10 Tips for Better Sleep

| Amanda Bloom, LCMHC

Our quality of sleep has a big impact on the quality of our life. Ask anyone who is not sleeping well and they will certainly be able to tell you the negative impact it can have on daily functioning. Healthy sleep habits are often referred to as having good sleep hygiene.

Here are some tips to help you get better sleep.

Assess your sleeping environment.
Make sure that your bedroom is cool and dark. Check that your mattress, pillows and blankets are comfortable.The bedroom should only be associated with sleep and sex (that means no doing work or other stressful things such as paying bills while in bed). Keep out any distracting noises by using a white noise machine, fan or sound machine. Consider using black out curtains, fans, humidifiers, eye covers or ear plugs to make it more comfortable.

Have a regular sleep schedule routine.
Establish a routine in which you have the same bedtime and wake up time every day. Yes, even on weekends. (I know this one is tough!) This can help you regulate your body’s internal clock and help you fall asleep easier.

Implement a relaxing bedtime ritual.
This means doing something non-stimulating before bedtime to help you de-stress and unwind. Some examples are taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, practicing meditation, sipping herbal tea, doing a visualization, deep breathing exercises, or reading a book.

Avoid all screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Our screens from things like smartphones and computers emit a melatonin- inhibiting blue light that delays sleep. It tricks our brain into thinking it is still daytime. Try putting down all electronics (yes, including your phones, tablets and TVs) before bedtime.

Reset your clock.
Our circadian rhythms are based on light and darkness and the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Expose yourself to natural daytime light, especially early in the morning. It signals the body to release melatonin earlier in the evening.

Skip the afternoon naps.
While there is a benefit to taking a power nap, taking a nap too late in the day can throw off your body’s ability to sleep at bedtime. The ideal power nap is 15-20 minutes and is before 3pm.

Avoid alcohol, sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evenings.
Alcohol, sugar, caffeine and cigarettes are all stimulants that will disrupt your sleep. It is not recommended to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages past 3-4pm. Also, eating a heavy meal before bedtime can lead to indigestion that makes it difficult to fall asleep.

Exercise regularly- but not right before bed.
Getting daily exercise is one of the most evidenced-based strategies to improve sleep and your health. Try to complete your exercise at least 2 hours prior to bedtime.

If you are having trouble falling asleep, get out of bed.
If you have a pattern of lying awake in bed, your bed will become a conditioned stimulus for wakefulness. In other words, we will start associating it with problems sleeping. Get up and go to another room and do something relaxing and non-stimulating (without a screen). Try returning to your bed in about 10-15 minutes.

If you continue to experience sleep disturbance consider further medical evaluation.
Talk with your doctor about other possible sleep disruptions or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Talk with a mental health professional on ways to address issues with insomnia.

Sleep is a crucial component to our physical and mental health. A good night’s sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise. Hope these tips can help you get some good Zzzz’s!!!

Today's the day to make a change.