically reduce your sugar and calorie intake (313233).
People who drink mostly water have been shown to consume 200 fewer calories per day, on average, than those who drink other beverages (3435).

8. Bake or Roast Instead of Grilling or Frying

The way you prepare your food can drastically change its effects on your health.
Grilling, broiling, frying and deep-frying are all popular methods of preparing meat and fish.
However, during these types of cooking methods, several potentially toxic compounds are formed, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) (36).
All of these compounds have been linked to several diseases, including cancer and heart disease (37383940).
Healthier cooking methods include baking, broiling, simmering, slow-cooking, poaching, pressure cooking, stewing and sous-vide.
These methods do not promote the formation of these harmful compounds and thus make your food healthier (41424344).
Nevertheless, there is nothing to say you can’t enjoy the occasional grill or deep-fry, but try to use those methods sparingly.

9. Take Omega-3 and Vitamin D Supplements

A surprising number of people around the world are deficient in vitamin D, including 42% of the US population (4546).
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is very important for bone health and the proper function of your immune system. In fact, every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D, indicating its importance (474849).
Vitamin D is found in very few foods, but fatty seafood generally contains the highest amounts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another commonly lacking nutrient found in fatty seafood. They have many important roles in the body, including reducing inflammation, maintaining heart health and promoting brain function (50515253).
The Western diet is generally very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation and have been linked to many chronic diseases (54).
Omega-3s help fight this inflammation and keep the body in a more balanced state (55).
If you don’t eat fatty seafood regularly, you should consider taking a supplement. Omega-3s and vitamin D can often be found together in a supplement.

10. Replace Your Favorite “Fast Food” Restaurant

Eating out does not have to involve unhealthy foods.
Consider “upgrading” your favorite fast food restaurant to one with healthier options.
There are many healthy fast food restaurants and fusion kitchens offering delicious and healthy meals.
They may just be a great replacement for your favorite burger or pizza joint. What’s more, you can generally get these meals at a very decent price.

11. Try at Least One New Healthy Recipe Per Week

Deciding what to have for dinner can be a constant cause of frustration, which is why many people tend to use the same recipes again and again.
Chances are you’ve been cooking the same recipes on autopilot for years.
Whether these are healthy or unhealthy recipes, it’s always healthy to try something new.
Aim to try making a new healthy recipe at least once per week. This can change up your food and nutrient intakes and hopefully add new and healthy recipes to your routine.
Alternatively, try to make a healthier version of a favorite recipe.

12. Choose Baked Potatoes Over French Fries

Potatoes are very filling and a common side to many dishes (56).
That said, the method in which they’re prepared largely determines their health effects.
For starters, 100 grams of baked potatoes contain 94 calories, while the same amount of french fries contains over three times as many, or 319 calories (5758).
Furthermore, deep-fried french fries generally contain harmful compounds, such as aldehydes and trans fats (5960).
Replacing your french fries with baked or boiled potatoes is a great way to shave off calories and avoid these harmful compounds.

13. Eat Your Greens First

A good way to ensure that you eat your greens is to eat them as a starter.
By doing so, you will most likely finish all of your greens while you are the hungriest and be apt to eat less of other, perhaps less healthy, components of the meal.
This may lead you to eat fewer and healthier calories overall, which may result in weight loss.
Furthermore, eating vegetables before a carb-rich meal has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
It slows down the speed at which carbs are absorbed into the bloodstream and may benefit both short- and long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes (6162).

14. Eat Your Fruits Instead of Drinking Them

Fruits are very healthy. They are loaded with water, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
Studies have repeatedly linked eating fruit to a reduced risk of several diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer (6364).
Because fruits contain fiber and various plant compounds, their sugars are generally digested very slowly and do not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.
However, the same does not apply for fruit juices.
Many fruit juices aren’t even made from real fruit, but rather concentrate and sugar. They may even contain as much sugar as a sugary soft drink (6566).
Even real fruit juices lack the fiber and chewing resistance provided by whole fruits. This makes fruit juice much more likely to spike your blood sugar levels.
It also makes it way too easy to consume too much in one sitting (67).

15. Cook at Home More Often

Try to make a habit of cooking at home most nights, rather than eating out.
For one, it’s easier on your budget.
Second, by cooking your food yourself, you’ll know exactly what is in it. You won’t have to wonder about any hidden unhealthy or high-calorie ingredients.
Also, by cooking large servings, you will also have leftovers for the next day, ensuring a healthy meal then, too.
Finally, cooking at home has been shown to reduce the risk of excessive weight gain, especially among children (6869).

16. Become More Active

Good nutrition and exercise often go hand in hand.
Exercise has been shown to improve your mood, as well as decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress (707172).
These are the exact feelings that are most likely to contribute to emotional and binge eating (737475).
Aside from strengthening your muscles and bones, exercise may help you lose weight, increase your energy levels, reduce your risk of chronic diseases and improve your sleep (767778).
Aim to do about 30 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise each day, or simply take the stairs and go on short walks whenever possible.

17. Replace Your Sugary Beverages With Sugar-Free or Sparkling Water

Sugary beverages might possibly be the unhealthiest thing you can drink.
They are loaded with liquid sugar, which has been linked to numerous diseases, including heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes (7980).
Also, your brain doesn’t register liquid calories the same way it registers solid calories. This means you don’t compensate for the calories you drink by eating any less (8182).
One 17-ounce (500-ml) sugary soda may contain about 210 calories.
Try replacing your sugary beverage with either a sugar-free alternative or simply choose still or sparkling water.
Doing so will shave off the extra calories and reduce your excess sugar and calorie intakes.

18. Stay Away From “Diet” Foods

So-called “diet foods” can be very deceiving.
They‘ve usually had their fat content reduced dramatically and are often labeled “fat-free,” “low-fat,” “fat-reduced” or “low-calorie.”
However, to compensate for the lost flavor and texture that the fat provided, sugar and other ingredients are often added.
Therefore, many diet foods end up containing more sugar and sometimes even more calories than their full-fat counterparts (83).
Instead, opt for whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

19. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

The importance of good sleep cannot be overstated.
Sleep deprivation disrupts appetite regulation, often leading to increased appetite, which results in increased calorie intake and weight gain (848586).
In fact, people who sleep too little tend to weigh significantly more than those who get enough sleep (8788).
Being sleep deprived also negatively affects concentration, productivity, athletic performance, glucose metabolism and immune function (89909192).
What’s more, it increases your risk of several diseases, including inflammatory diseases and heart disease (93).
Therefore, it is important to try to get adequate amounts of good-quality sleep, preferably in one bout.

20. Eat Fresh Berries Instead of Dried Ones

Berries are very healthy and packed with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants.
Most varieties can be purchased fresh, frozen or dried.
Although all types are relatively healthy, the dried varieties are a much more concentrated source of calories and sugar, since all the water has been removed.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of fresh or frozen berries contains 32–35 calories, while 3.5 ounces of dried strawberries contain a whopping 396 calories (9495).
The dried varieties are also often covered with sugar, further increasing the sugar content.
By opting for the fresh varieties, you will get a much juicier snack that’s lower in sugar and a lot lower in calories.

21. Eat Popcorn Instead of Chips

It may be surprising that popcorn is a whole grain that’s loaded with nutrients and fiber.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of air-popped popcorn contains 387 calories and 15 grams of fiber, while the same amount of chips contains 547 calories and only 4 grams of fiber (96).
Diets rich in whole grains have been linked to health benefits, such as a reduced risk of inflammation and heart disease (9798).
For healthy popcorn, try making your own popcorn at home (not microwave popcorn varieties) or purchase air-popped popcorn.
Many commercial varieties prepare their popcorn with fat, sugar and salt, making it no healthier than potato chips.

22. Choose Healthy Oils

Unfortunately, highly processed seed and vegetable oils have become a household staple over the past few decades.
Examples include soybean, cottonseed, sunflower and canola oils.
These oils are highly processed and high in omega-6 fatty acids, but deficient in omega-3s.
A high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can lead to inflammation and has been linked to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases (99100).
Swap these unhealthy oils for healthier alternatives, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil.

23. Eat From Smaller Plates

It has been proven that the size of your dinnerware can affect how much you eat.
Eating from a large plate can make your portion look smaller, while eating from a small plate can make it look bigger (101).
Studies have supported this and shown that people tend to eat as much as 30% more when their food is served in a large bowl or on a large plate (102103).
Also, if you don’t realize that you’re eating more than usual, you will not compensate by eating less at the next meal (104105).
By eating from smaller dinnerware, you can trick your brain into thinking that you’re eating more, making yourself less likely to overeat.

24. Get the Salad Dressing on the Side

Simply getting to the point of being able to order a salad at a restaurant is a great achievement for some people.
However, your efforts should not end there. Some salads are smothered in high-calorie dressings, which may make the salads even higher in calories than other items on the menu (106).
Asking for the dressing on the side makes it a lot easier to control the portion size and therefore the calories that you consume.

25. Drink Your Coffee Black

Coffee, which is one of the most popular beverages in the world, is very healthy.
In fact, it is a major source of antioxidants and has been linked to many health benefits, such as a lower risk of diabetes, mental decline and liver disease (107108109).
However, many commercial varieties of coffee contain lots of additional ingredients, such as sugar, syrup, heavy cream, sweeteners and milk. Many of these drinks are practically desserts in a cup.
Drinking these varieties quickly negates all of coffee’s health benefits and instead adds lots of unwanted calories and sugar.
Instead, try drinking your coffee black or just adding a small amount of milk or cream and avoid sweetening it.

The Bottom Line

Completely overhauling your diet all at once can be a recipe for disaster.
Instead, try to incorporate some of the small changes in this article to make your diet healthier.
Some of these tips will help you keep your portion sizes reasonable, while others will help you add nutrients or adapt to something new.
Together, they’ll have a big impact on making your overall diet healthier and more sustainable, without a huge change in your habits.
An evidence-based article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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Woman Sleeping in Bed
Good sleep is crucial for a well-functioning body and quality of life.
Some people have no problem falling asleep. However, many others have difficulty falling and staying asleep through the night.
Poor sleep can affect many areas of your life, including learning, memory, emotional well-being and biological functions (1).
If you have difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night's rest, this article is for you.
Here are 22 simple ideas to help you to fall asleep fast.

1. Get on a Schedule

Many people find that setting a sleep schedule helps them fall asleep easier.
Your body has its own regulatory system called the circadian rhythm. This internal clock cues your body to feel alert during the day sleepy at night (1).
Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule. Once your body adjusts to this schedule, it will be easier to fall asleep and wake up around the same time every day (2).
It is also important to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This has been shown to be the optimal sleep duration for adults. Getting on a schedule can help ensure that you get a good amount of sleep (1).
Lastly, give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to wind down in the evening before getting in bed. This allows your body and mind to relax and prepare for sleep (3).

2. Daylight and Darkness Are Equally Important

Light can influence your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness.
Irregular light exposure can lead to disruption of circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep and stay awake (456).
During the day, exposing your body to bright light tells it to stay alert (56).
At night, darkness promotes feelings of sleepiness. In fact, research shows that darkness boosts the production of melatonin, an essential hormone for sleep (78).
Get out and expose your body to sunlight or artificial bright light throughout the day. If possible, use blackout curtains to make your room dark at night.

3. Practice Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness

People who have difficulty sleeping tend to get stressed when they cannot fall asleep. This can make the problem even worse (9).
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are tools to calm the mind and relax the body. Moreover, they have been shown to improve sleep (91011).
Yoga encourages the practice of breathing patterns and body movements that release stress and tension accumulated in your body (9).
Meditation can enhance melatonin levels and assist the brain in achieving a specific state where sleep is easily achieved (10).
Lastly, mindfulness may help you maintain focus on the present and worry less while falling asleep (11).
Practicing one or all of these techniques can help you get a good night's rest and wake up reenergized.

4. Do Not Look at Your Clock

It is normal to wake up in the middle of the night. However, the inability to fall back asleep can ruin a good night’s rest (12).
People who have a hard time falling back asleep in the middle of the night tend to watch the clock and obsess about the fact that they cannot fall back asleep.
"Clock-watching" is common among people suffering from insomnia. This behavior may cause anxiety about sleeplessness (13).
To make matters worse, waking on a regular basis without falling back asleep may cause your body to develop a routine. As a result, you might find yourself waking up in the middle of the night every night.
If possible, it is best to remove the clock from your room. If you need an alarm, you can turn your clock and avoid watching it when you are trying to fall back asleep.

5. Avoid Naps During the Day

Due to poor sleep at night, people with insomnia tend to be sleepy during the day. This often leads to daytime napping (1415).
While naps of short duration have been linked to improvements in alertness and wellbeing, there are mixed opinions about the effects of napping on nighttime sleep (1617).
Some studies have shown that regular, long (two hours or more) and late naps may lead to poor nighttime sleep quality and even sleep deprivation (181920).
One study showed that among 440 college students, those who reported taking three or more naps per week, those who napped more than two hours and those who napped late (between 6 and 9 p.m.) had the poorest nighttime sleep quality (18).
Another study found that older adults who napped frequently had lower quality nighttime sleep, more depressive symptoms, more limited physical activity and were more likely to be overweight than those who rarely took a nap (19).
Other studies have revealed that naps do not affect nighttime sleep (212223).
To find out if naps are affecting your sleep, try either eliminating naps altogether or limiting yourself to a short nap (30 minutes or less) early in the day.

6. Lower the Temperature and Wear Socks

Your body temperature changes as you fall asleep. Core temperature decreases, while the temperature of your hands and feet increases (242526).
If your room is too warm, you might have a hard time falling asleep. Setting your thermostat to a cool temperature between 60–75°F (15–23°C) could help you fall asleep faster (27).
Individual preferences will vary, so find the temperature that works best for you.
Additionally, covering your feet with socks or taking a warm bath could also contribute to speed the body's temperature changes and help you sleep (2829).

7. Use the "4-7-8" Exercise

The “4-7-8” exercise is a simple but powerful breathing method that promotes calmness and relaxation. It might also help you unwind before bed.
It consists of a breathing pattern that relaxes the nervous system. It can be practiced anytime you feel anxious or stressed.
Here are the steps for the "4-7-8" breathing method (30):
  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
  3. Hold your breath to the count of seven.
  4. Open your mouth slightly and exhale completely, making a whoosh sound to the count of eight.
  5. Inhale again, and repeat the cycle at least three more times until you feel calm and are ready to fall asleep.
If practiced daily, this technique may help you fall asleep faster.

8. Watch What and When You Eat

It seems that the food you eat before bed may affect your sleep. For example, research has shown that high-carb meals may be detrimental to a good night's rest.
A review of studies concluded that even though a high-carb diet can get you to fall asleep faster, it will not be restful sleep. Instead, high-fat meals could promote a deeper and more restful sleep (3132).
In fact, several studies agree that a high-carb/low-fat diet significantly decreased the quality of sleep compared to a low-carb/high-fat diet with the same amount of calories for both diets (3334).
If you still want to enjoy a high-carb meal for dinner, you should consume it at least four hours before bed, so you have enough time to digest it (32).
There are specific foods that have been proven to help you sleep better, including warm milk with Horlicks powder, fatty fish like salmon and fruits like kiwifruit or tart cherry juice (35363738).
Regardless, it’s never a good idea to go to bed with a full stomach. It is recommended that you wait long enough after dinner to allow your body to digest the food before going to sleep.

9. Listen to Relaxing Music

Music can significantly improve quality of sleep. It can even be used to improve chronic sleep disorders like insomnia (3940).
A study of 24 young adults demonstrated that sedative music promoted deeper sleep (41).
Buddhist music is a kind of music created from different Buddhist chants and used for meditation. Listening to it may be a great tool for better sleep (42).
Another study revealed that 25 participants had a more restful and deeper sleep when they were exposed to soothing music for 45 minutes at bedtime, compared to those not listening to music (43).
Lastly, if relaxing music is not available, blocking all noise could also help you fall asleep faster and promote uninterrupted sleep (4445).

10. Eat Breakfast

Having breakfast might be key to better sleep.
It has been shown that tryptophan improves the quality of sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is transformed into serotonin in the brain and subsequently converted to melatonin (46).
Interestingly enough, the transformation of tryptophan to melatonin is higher in the presence of light rather than darkness. Therefore, to maximize melatonin production, tryptophan intake and the timing of light exposure should be considered together (47).
That’s why the combination of tryptophan-rich foods for breakfast and exposing yourself to light during the day could maximize melatonin production and help you sleep better at night (484950).
Some tryptophan-rich foods you can incorporate into your breakfast are milk, cheese, eggs, meats, oat bran, soybeans, nuts and seeds.

11. Exercise Smartly

Physical activity is often considered beneficial to healthy sleep.
Exercise can increase the duration and quality of sleep by boosting the production of serotonin in the brain and decreasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone (51).
However, it is important to maintain a moderate-intensity exercise routine and not overdo it. Excessive training has been linked to poor sleep (52).
The time of the day when you exercise is also critical. To promote better quality sleep, working out early in the morning appears to be better than working out later in the day (515354).
Therefore, moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning could significantly improve the quality and quantity of sleep (5556).

12. Get Comfortable

Having a comfy bed is important to good sleep.
It has been shown that having a comfortable mattress and bedding could have a remarkable effect on the depth and quality of sleep (5758).
A medium-firm mattress has been shown to positively affect sleep quality and prevent sleep disturbances and muscular discomfort (5960).
The quality of your pillow is also crucial. It can affect your neck curve, temperature and comfort. A study determined that orthopedic pillows may be better than feather or memory foam pillows (61).
Additionally, the use of a weighted blanket could reduce body stress and help improve your sleep (62).
Lastly, the fabric of the clothes you wear to bed can affect how well you sleep. It is crucial you choose comfortable clothing made of fabric that could keep you at a pleasant temperature through the night (63).

13. Turn Off All Electronics

Using technology frequently has been shown to be bad for sleep quality.
It seems that watching TV, video gaming, mobile phone use and social networking could make it significantly harder for you to fall and stay asleep (6465).
There is plenty of literature on the effect of electronic use and social media on the quality of sleep in adolescents. However, this problem is also found among adults (666768).
It is recommended that you disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions. You will be able to fall asleep much faster.

14. Try Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from specific plants that have been shown to relieve health problems, such as insomnia and anxiety (697071).
Aromatherapy is commonly used by those who have trouble falling asleep, as it may help with relaxation and sleep.
A systematic review of 12 studies revealed that the use of aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality (72).
Additionally, it seems that lavender and damask rose are popular scents with positive effects on sleep (7374).
An essential oil diffuser could be helpful in infusing your room with relaxing scents that encourage sleep.

15. Practice Journaling

Some people have difficulty falling asleep because their thoughts keep running in circles. Research has shown that this can produce anxiety and stress, which can generate negative emotions and disturb sleep (75).
Even stressful daytime thoughts and worries may affect sleep at night (76).
Research has shown that journaling and focusing on positive thoughts can calm the mind and help you sleep better.
Writing down the positive events that happened during the day can create a state of gratitude and happiness, downgrade stressful events and promote more relaxation at bedtime (777879).
In fact, a study of 41 college students found that journaling resulted in reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time and improved sleep quality (75).
Try practicing this technique by setting aside 15 minutes every night to write about your day. It is important to focus not only on the positive events of the day but also on how you feel at the time.

16. Limit Caffeine and Drink a Soothing Beverage

Caffeine is widely used among people to fight fatigue and stimulate alertness. It can be found in foods and beverages like chocolate, coffee, sodas and energy drinks.
Unfortunately, caffeine can negatively impact sleep. Research has shown that caffeine consumption may make it harder for you to fall asleep. It could also lead to shorter and poor quality sleep (8081).
Although the effects of caffeine vary from person to person, it is recommended that you refrain from consuming caffeine at least six hours before bedtime.
Instead, you could drink a soothing tea, which has been shown to promote sleep and relaxation (82).
The relaxing properties of tea come from its high content of L-theanine, which has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress, improve mental function and boost mood (8384).
Traditional teas like green and black tea have been shown to have good concentrations of L-theanine. Other teas that have shown positive effects in sleep are chamomile, passionflower and valerian (858687).
However, green and black teas may have a relatively high content of caffeine, which could interfere with sleep. Therefore, it may be better to drink caffeine-free teas closer to bedtime (88).

17. Adjust Your Sleep Position

Good quality sleep may depend on your body position during the night.
There are three main sleeping positions: back, stomach or side. Traditionally, it was believed that back sleepers had a better quality of sleep.
However, research has shown that this might not be the best position to sleep in, as it could lead to blocked airways, sleep apnea and snoring (89).
In fact, a study done on 16 people determined that the participants who reported consistent poor sleep spent more time on their back and were awake longer than good sleepers (90).
Although individual preferences play an important role in choosing sleep position, the side position seems to be linked to high-quality sleep (91).
If you sleep on your side, you may benefit from placing a pillow between your legs for more back support.
If you sleep on your back, consider a good quality pillow that will support your neck. And, if you sleep on your stomach, it may be best to not use any pillow at all, so you do not strain your neck.

18. Practice Acupressure

Acupressure is a non-invasive form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the pressing of specific sensitive areas of the body, called acupoints, with your fingers (9293).
It is believed that the pressure placed on these acupoints can stimulate the production of melatonin and other sleep-promoting hormones like gamma-butyric acid (GABA) and serotonin (93).
A study treated a group of 28 elderly individuals with acupressure. Results showed that acupressure was effective at promoting longer and better sleep compared to the placebo and control group (94).
Similar results were seen in a study performed on end-stage kidney disease patients (95).
Acupressure seems to work by applying pressure for one to five minutes to each acupoint, three to seven times a week. This technique can be self-administered at home to improve your sleep (96).

19. Read Something

Reading could be a good activity to help you wind down before bed. At least for kids, it seems that bedtime reading may promote longer sleep (97).
However, it is important to understand the difference between reading an electronic book (Kindle or iPad) at bedtime and a traditional paper book.
Electronic books emit a kind of light that can reduce melatonin secretion, making it harder for you to fall asleep and causing you to feel tired the next day (9899).
Therefore, it is recommended to read from a physical book in order to relax and improve your sleep.

20. Force Yourself to Stay Awake

It is believed that if you go to bed and try to force yourself to fall asleep, your chances of falling asleep drop dramatically.
Instead, you can try "paradoxical intention." This technique recommends trying to stay awake instead of forcing yourself to sleep (100).
This technique is based on the idea that the stress and anxiety produced by forcing yourself to fall asleep can prevent you from relaxing and snoozing off.
A study showed that people who try this technique tend to fall asleep faster than those who try to fall asleep right away (101).
This is because the pressure of the performance related to falling asleep diminishes, and you are more prone to falling asleep (100101).
Thus, stop worrying about falling asleep right away. Instead, do not be in a rush to fall asleep and give yourself plenty of time to do so.

21. Visualize Your Happy Place

Instead of lying in bed worrying and thinking about stressful things, visualize a place that makes you feel happy and calm.
41 participants suffering from insomnia were able to fall asleep faster after they were instructed to use an "imaginary distraction" (102).
This technique helped them occupy their mind with good thoughts instead of engaging with worries and concerns during the pre-sleep time.
Picturing and concentrating on an environment that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed can take your mind away from the thoughts that keep you up at night.

22. Try Certain Supplements

Supplements can help improve your sleep quality.
They have been proven to encourage sleep either by boosting the production of sleep-promoting hormones or by calming brain activity.
Some of these supplements are:
  • Magnesium: Magnesium helps activate the neurotransmitters responsible for sleep. Deficiency can cause insomnia, while supplements may promote restful sleep. Doses of 200–400 mg per day, taken with food, have been shown to improve sleep (103104).
  • 5 HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan): 5-HTP intermediates the production of serotonin, which has been linked to the regulation of sleep. Doses of 300–500 mg per day, taken either once daily or in divided doses, seem to be effective in treating insomnia (105106).
  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body, but it can also be taken as a supplement to help regulate your sleep. Doses of 0.5–5 mg taken 30 minutes before bed seem to improve sleep quality (107).
  • Theanine: Theanine is an amino acid with sedative properties. Although it has not been shown to induce sleep, it could help with relaxation. Doses of 200 mg per day seem to help (108).
  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): GABA is a compound produced in the brain that inhibits certain transmitters and may help the central nervous system relax. Doses of 250–500 mg and no more than 1,000 mg are recommended (109).

The Bottom Line

Having trouble falling and staying asleep is not only frustrating, but it could also affect your mental and physical health.
Fortunately, many easy and practical methods have been proven to promote quality sleep.
They include a well-balanced diet, making your bedroom comfortable and free of distractions, practicing yoga or meditation, reading and drinking herbal tea.
There are also certain foods and supplements that may help relax your body and mind.
At the end of the day, using some of these techniques can greatly enhance your sleep.
An evidence-based article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.