Do you spend the night tossing and turning? Do you groan when your alarm clock goes off in the morning? Are you sluggish at work? Has the command, “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had coffee” crossed your lips?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep every night for adults, and many of us are not getting it. Improving sleep hygiene—habits associated with quality sleep—is an essential addition to your to-do list. After all, sleep is important for nearly every facet of your life—you literally can’t function without it—so it’s time to start paying attention to your body’s needs. Here are 10 tips for improving your sleep hygiene and getting better sleep tonight:
1. Stay on a consistent sleep schedule.
You may be tempted to sleep in on weekends and catch up on the rest you’ve missed during your busy week; you're finally getting a good night's sleep, after all. Your bed probably feels super comfy. But if you stay on a sleep schedule—go to bed and wake up at the same time every day—you’ll have more restful and better quality sleep. You may not be able to control the exact time you go to bed every night (you have obligations and commitments, after all), but do your best to make bedtime and wakeup as consistent as possible to improve your sleep patterns.
2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink.
Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, meaning they will keep you wired. Cut the coffee, soda, and cigarette by early afternoon. Some people are even sensitive to the caffeine in chocolate, so you may want to avoid the desserts as well. And while alcohol may make you drowsy, it will negatively affect your sleep quality, causing poor sleep, so avoid drinking too much a couple hours before bedtime.
You should also try to avoid eating or drinking right before bed in general. Eating a big meal too close to sleeping will make it difficult to fall asleep, because your body will need to digest your food. Drinking too much of anything before bed can cause sleep problems for the obvious reason: you’ll wake up needing to use the bathroom and may have troubling falling asleep again.
3. Create a peaceful bedroom environment conducive to restful sleep.
Keep your bedroom dark and cool, optimally between 60-75 degrees. Also make sure you have a comfortable mattress and bedding and regularly wash and replace pillows. Dust mite buildup can lead to a host of problems, including triggering allergies that could interfere with your sleep. Wash your pillows every few months, and replace them at least every couple years. Clean your other bedding, including your comforter and duvet, regularly as well.
People who exercise routinely tend to sleep better than those who don’t. It doesn’t take much: even just 10 minutes of moderately rigorous exercise can make a difference. Just make sure you finish your exercise at least two hours before bed. Otherwise, your workout routine could interfere with your bedtime.
5. Work on stress.
Thinking about the problems that are worrying you can keep you up at night. Try to relax when it’s time for bed. Meditation and yoga may help your body wind down. Other relaxation techniques to try including repeatedly counting to 10 in your mind or tensing and relaxing your muscle groups one at a time. You could also try jotting down your thoughts and fears, which can help you clear your mind and bring some closure to the day.
6. Power down.
Bright lights from your gadgets and devices will stimulate your brain and keep you wide awake. Turn off cell phones, laptops, TVs, tablets, and other devices with back lights at least one hour before you want to fall asleep. That includes your e-reader; while reading may make you tired, the bright light on the screen will do the opposite.
7. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex.
That way, you’ll associate it with sleeping. If you use your bed for other tasks such as reading or work, your body won’t recognize that bed signifies bedtime.
8. Find the right scent.
Some scents, such as lavender, are associated with better sleep quality. Lavender can help you relax and induce feelings of calmness. While it’s not going to make you fall asleep instantly, it could get you in the right state of mind, so your body is ready to wind down.
9. Take a bath.
Your body temperature regulates circadian rhythm and drops when it’s time for you to go to sleep. When you step out of the tub, you’ll experience a rapid drop in temperature that alerts your body that it’s time for falling asleep. A shower may help, too. Just make sure to finish up at least one and a half hours before you go to bed; that’s around when your body temperature begins to drop in anticipation for sleeping. Making it part of your bedtime routine will also help signal to your brain that it's time to rest.
10. Know when to seek treatment.
If your sleep cycle isn't improving, and poor sleep has been a chronic problem, you may be suffering from one or more sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, or sleep apnea. If you think your lack of sleep might be caused by a larger issue, or you simply can’t get a good night’s rest no matter what you do, seek the help of a medical professional.