Do you find yourself tossing and turning in bed for hours before finally falling asleep? Do you wake up multiple times throughout the night for no reason? Do you get up in the morning feeling less than well-rested? Small adjustments to your daily and nightly habits can make remarkable differences in your sleep, causing these problems to dissipate over time. Such sleep habits can collectively be referred to as “sleep hygiene,” and here are some suggestions to improve yours!
- Avoid napping, as it makes falling asleep at night harder. If you feel that you must nap to make it through your day, do so earlier as opposed to later, and limit your nap to 30 minutes.
- Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. This helps your body and mind associate your bed with sleep rather than other activities. Then, when you get in bed at night, it sends the signal to your brain that it is time to fall asleep.
- Cut off screen time an hour before bed. The artificial blue light emitted from electronic devices suppresses the release of melatonin, the body’s sleep-inducing hormone, and thus messes with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Many devices now have a night-shift mode, in which you can set your device to emit a warmer light at a certain time each night. Making use of this is helpful.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine within 6 hours of bedtime.
- Exercise, but not right before bed! Exercise is extremely helpful for sleep except for when it is done within a couple hours of bedtime. The adrenaline released from working out makes it difficult to wind down.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and morning, including weekends and days off as much as possible. Your sleep-wake cycle relies on consistency.
- Establish a bedtime routine. This could involve meditating, taking a bath, reading a relaxing book, or listening to soothing music before bed. It could also involve small things, such as laying out your clothes for the next day or putting on your favorite-scented lotion. Participating in these activities serves to separate sleep time from the more stressful or exciting activities of your day. Over time, these activities will become associated with bedtime, and doing them will cue your brain and body that it is time for sleep.
- Ensure your bedtime environment is conducive to sleep. This involves creating a dark, quiet, cool sleeping area. If there is uncontrollable noise, consider getting a sound machine, fan, or noise-cancelling headphones, or using comfortable ear plugs.
- Avoid using sleep medication when possible. They can create a dependency and worsen sleep problems over time.
Some of these habits may not be achievable for you right now, but sleep hygiene does not have to be perfected in order to be improved. Focus on the adjustments that are doable for you, and within weeks you should see improvements in the quality and quantity of your sleep.