The topic of good sleep hygiene often comes up with clients in my sessions. We often see disruption in sleep patterns when we experience things such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain and migraines. Sleep helps us maintain a healthy immune system, balance hormones, healthy muscles and heart rates. So when we are sleep deprived, our energy levels can be low, we may feel the need to eat more and our immune systems may be weakened, among other things. Below are some great ways to improve your chances for a restful nights sleep.
The Definitive Guide to the Best Sleep of Your Life
By Erika Long
Waking up well-rested can make a huge difference in our mood and mental state. However, a good night’s rest can be an elusive goal for some. The habits we set for ourselves and how we maintain our sleeping environment play a significant role when it comes to sleep quality. If getting consistently good rest is a struggle, refer to this guide for effective tips on how to get the best sleep of your life.
1. Do: Put Yourself on a Sleep Schedule
Although it can be hard maintain the same bedtime every night, studies have shown that going to sleep at the same time consistently helps to put the body in a rhythm. Even on weekends and when traveling, we can benefit from honoring a schedule. Try to maintain the same bedtime within 30 minutes from night to night for the best results. Even one late night a week can make it harder to get to sleep.
2. Don’t: Drink Caffeine or Alcohol Close to Bedtime
Caffeine is a stimulant which is great when we want to stay awake, but not so good before bed so it’s best to switch to decaf at least 5-6 hours before bedtime. Also, it’s common for people to drink alcohol in the evening and it can seem to induce a drowsy feeling. However, though alcohol can make us sleepy, it can also prevent normal circadian rhythms. It’s not usually a problem to have one drink in the evening but avoid overindulging close to bedtime.
3. Do: Follow A Sleep Friendly Diet
The foods that we eat can play a large role in sleep quality. Chances are, our diet may not be promoting good sleep patterns. The good news is that changing our diet is pretty simple. It’s best to avoid spicy foods just before going to bed. However, foods that are sources of calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan are all going to promote sleep. Dairy and nuts are good sources of the first two nutrients while tryptophan is found in most meats as well as chickpeas. One other thing to avoid late at night is ice cream before bed. Though undeniably delicious, ice cream is notorious for giving heart burn in the middle of the night, so it’s best to have it earlier than later in the evening.
4. Don’t: Watch Electronics an Hour before Bed
Although we often enjoy watching some television or playing on our phones before heading to bed, this habit disrupts our sleeping patterns. The blue light that comes from electronic devices actually tricks our brains into thinking that it’s daytime. Though not impossible, it is harder to turn off our brains if we’ve been using electronics thus it’s best practice to avoid any electronics as well as bright lights about 60 minutes before going to bed.
5. Do: Avoid Spending Time in Bed During the Day
Most people find their bed to be one of the most comfortable spots in the home. Although it’s often fun to lounge in bed, we might actually be preventing our body from getting into the habit of recognizing the bed as a place for relaxation. If we relegate the bed for only sleep and intimacy, it’s more likely that our brains will associate the practice of getting into bed as a time to unwind. Also, when we wake up in the morning, get out of bed quickly rather than lounge around. Again, it’s all about training the brain to understand the role of our bed.
6. Don’t: Be Afraid to Get Help
Although it can be hard to recognize and admit that we may need to use a sleep aid, it’s better to take a natural supplement to help fall asleep than to suffer with insomnia. Consider trying magnesium, melatonin or valerian to promote sleep.
7. Do: Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
We all have different needs when it comes to sleep. Some sleep better in a cold room that’s completely dark while others find they like having a sound machine that plays white noise or maybe need a certain type of pillow. Regardless of what it is, learn what you need in your environment to encourage healthy sleep patterns.
8. Don’t: Lie in Bed Awake
When we can’t fall to sleep within 15-30 minutes, don’t stay in bed trying to force it. Instead, get out of bed and go read a book (the paper kind not electronic). When we start to feel tired, head back to bed and try again. This will help exhaust the mind.
9. Do: Keep a Notebook by the Bed
Many people find that they are plagued with anxiety that keeps them awake at night. Journaling our thoughts and feelings is a way to get them off our hearts and minds. By writing them down, we are telling ourselves to forget that problem or task and that it can wait until the the morning. Many people who find that they become anxious in the evening have said that this method works well for them.
10. Don’t: Exercise Close to Bedtime
The evening is often a good time for exercise since it tends to be less busy. However, any activity that gets the heart racing also releases adrenaline and cortisol, stress hormones, that keep us alert and awake. Try to avoid any strenuous physical activity 2-3 hours before bedtime. A smart evening activity is meditation or yoga as they help the body get grounded and settle down for the night.
This guide of the essential do’s and don’ts for getting the best sleep of your life helps create effective sleep habits. Thus, when stress, travel or injury disrupts our sleep, we know what to do to reset our sleep pattern and prevent insomnia from lingering. Employing these tips can support us in having restful sleep so we wake up rejuvenated and ready for our day.