As we celebrate the holidays and prepare to enter a new decade, there’s no better opportunity to make a fresh commitment to sleep. At Thrive we are always talking about the value of establishing a great nighttime routine — if you don’t already have one. That includes keeping a regular bedtime, avoiding caffeine late in the day and keeping the bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. That said, we talked to a panel of leading experts in the field of sleep for their out-of-the-box tips to help you make 2020 the year of better zzz’s. Read on for their advice.

1. Watch something funny

“I always make sure the last hour before bed is for relaxing, calming activities. That often means sitting on the couch and watching a comedy TV show we’ve recorded. Our brain usually needs 30 to 60 minutes to wind down before it’s ready for bed, so that helps me to avoid getting into bed while my mind is still active.” 

—Philip R. Gehrman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania

2. Stick to a routine

Science shows that going to bed (and waking up) at more or less the same time — including weekends — will lead to better, consistent shut-eye, because your brain will recognize when it’s time to sleep. You might want to try adding wind-down steps in advance of your bedtime.”

— Shelly Ibach, President and CEO of Sleep Number; Sleep Editor-at-Large, Thrive Global

3. Take a hot shower

“My favorite science-backed sleep tip is to take a hot shower or a bath immediately prior to bedtime because the sudden drop in body temperature is a physiological signal for sleep. Plus, baths and hot showers are relaxing, and they’re breaks from screen time too!”  

—Katherine Duggan, Ph.D., assistant professor of social and health psychology at North Dakota State University, specializing in sleep and health 

4. Keep a notebook by your bed

“If I wake up and have trouble falling asleep, or falling back to sleep if I’ve woken up, it is usually due to thinking too much about all the work I have to do! One strategy I use to deal with these invasive thoughts: I keep a small notebook and pen on my bedside table. If I suddenly remember something I need to do, I can write it down and stop worrying about forgetting it and hopefully fall asleep.” 

—Kristen Knutson, Ph.D., associate professor at the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University

5. Try a relaxing form of yoga

“I recommend  a practice called Yoga Nidra that involves the combination of focused breathing, body scanning, visual imagery, mindfulness and gratitude. It can help to induce a state of deep rest and relaxation. And of course, if you allow yourself to truly relax after a long and busy day, you are more likely to fall asleep than if you stay up stressing.” 

—Fiona Barwick, Ph.D., director of the Sleep & Circadian Health Clinic at Stanford University 

6. Keep a sleep-inducing plant in the bedroom

“Plants can be things of beauty and can soothe our emotions — they can relax us and thus help us sleep. There is increasing evidence that the fragrances of plants such as jasmine and lavender can specifically aid sleep, which is why these are popular essential oils pre-bedtime. Other plants worth trying include chrysanthemum, rose, and valerian. You can keep the plants in your room and just remember to expose them to sunlight during the day when you can. Also, the fragrances from these plants are captured in the form of herbal essences, so those can be used instead if you’d prefer.” 

—Monique Simmonds, Ph.D., deputy director of science at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens and author of Kew: The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants

7. Develop a pre-sleep gratitude practice

“Studies show that practicing gratitude, particularly at bedtime, improves quality of sleep. Here’s what you might do: Keep a notebook and a pen on your bedside table. Every night before going to sleep, write down three things you’ve been grateful for or have appreciated that day. It is particularly helpful to think about small things you’ve appreciated or been grateful for, such as someone holding the door open for you when you had your hands full.” 

—Inna Khazan, Ph.D., health and performance psychologist, faculty member at Harvard Medical School specializing in sleep, and author of Biofeedback and Mindfulness in Everyday Life

8. Pay attention to your internal thermostat

“In order to make sure I get to bed on time, I pay attention to my body’s temperature. Every night when it is time to fall asleep, our body lowers its temperature by two to three degrees Fahrenheit. To lose that excess heat, our feet and hands act as radiators to dispense heat from the body out to the environment around us. This process happens every night and it is our body’s way of telling us it is time to go to bed. I often use this signal — feeling extra heat in my hands and feet — as a reminder to stop what I’m doing and call it a day.”  

—Eti Ben Simon, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science 

9. Make the bed your happy place

“My sleep tip is simple. I don’t treat the situation of being in bed while awake as a problem that needs to be solved, treated or fixed. Learning to not only accept, but enjoy the state of being in bed makes most sleep problems instantly disappear. I don’t judge my sleep by how quickly I become unconscious. It’s about simply focusing on rest, an action we have total control over, and less on how long it takes to fall asleep.” 

—Dr. Christopher Winter, M.D., Director of the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center, author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It


  • Elaine Lipworth

    Senior Content Writer at Thrive Global

    Elaine Lipworth is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster who has reported for a variety of BBC shows  and other networks. She has written about film, lifestyle, psychology and health for newspapers and magazines around the globe. Publications she’s contributed to range from The Guardian, The Times and You Magazine, to The Four Seasons Hotel Magazine,  Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar,  Women’s Weekly and Sunday Life (Australia). She has also written regularly for film companies including Fox, Disney and Lionsgate. Recently, Elaine taught journalism as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University. Born and raised in the UK, Elaine is married with two daughters and lives in Los Angeles.