There is a lot happening in our world today that can contribute to our baseline of stress. Between the events in our country, bored kids at home, work and continued COVID concerns, we are constantly dealing with external factors that can disrupt our sleep patterns and well-being. It is why sleep hygiene is more important than ever to keep your immune system and mental health strong and resilient. Studies have shown that chronic sleeplessness can contribute to a host of conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, decreased immunity, memory loss and more.
Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:
- Fix your biological (sleep) clock. Maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time including weekends. It is important to get up about the same time every day, regardless of what time you went to bed. Do your best to wake up the same time each morning, including days off, holidays and vacations.
- Quiet your space. Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. If noise keeps you awake, try using background sounds such as “white noise” or ear plugs. If light interferes with your sleep, try a sleep mask or blackout curtains.
- Go for comfort. Use a comfortable mattress and pillows. Lighten your bedding layers in the summer months to stay cool.
- Think positive. Avoid going to bed with a negative mind set, such as “If I don’t get enough sleep tonight, how will I ever get through the day tomorrow?”
- Make your bed a sanctuary. Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep and intimate relations. Do not watch television, eat, work, or use cell phones, tablets, or computers in your bedroom.
- Make tomorrow’s to-do list before bedtime. Try to clear your mind before going to bed by writing things down or making a to-do list earlier in the evening. This is helpful if you tend to worry and thing too much in bed at night.
- Create an enjoyable bedtime routine. Establish a regular bedtime and a relaxing routine each night by taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or reading. Try relaxation exercises, meditation, biofeedback, or hypnosis.
- Stop watching the clock. Turn the clock around if you need to, and use only the alarm for waking up. If you can’t get to sleep or wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, try reading or even leaving your bedroom to engage in a relaxing activity in another room.
- Try to minimize naps. If you are extremely sleepy take a nap but limit them to an hour or less and no later than 3pm.
- Watch what you eat. Avoid consuming heavy meals and stimulant foods and beverages (coffee, teas, cola, cocoa, and chocolate) at least 4 hours before bedtime. Limit caffeinated beverages to two per day and avoid them entirely if you have trouble sleeping at night. You may find that light carbohydrate snacks such as mild yogurt or crackers may help you fall asleep easier.
- Mind your substance intake. Avoid alcohol and tobacco for at least 4 hours before bedtime and especially during the night. You may find that you will fall asleep faster and awaken less often.
- Stay active. Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes per day is recommended. Stay away from heavy exercise within 4 hours of bedtime if you have trouble sleeping and opt for walks, yoga or gentle stretching in the evening instead.