Does it feel like your sleep is all over the place? Having a consistent routine works wonders for optimal sleep. Here are 8 tips that can help you develop better sleep habits and reset your internal clock if needed, allowing for better sleep. Regardless of what you try, it is important to stay patient. Different methods will work for different people, and it may take some time for your sleep to line back up.
1. Keep a Consistent Bedtime
Your body loves routine. Going to bed at the same time, along with waking up at the same time, is the ideal to strive for – even on the weekends if possible. Give it a try! Over time, your body will learn the schedule, which will improve your sleep. Similarly, it helps to follow the same routine each night before going to sleep. As it becomes a ritual, you will begin to feel relaxed as you get ready for bed.
2. Exposure to Light
Your body produces melatonin which makes you drowsy and helps you fall asleep. When you are exposed to bright light at night, it can suppress the release of melatonin. If you are having trouble getting sleepy at night or falling asleep, it may be time to change your morning and bedtime routines. When you wake up, open the curtains to let the sunlight in, go for a short walk, or just sit outside and let the sunshine in. This natural light will let your body know that it’s time to be awake and alert.
Our computer screens emit blue light that can interfere with melatonin. Blue light can trick your body into thinking it is still daytime, making it difficult to go to bed. Use the nighttime setting built into your devices, as the dimmer, warmer light can help prepare you for sleep. Alternatively, you can avoid using blue light-emitting devices close to bedtime. If you work late into the night, use screen protectors for blue light or try blue light blocking glasses.
3. Relaxation Practices
Being in the right state of mind helps with falling and getting back to sleep if you wake up during the night. Before bed, try winding down with deep breathing or simple stretches to help relax your body. Additionally, meditation can help focus your mind and reduce intrusive thoughts that might keep you awake. Choose a pleasant word to focus your mind on, or focus on your breath. Enjoy how the air feels as you breathe in, and take plenty of time as you slowly breathe out, exhaling the tension out. Try not to get frustrated if your mind returns to busy or stressful thoughts; you can just return to your calming breaths. Practicing these types of relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep at night and help you feel better during the day too.
4. Avoid Napping
Napping during the day can make it difficult to sleep later. If you must nap, try to keep it less than 30 minutes and before 3pm, to prevent interfering with your nighttime sleep. You don’t want to feel too energized when it’s time for bed at night. Also, keep in mind that after a nap it takes a little while to regain your full focus and energy. If you do end up napping, it can help to take a walk after your nap.
5. Reduce Noise
This one may seem obvious, but maintaining a quiet sleep environment is important in falling and staying asleep during your preferred sleep time period. Set your phone to silent mode to avoid any late night notifications. If you live in a noisy neighborhood or have roommates who are night owls, try using white noise to drown out outside sounds. A fan, air conditioner, or humidifier may help in providing enough sound to keep unwanted noise out yet soft enough that it will not keep you awake. Using a sound machine can also help. Many models have a variety of soothing sounds and a timer feature, giving you the freedom to customize what you fall asleep to and for how long.
6. Regular exercise
Regular exercise is great for your sleep and has so many other benefits too, for both physical and mental health. A gym membership is not required – simple activities such as taking a brisk walk and stretching count too! Try this in the morning, but if you really prefer exercising at night, avoid intense exercise during the hours before bed. And remember that when you sleep more, you’ll feel more energetic during the day and be able to be more active during the day.
7. Eat Early
Sleep habits extend beyond bedtime. Try to keep a regular meal schedule and follow it as best as possible to help your body stay on track. Along with eating well, it’s best to plan your dinner for early in the evening. This is especially true if the meal is a heavy one as our bodies take longer to digest, disrupting our sleep at night. Late night cups of coffee and alcohol can disrupt sleep, so keep in mind what you drink as well.
8. Talk to your Doctor
If your sleep troubles continue, it’s a good idea to speak with your health care provider or a sleep specialist to find out whether there might be underlying issues that could be addressed.
These recommendations may not all work for everyone, and resetting your sleep will take some time, but stick with it and you’ll be on your way to feeling great!