It?s well-established that sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. But despite its importance, a troubling percentage of people find themselves regularly deprived of quality sleep and are notably sleepy during the day.
Though there?s a wide range of causes and types of sleeping problems, consensus points to a handful of concrete steps that promote more restful sleep.
For many people, trying to use all these strategies can be too much. However remember that it?s not all-or-nothing; you can start with little changes and work your way up toward healthier sleep habits.
To make these sleep hygiene improvements more approachable, we?ve broken them into four categories:
- Creating a Sleep-Inducing Bedroom
- Making Your Sleep Schedule
- Creating a Pre-Bed time Routine
- If You Can?t Fall Asleep
In each section, you can find specific actions that you can take to make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up well-rested.
Creating a Sleep-Inducing Bedroom
An essential tip to help fall asleep quickly and easily is to make your bedroom a place of comfort and relaxation.
In creating your sleep environment, focus maximizing comfort and minimizing distractions, including with these tips:
- Use a High-Performance Mattress and Pillow: A quality mattress is vital to making sure that you are comfortable enough to relax. It also ensures, along with your pillow, that your spine gets proper support to avoid aches and pains.
- Choose Quality Bedding: Your sheets and blankets play a major role in helping your bed feel inviting. Look for bedding that feels comfortable to the touch and that will help maintain a comfortable temperature during the night.
- Avoid Blue Light : Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths?which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood?seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.
- Cultivate Peace and Quiet: Keeping noise to a minimum is an important part of building a sleep-positive bedroom. If you can?t eliminate nearby sources of noise, consider drowning them out with a fan or white noise machine.
- Find an Agreeable Temperature: You don?t want your bedroom temperature to be a distraction by feeling too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature can vary based on the individual, but most research supports sleeping in a cooler room that is around 65 degrees.
- Introduce Pleasant Aromas: A light scent that you find calming can help ease you into sleep. Essential oils with natural aromas, such as diffusers, can provide a soothing and fresh smell for your bedroom.
Making Your Sleep Schedule
Taking control of your daily schedule is a powerful step toward getting better sleep. To start harnessing your schedule for your benefit, try implementing these strategies:
- Set a Wake-Up Time: It?s close to impossible for your body to get accustomed to a healthy sleep routine if you?re constantly waking up at different times. Pick a wake-up time and stick with it, even on weekends or other days when you would otherwise be tempted to sleep in.
- Budget Time: If you want to make sure that you?re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, then you need to build that time into your schedule. Considering your fixed wake-up time, work backwards and identify a target bedtime.
- Be Careful With Naps: To sleep better at night, it?s important to use caution with naps. If you nap for too long or too late in the day, it can throw off your sleep schedule and make it harder to get to sleep when you want to. The best time to nap is short around 25 minutes.
Creating a Pre-Bed Routine
If you have a hard time falling asleep, it?s natural to think that the problem starts when you lie down in bed. In reality, though, the lead-up to bedtime plays a crucial role in preparing you to fall asleep quickly and effortlessly.
Poor pre-bed habits are a major contributor to insomnia and other sleep problems. Changing these habits can take time, but the effort can pay off by making you more relaxed and ready to fall asleep when bedtime rolls around.
As much as possible, try to create a consistent routine that you follow each night because this helps reinforce healthy habits and signals to mind and body that bedtime is approaching. As part of that routine, incorporate these three tips:
- Wind Down For At Least 30 Minutes: It?s much easier to doze off smoothly if you are at-ease. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music, and relaxation exercises are examples of ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.
- Lower the Lights: Avoiding bright light can help you transition to bedtime and contribute to your body?s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
- Disconnect From Devices: Tablets, cell phones, and laptops can keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down. The light from these devices can also suppress your natural production of melatonin. As much as possible, try to disconnect for 30 minutes or more before going to bed.
If You Can?t Fall Asleep
Whether it?s when you first get into bed or after waking up in the middle of the night, you may find it hard to drift off to sleep. These tips help explain what to do when you can?t sleep:
- Try Relaxation Techniques: Don?t focus on trying to fall asleep; instead, focus on just trying to relax. Controlled breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are examples of relaxation methods that can help ease.
- Don?t Stew in Bed: You want to avoid a connection in your mind between your bed and frustration from sleeplessness. This means that if you?ve spent around 20 minutes in bed without being able to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing in low light. Avoid checking the time during this time. Try to get your mind off of sleep for at least a few minutes before returning to bed.
- Talk With a Doctor: A doctor is in the best position to offer detailed advice for people with serious difficulties sleeping. Talk with your doctor if you find that your sleep problems are worsening, persisting over the long-term, affecting your health and safety (such as from excessive daytime sleepiness), or if they occur alongside other unexplained health problems.