If you are one of the many people who experience sleep difficulties--trouble falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night, or waking up very early and not being able to fall back asleep--then read through the 10 tips below to learn how to develop habits to help improve your sleep.
1. Make Your Bedroom a Comfortable Sleep Environment
Having a dark, quiet, and comfortable environment is tremendously important for sleep. Evaluate your bedroom and make any necessary adjustments. Some options to consider are black out shades, ear plugs, fan, mattress topper, or new pillows.
2. Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Set an alarm to make sure that you don’t sleep in for more than an hour on your days off from school or work.
3. Do Not Take Naps
It is often tempting to try to “catch up” on missed sleep by taking a nap, but sleeping during the day will only further disrupt your attempts to sleep at night.
4. Avoid Electronic Screens for AT LEAST 1 Hour Before Bed
Electronic devices, such as televisions, cell phones, tablets, and computers, emit a type of light that stimulates alertness in your brain and prevents the brain from shutting down in preparation for sleep. Many people are resistant to following this tip, due to the extensive role that these electronic devices play in many of our lives today; however, if you are having sleep difficulties, then you may need to consider the costs of continuing to prioritize convenience, entertainment, or habit over a good night’s sleep.
5. Don’t Keep Tossing and Turning
If you haven’t fallen asleep after being in bed for 20-30 minutes, then get out of bed and do something relaxing (e.g., light reading, listening to soothing music, coloring or drawing). Remember to avoid any electronic screens (see tip #4). After about 15 minutes, return to bed. If you still haven’t fallen asleep after 20-30 minutes, get out of bed again and repeat this routine as many times as necessary. This strategy may seem counterintuitive at first, but it is essential for training our brain to associate bed with sleep rather than restlessness.
6. Use Your Bed for Sleep Only
Reserve your bed for sleep and sexual intimacy only. It is important not to do other activities (such as reading, watching television, or working) in bed, because then our brains become conditioned to associate bed with mental activity rather than rest. The goal is to recondition our brains to associate being in bed with being asleep.
7. Avoid Caffeine
If you have been having trouble sleeping, you may be depending on caffeinated drinks for a little more energy during the day. Unfortunately, having caffeine will contribute to the cycle of sleep difficulties. While it would be best to avoid caffeine altogether, at the very least commit to not having any caffeine past noon.
8. Avoid Alcohol
Many people may be confused to see this on the list because alcohol typically increases drowsiness; however, alcohol greatly interferes with the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling tired the next day.
Exercising during the day uses up energy and helps to make your body feel tired later in the day, making it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Additionally, if your sleep difficulties are related to stress, anxiety or depression, then exercise will be especially beneficial for you due to the fact that exercise has been shown to decrease these distressing emotions.
10. Establish a Nightly Bedtime Routine
Having a nightly bedtime routine will teach your brain when it is time to go to sleep. In addition to going to bed around the same time each night, your routine may include soothing activities such as drinking herbal tea or taking a bath, washing your face and brushing your teeth, and a relaxation exercise such as visualizing a peaceful scene or mindful breathing.