Falling asleep may seem like an impossible dream when you’re awake at 3 a.m., but good sleep is more under your control than you might think. Improving your sleep hygiene can make the difference between restlessness and restful slumber. Here are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene:
- Keep a Regular Sleep Cycle. Make a habit of going to bed at the same time every night (within 15 minutes) and waking up about the same time each morning (even weekends). You also might consider honoring your circadian rhythms by eating your dinner at approximately the same time each night as well. Many sleep experts note that one should not eat a big meal before falling asleep as this will interfere with one’s sleep cycles (REM).
- Create an Ideal Sleep Ambience! Create a sleep-friendly environment where bright lights, noise, and all other sensory distractions are minimized, if not completely eliminated. Additionally, invest in a good bed and bedding. For a place in which people spend one-third of their lives, consider the best options to promote quality sleep. Remember, there is a reason why the exclusive hotels around the world furnish their ﬁrst-class beds with Italian or Egyptian cotton sheets, down pillows, and comforters. Start with a good mattress, but don’t end there. Continue with a superior mattress pad, the highest quality sheets (higher thread counts equals a softness that lulls you into la-la land), and goose down pillows.
- Get Out and Exercise! Daily cardiovascular exercise such as walking, swimming, jogging, or cycling acts to reset one’s physiology for optimal balance by ﬂushing out stress hormones (e.g., cortisol, aldosterone, and vasopressin) produced in the course of a hectic day. The bottom line is that exercise, speciﬁcally cardiovascular exercise, is essential for quality sleep. Consider a daily 20-30 minute walk before dinner.
- Decrease Your Caffeine Consumption. Caffeine is a drug, a stimulant. This is a poor choice of beverages to consume if you have problems sleeping. Consider avoiding drinking any beverages with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas, even chocolate) after 6:00 p.m. as the effects of caffeine on the nervous system promote a stress response (arousal) rather than a relaxation effect (sleep). Herbal teas are a great alternative, as is ﬁltered water.
- Throw Out Your TV! Avoid watching television right before you go to bed. Instead, try reading to induce a sense of drowsiness. If your television is in your bedroom, move it out. If your children have a TV in their bedroom, do the same. If you cannot bear to throw out your television, create healthy boundaries with your TV habits.
- Avoid Alcohol and Nicotine. Constituents found in both alcohol and nicotine excite the central nervous system, thus causing a disturbance in brain chemistry required for a good night’s sleep (by the way, milk contains the neuropeptide tryptophan which is known to help induce sleep).
- Clear Your Late Night Mind: Make a to-do list right before you go to bed to cleanse your mind of racing thoughts. Keep the pad of paper by your bed in the event you think of more things as your head hits the pillow. By placing items and responsibilities on paper you won’t be as inclined to obsess about them during coveted sleep hours.
- Your Bed is For Sleeping. In this 24/7 society, beds have become second home ofﬁces (e.g., balancing checkbooks, grading papers, reviewing taxes, etc.) Beds have also become recliners for watching TV and even a second dinner table. Good sleeping requires healthy boundaries. In this case, remove all non-sleep activities from your bedroom. Keep your bed as a vehicle for sleep and leave it at that.
Seaward, B. (2008). A good night’s sleep. Retrieved from https://www.welcoa.org/resources/good-nights-sleep-stress-insomnia-work-productivity/