Sleep can be impacted by numerous factors including behavior, environment, diet, and exercise. Below are some sleep hygiene tips that you can use to improve your overall sleep quality, and in turn improve your mental and physical health.
Behaviors to Help Improve Sleep
- Set a regular schedule. Go to bed and wake up around the same time regardless of the day of the week. This helps maintain the body’s sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm.
- Engage in a relaxing pre-sleep routine. Engaging in a routine prior to sleep helps to prepare the mind and body for sleep. About 1 hour before you wish to sleep, begin to shut down/avoid all screens, have a small snack, and take medication if applicable. After that you can engage in soothing activities, like reading, meditating, listening to relaxing music, drinking some herbal tea, or taking a warm bath. Relaxation exercises prior to bed can be a great way to clear your mind, relax the body, and get ready for bed. When you start to feel drowsy, go to bed.
- Ensure your bed/bedroom is used only for sleep or intimacy. It’s important to try to not use your bed/bedroom for activities other than sleep or intimacy that may confuse the mind when it’s time to sleep. It is best to only go to bed when feeling drowsy and avoid eating, using your phone, or watching TV when in bed.
- Limit the time you spend awake in bed. If you are awake in bed for more than 10-15 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Engage in a quiet or dull activity like reading or folding the laundry. Do not watch TV or get on your phone or computer. When you feel drowsy, go to bed again. Similarly, if you wake up in the night and do not go back to sleep in 10-15 minutes do the same. You want to limit the amount of time you spend in bed awake as much as possible.
- Avoid naps! Only nap if necessary to retain alertness. If you are tired during the day, you can take a nap but no longer than 45 minutes, and not later than 3:00 pm. Sometimes 10 minutes may be all you need to feel alter and refreshed during the day.
Creating a Sleep Environment
- Have a dark bedroom. Avoid lights including lights from electronics etc. Light can disrupt sleep.
- Set cool temperature. Set a cool or comfortable temperature in your sleep space. Uncomfortably warm bedrooms disrupt sleep.
- Avoid/minimize loud noises. Use ear plugs, a fan, or “white noise” machines to minimize loud noises.
- Have a bedroom free of potential allergens. Allergens can disrupt sleep because of sneezing, sniffling, and coughing.
Diet and Sleep
- Avoid caffeine after 12pm. A reasonable daily amount of caffeine is 1-2 cups of coffee. Chocolate, some teas, and coffee contain caffeine.
- Avoid alcohol 3-5 hours before sleep. Alcohol may help sleep onset, but the resulting sleep will be fragmented and poor quality.
- Avoid nicotine prior to sleep. Withdrawal symptoms can disrupt sleep.
- Eat a light carbohydrate snack prior to sleep. Hunger can disrupt sleep, having a small snack like a glass or milk/almond milk and/or a small banana can help. It is best to avoid sugar and caffeine and avoid large meals at least 2 hours prior to sleep.
Exercise and Sleep
- Exercise regularly. The body likes routine and regular exercise promotes a regular sleep/wake schedule.
- Avoid strenuous exercise 3-5 hours before sleep. During sleep, the body temperature lowers, but exercise raises the body temperature. If you exercise intensely prior to sleep, this increased body temperature confuses the body with a regular sleep schedule.
For more sleep hygiene tips and tools check out our blog post about Relaxation Exercises for Healthy Sleep.