Getting a good night’s rest can be difficult. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-quarter of the U.S. population reports occasionally not getting enough sleep.
Getting the rest you need sometimes requires some lifestyle changes. It's about developing habits that promote good health and eliminating any bad habits that could be keeping you up at night. Here are a few ways to improve your sleep hygiene and prepare the perfect environment to catch some Zs.
A consistent sleep schedule is a critical part of developing good sleep hygiene. According to Mayo Clinic, frequently changing your bedtime and wake-up time confuses the body's biological clock.
To stick to a schedule, prepare your mind and body for sleep by developing a relaxing bedtime routine that begins around the same time each evening. Take a warm bath, listen to soft music, read a book, or do some other activity that helps you wind down. This will signal to the body that bedtime is soon and allow you to fall asleep quickly and easily.
Try to separate your bedroom from other facets of your life that may cause stress or tension. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the presence of electronic devices like laptops and cell phones in your sleep environment can make it hard to fall asleep. If you tend to associate your bed with activities other than sleep or sex, this may distract you from falling asleep.
Avoid watching television, working, using your computer, eating, or even having a heated argument with your significant other in or around the bed. Strengthening the association between your bed and sleep will help you clear your mind come bedtime.
Imagine yourself in a perfect slumber. What does the room look like? How does that compare to your current bedroom? According to Mayo Clinic, improving your sleep means making changes to your environment to achieve that perfect slumber.
First, examine your bed. Is it large enough? Do you wake up with a sore neck? Do you constantly bump knees with your spouse? A new bed, pillow, or comforter could make a huge difference. Next, think about your bedroom at night. Light, sound, and temperature are the most common causes of sleep disruption. Try finding ways to moderate those factors and create a consistently quiet, dark, and cool environment. If you can't ignore noise, invest in earplugs, a fan, or a sound machine. Use window shades or blinds to block light from outside and make sure any indoor lights are off. Lastly, keep the temperature of the room consistently comfortable and cool.
What you drink in the hours before bedtime can make or break your ability to fall asleep. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the effects of caffeine can take six to eight hours to wear off. Make sure to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda in the late afternoon or evening.
Alcohol may have the qualities of a sedative but it can actually disrupt deep and REM sleep. This results in lighter and less restorative stages of sleep. Consuming too much of any liquid right before bed may result in frequent sleep disruption in order to use the bathroom. Try drinking something with a calming effect like hot tea or milk, and limit your intake.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you are still lying awake after 15 minutes of struggling to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something else. Go through your bedtime relaxation ritual again. Take a bath, read, or listen to music. Then go back to bed when the anxiety of not being able to fall asleep is gone.
However tempting, do not turn on the television, or get on the computer to check your email. Try not to expose yourself to extreme light, temperature, or sound. These activities will only make it more difficult for your body to get back into sleep mode.