Tossing and turning in bed at 2 a.m. trying to fall asleep might seem like an impossible dream, but you have more control over a good night’s sleep than you might think.
Researchers have concluded that “healthy sleep” practices and habits – defined as “sleep hygiene” – can help maximize the hours you spend sleeping, despite disrupted sleep due to insomnia, sleep apnea, jet lag, shift work, or any other sleep disorders.
Sleep hygiene is defined as the recommended behavioral and environmental practices that are intended to promote better quality of sleep. They are habits that are essential for both physical and mental health necessary to promote overall quality of life and full daytime alertness.
Following are some simple guidelines for making the sleep of your dreams a persistent reality:
- Avoid stimulants – alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
- Avoid for 4-6 hours before bedtime
- Although alcohol may aid with sleep onset, within a few hours it acts as a stimulant causing increased awakening and a general decrease in the quality of sleep
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment
- A quiet, dark, and cool environment can promote good sleep
- Your mattress and pillows should be comfortable
- The room temperature should be between 60 and 70 degrees
- Keep the lights off!
- Bright light from the television and phone can make it difficult to fall asleep, resulting in a dysregulated sleep cycle
- Consider using black out curtains, eyeshades, earplugs, or “white noise” machines to promote serenity
- Keep computers, TVs, and other work materials out of the room to strengthen the mental association between your room and sleep
- Establish a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine
- A smooth transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of soothing activities an hour or so before bed should be considered
- Take a bath, read a book, or practice relaxation exercises.
- Avoid stressful, stimulating activities – work, engaging in emotional discussions, and exercising.
- If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up from your bed.
- Maintain a regular sleep routine
- Go to bed at the same time
- Wake up at the same time
- Ideally, your schedule should remain the same (+/- 20 minutes) every night of the week including weekends
- Regular sleep routine sets the body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time at night consistently.
- Nap Early – or Not at All
- Naps decrease the “sleep debt” that is so important for easy sleep onset
- People, who nap, as a part of their day, find falling asleep or staying asleep though the night problematic
- If you must nap, it’s best to keep it short and before 4 p.m.
- Exercise Early and Regularly
- Exercise can assist you falling asleep and sleeping more soundly – if it’s done at the right time and on a consistent basis
- Exercise before 2 p.m. can help initiate and maintain restful sleep.
Incorporating the tips above in your daily routine can majorly improve your ability to achieve optimal restful sleep. However, not all sleep problems are easily treated and may signify the presence of a sleep disorder.
If your sleep problems do not improve or you find it difficult to accommodate healthy sleep habits, you may want to consult our team at NRS|LS for a consultation and treatment plan.
Mihir J. Shah, Psy.D.