Want to get some shut-eye at night, wake up refreshed in the mornings, and feel awake during the day?
Good sleep habits to the rescue! Sleep habits, or as doctors call them, “sleep hygiene tips,” can help you rest at night so you feel awake during the day. Sleep hygiene is a non-medication how-to method that people use to get a good night’s sleep. If you’re having problems nodding off at night, here are some habits that can improve your snooze:
Use a relaxing routine to get you to bed. Allow yourself to unwind before falling asleep. Create a bedtime ritual to help mark that transition between wakefulness and sleep. Muscle relaxation exercises, meditating, deep breathing, soothing music, and imagery can be helpful for some. Others find a hot bath and a good book in bed work just fine. Find what works for you.
Develop regular sleep habits. Keep your inner clock running smoothly by going to bed and waking up on a schedule; if you give your body directions, it often catches on and good sleep follows. Most people need between six and ten hours/night. Figure out how much is right for you. This means sleeping enough to feel refreshed the following day, but not spending more time in one’s pajamas than needed. Avoid staying in bed in the mornings to catch up on sleep.
Keep a regular daytime schedule. Keep regular times for meals, medications, chores, and other activities. This helps the inner clock run better, which helps regulate sleep.
Don’t force yourself to sleep. If you’ve been tossing and turning for more than thirty minutes, get up and do something else, something soothing. Take a bath. Drink a warm glass of milk. Listen to calming music. Don’t exercise, watch an action movie, or do something that will wake you up further. If you find yourself feeling sleepy, climb back into bed.
Don’t eat a big dinner right before bedtime. A full, digesting stomach can keep you awake. Eat something small if you’re hungry.
Avoid stimulants and alcohol within six hours of bedtime. Caffeine and other stimulants can keep you awake if taken too late. Alcohol can help you fall asleep but will wake you up a couple hours later. Some doctors recommend avoiding cigarettes, tobacco products, and vaping just before bedtime, as they can also cause insomnia.
Don’t sleep during the day. Napping causes insomnia, and insomnia causes napping. It’s a vicious circle. Try not to feed it. If a nap is necessary, keep it as occasional as possible and shorter than an hour, and avoid napping after 3pm.
Exercise daily but not before bedtime. Get plenty of exercise, but never exercise right before bedtime. The adrenalin can keep you up.
Keep the bedroom just right. Make sure your bed is comfortable and that the bedroom is dark & at the right temperature. If you need background noise, consider turning on a fan or downloading an app on your phone that creates ambient noises. What if your partner snores and you need silence? Think about wearing earplugs.
Avoid stimulating activities prior to bedtime. Examples of stimulating activities include reviewing finances or discussing stressful issues with a partner right before bedtime. Don’t stress yourself out right before hitting the sheets.
Use the bed for sex and sleep only. Don’t associate your bedroom with awake activities like writing, eating, talking on the phone, playing cards, watching TV, playing video games, or getting work done.
Leave your worries behind. If you find yourself stressed out over worries when you climb into bed, consider writing a to-do list before climbing under the covers. Write the list, take a deep breath, promise yourself you’ll pick it up in the morning, then let it go. Make that part of your nighttime ritual. Don’t take your woes to bed with you.
Don’t watch the clock. Sometimes people can’t sleep because they worry about not sleeping and its potential consequences. This keeps them up at night. Remember that occasional insomnia is normal. If you find you fret excessively about restless nights, consider seeing a therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy can nip insomnia in the bud, especially for people who worry about sleep.
Are you practicing sleep hygiene and still having problems with insomnia? It’s possible something else is driving your sleep problem. It could be a an underlying issue, like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or chronic pain, or a mental health issue like sleepwalking, nightmares, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, or stress-related insomnia. Talk to your doctor about further evaluation and recommendations.