Sleeping Like a Baby: 7 Expert Tips for a Restful Night’s Sleep

Sleeping Like a Baby: 7 Expert Tips for a Restful Night’s Sleep

It can take some serious self-discipline to make yourself go to bed early. Many people feel like the evenings are their only “me” time. For this reason, it’s easy to stay up late, missing out on precious hours of rest. 

You may find it hard to shut your brain off when your head finally hits the pillow, leading to hours of tossing and turning before finally settling in. 

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that most Americans report feeling tired throughout the week,1 even after getting a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. If you are dragging through the week, rest assured you’re not alone.

Sleep is essential for overall well-being, so it is super important that you get adequate rest at night. 

If you’re not resting well, figure out why and then take steps to change. This article will explain how to achieve high-quality, restorative sleep, including scientifically proven methods and emerging trends. 

The Science of Sleep

To understand the importance of restful sleep, it helps first to understand the sleep cycle and how sleep affects your overall health. 

The Sleep Cycle

While you sleep, you go through different sleep stages.2 There are 4 different stages of sleep: the first 3 stages are considered non-REM sleep, and the fourth stage is REM sleep. 

  • Stage 1 is when your body transitions from wakefulness into sleep.
  • Stage 2 is the first stage of lighter sleep.
  • Stage 3 is considered deep sleep. At this point, your brain activity slows. 
  • Stage 4 is REM sleep. REM stands for “rapid eye movement”. This means your eyes are moving around behind your eyelids during this stage. Your body remains still, but your brain activity increases. 

Each stage of sleep is unique and important in its own way. For this reason, it is crucial that you cycle through all stages of sleep during the night. When sleep gets interrupted, or you’re not resting for long enough, you may lose out on specific stages of sleep. 

How Sleep Affects Mental Health

Sleep is essential for your mental health.3 Adequate sleep helps with mood regulation, cognitive function, and productivity. 

While you’re sleeping, your brain processes new information and forms memories. This helps to clear the way for you to learn more in the following days. 

Debunking Sleep Myths

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding sleep. Some common sleep myths are listed below. 

Myth #1: “More Sleep is Always Better”

Some people believe that more sleep is always better than less sleep. This is actually not true. Although it is important to get a full night of sleep, the exact amount of sleep you get matters less than getting good quality sleep.4 

You may stay asleep for 7 to 8 hours, but if you’re not falling into a deep enough state of sleep or are not going through all the sleep cycles, you will still wake up feeling tired. 

Also, it is possible to sleep too much. It isn’t typically necessary for you to need more than 9 hours of sleep to feel rested.5 

Myth #2: “You Can Catch Up on Lost Sleep”

Sleep debt occurs when you do not get adequate sleep over multiple days. Over time, the amount of sleep lost adds up.6 Some people believe you can “repay” your sleep debt or catch up on lost sleep, while some researchers argue this isn’t the case. 

Research states that while you can make up for some lost sleep, you can never truly catch up. It can take up to 4 days7 to make up for one hour of lost sleep. 

So, if you’re losing out on sleep consistently or losing many hours at a time, it would take a very long time to truly make up for your lost sleep. Simply taking one nap or sleeping extra on the weekends will not be enough. 

Understanding Sleep Quality

There is more to restorative sleep than just logging a certain amount of hours. Ensuring that you’re getting high-quality sleep is essential as well. 

What is Good Quality Sleep?

If you sleep for 8 hours and still wake up feeling tired, then you’re probably getting poor-quality sleep. 

Sleep quality has four categories8

  1. Sleep efficiency is the ratio between the amount of time you’re asleep and the amount of time you spend lying in bed.
  2. Sleep latency is the time it takes to transition fully from awake to asleep.
  3. Sleep duration is the amount of time that you’re asleep.
  4. Wake after sleep onset is a measure of the time you spend awake after you’ve initially fallen asleep but before you’re fully awake for the day, such as when you wake up in the middle of the night. 

Factors Affecting Sleep Quality

Many different factors can influence sleep quality.

  • Stress. If you’re dealing with high stress levels, it may be difficult for you to get quality sleep. Many people with poorly managed stress wake at night with stressful thoughts and have a hard time falling back asleep. 
  • Environment. If you’re not sleeping in a quiet, dark area, your sleep may be interrupted by noises or bright lights. 
  • Diet. Your diet can even influence your sleep quality. If your diet is low in fiber and high in saturated fat, then you may not be getting enough deep sleep.9 
  • Exercise. Exercising regularly can improve your quality of sleep.10 

The Foundation of Sleep: Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene involves habits and practices that help to encourage high-quality sleep on a regular basis.11 Practicing good sleep hygiene can ensure that you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. 

Tips for Sleep Hygiene

To practice good sleep hygiene, try the following: 

  1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed around the same time each night. 
  2. Bedroom environment. Make sure your bedroom is set up to be conducive to good sleep by ensuring that it is dark and quiet. 
  3. Limit exposure to screens. The blue light from screens can make it harder for you to fall asleep. It is best to sleep with your phone in another room and avoid looking at screens right before bed. 
  4. Consider lifestyle choices. Caffeine and alcohol consumption can interfere with sleep. Pay attention to how often you consume these substances since they may be causing sleep issues.

Innovative Approaches to Sleep

Modern approaches to sleep, such as sleep apps and gadgets, can sometimes be helpful for getting adequate rest. 

Sleep apps such as Calm and Headspace can offer guided meditations to help you quiet your mind before it’s time to sleep. 

Sleep wearables like the Oura Ring track your sleep patterns to give you data on how well you’re sleeping and help you see how your sleep changes as you alter your routine. 

Advanced Sleep Techniques

If you’ve tried taking your own steps to improve your sleep and they don’t work, you may need to consult a professional. The following are some advanced sleep techniques:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi)

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) is a psychological approach to treating insomnia.12 The exact methods used will vary based on your unique needs. In general, CBTi aims to help with your bed being a cue for sleep and weakening it as a cue for wakefulness. 

This could mean that you avoid lying awake and reading before falling asleep, or if you wake up with racing thoughts, you may be encouraged to get up and sit in a different area until your mind is calm again. 

Professional Help with Sleep

Seeing a sleep specialist for medical help with sleep is sometimes needed. 

Your doctor may prescribe you sleep medications if needed. Sleep medications can be helpful as a last resort, but they come with some downsides, such as side effects and developing a tolerance or dependence. 


Sleep is essential for your overall health. For this reason, keeping track of your sleep quantity and quality is important. 

Restorative sleep comes down to more than just the amount of time you’re sleeping. High-quality sleep happens when you stay asleep without interruption and cycle through all four sleep stages. 

Your sleep quality can be influenced by various factors, including your environment and lifestyle. If you’re having trouble with sleep, you’ll need to take steps to improve it to support your overall health and well-being. When needed, professional help can be an effective option in supporting sleep. 


  1. Infographic: Americans Are Tired Most Of The Week. Statista Infographics.
  2. ‌National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How Sleep Works – Sleep Phases and Stages | NHLBI, NIH. Published March 24, 2022.
  3. ‌National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency – How Sleep Affects Your Health | NHLBI, NIH. Published June 15, 2022.
  4. ‌CDC. Sleep for good health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 19, 2022.
  5. Oversleeping: Bad for Your Health?
  6. Sleep Debt | NIOSH | CDC. Published June 28, 2021.
  7. ‌Kitamura S, Katayose Y, Nakazaki K, et al. Estimating individual optimal sleep duration and potential sleep debt. Scientific Reports. 2016;6(1).
  8. Nelson KL, Davis JE, Corbett CF. Sleep quality: An evolutionary concept analysis. Nursing Forum. 2021;57(1).
  9. The Link Between Nutrition and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. Published November 12, 2020.
  10. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Exercising for Better Sleep. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Published 2019.
  11. Alanazi EM, Alanazi AMM, Albuhairy AH, et al. Sleep Hygiene Practices and Its Impact on Mental Health and Functional Performance Among Adults in Tabuk City: A Cross-Sectional Study. Cureus. 2023;15(3).
  12. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI).
Written By
Sophia Deschler RN, BSN

Sophia Deschler is a Registered Nurse and professional medical and health writer based in Northeast Florida. She is a contributing author for multiple health and wellness websites such as, and many others She is a busy mother of two and long distance runner committed to educating others about overall health and wellness.

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