Your behaviors during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have a significant impact on your sleep. Good sleep is influenced by many factors: routines such as napping during the day, consuming caffeine, eating a heavy meal or screen time before bed are known to make sleep worse. Healthy sleep habits or “sleep hygiene” are habits you can develop to help you sleep well. Small changes can have big effects. Even those whose sleep is affected by shift work or insomnia, can maximize the hours they spend sleeping.
Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:
1. Avoid caffeine
We all know caffeine is a stimulant and consuming caffeinated products: coffee, tea, pop, chocolate, will decrease a person’s quality of sleep. Limit your consumption and avoid caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
It’s time to unwind and prepare yourself for sleep. Take a bath, read a book, apply a face mask or practice relaxation exercises. If you tend to take your worries to bed, keep a journal to write them down and put aside until tomorrow. It’s important to go to bed at the same time each night and aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
3. Have a pleasant bedroom environment
A bedtime routine is important but does your bedroom promote sound slumber? Have your room at a cool comfortable temperature, quiet and dark. Use a white noise machine or ear plugs to limit outside noise, use a sleep mask or blackout shades and make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows. Strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep by keeping work, TVs and computers out of the bedroom.
4. Exercise early
Regular exercise helps promote restful sleep – if it is done at the right time. Exercise stimulates the body promoting alertness, which is great unless you are attempting to sleep. So plan to exercise earlier in the day or aim to finish 3-4 hours before bed. Research has shown exercise can help to improve not only the quantity of sleep but also the quality.
5. To nap or not?
For some people incorporating a nap in their day can help them feel energized and alert. However, if you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night, napping will only contribute to the problem. Instead keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This will set the body’s “internal clock”.
6. Bed is for sleeping
Go to sleep when you are truly tired. If you can’t fall asleep after 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing like reading or listening to music. Struggling to fall asleep leads to frustration so repeat this routine as many times as necessary until you are tired enough to sleep.
Combat restlessness and achieve restful slumber by following healthy sleep habits. You can consult with an occupational therapist about sleep hygiene and discuss keeping a sleep diary. When you sleep better, you feel better.