We love it, we hate it. It can be a source of rest, but also a source of stress. When 50-70 million people in the United States suffer from a diagnosable sleep disorder, it’s clear that it is a prevalent issue. It affects our physical, mental, and emotional health.
Just like you brush your teeth daily and shower frequently to maintain “good hygiene,” have you ever thought about your sleep hygiene? Sleep hygiene includes the habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.
Here are some tips and tricks to helping improve your sleep hygiene.
- Have a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
- Exercise earlier in the day. Try to exercise 30 minutes daily, but not 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. The stimulating effects of stimulants (coffee, tea, chocolate, nicotine) can last up to 8 hours.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Alcohol tends to keep you in the lighter stages of sleep.
- Avoid large meals and drinks before bed. Give your body time to digest food/drinks before going to sleep.
- Try to avoid medicines that interfere with sleep, if possible.
- Don’t take naps after 3 pm and limit naps to under an hour.
- Relax before bed. Read, meditate, listen to music or a book, and even take a hot bath.
- No screen time an hour before bed. The blue light and stimulation from a screen can actually inhibit your ability to fall asleep.
- Have a good sleep environment. Limit computers/TVS in the room, bright lights, and any loud or distracting noises. Keeping the temperature cool can help, too.
- Don’t lie awake in bed. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety around not sleeping can worsen the issue.
- Limit the activities you do in your bed. Don’t eat, relax, or work from your bed. This will cause your brain to associate unhelpful activities (i.e. work, stress) with sleep.
- Have enough sunlight exposure. Spending 30 minutes outside per day can help improve your sleep. (And don’t forget to wear sunscreen when outside!)
This can feel like a lot to take on all at once! So just try one thing at a time and find a routine that works for you. And if you are still struggling with sleep, talk to your doctor.
About the author, Mackenzie Dajani:
Mackenzie is a Resident in Counseling with an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marymount University and a B.A. in Psychology, providing counseling services at our Alexandria location. She also holds a Religious Studies degree from The College of William & Mary.
Mackenzie has completed internships working with diverse individuals, couples, and families. She has completed the majority of her residency in an inpatient behavioral health hospital. She has clinical experience and a particular interest in working with adults, couples, anxiety, depression, relationship distress, grief, and motivation. Mackenzie offers Christian counseling, as well.
Mackenzie provides a person-centered and holistic approach, utilizing strength-based, cognitive-behavioral, and Gestalt interventions. As a certified yoga instructor, Mackenzie values mindfulness and the mind-body connection.