Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene isn't about showering before bed or keeping your sheets clean (though these are important, too). 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 z's.
Establish a Routine
A consistent sleep schedule is a critical part of developing good sleep hygiene. Frequently changing your bedtime and wake-up time confuses the body's biological clock, often resulting in a vicious, sleepless cycle. 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 serve as a signal to the body that bedtime is soon and allow you to fall asleep quickly and easily.
Respect the Bed
Try to separate your bedroom from other facets of your life that may cause stress or tension. 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 sleep and your bed will help you clear your mind come bedtime.
Set the Scene
Imagine yourself in a perfect slumber. What does the room look like? And how does that compare to your current bedroom? Improving your sleep hygiene 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, so find 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—even dim lights from computers or televisions—are off. Lastly, keep the temperature of the room consistently comfortable and cool.
Mind What You Drink
What you drink in the hours before bedtime can make or break
your ability to fall asleep. Be conscious of what you are drinking and when.
The effects of caffeine can take six to eight hours to wear off, so avoid
drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda in the late afternoon or
evening. Alcohol may have the qualities of a sedative, but the proverbial
nightcap actually blocks deep and REM sleep, resulting in lighter, less
restorative stages of sleep. Consuming too much of any liquid, even water, right
before bed may result in frequent sleep disruption in order to use the
bathroom. If you are thirsty before bed, drink something with a calming effect,
such as hot tea or milk, and limit your intake.
Get Up and Try Again
If you are still lying there wide-eyed after 20 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, get on the computer to check your e-mail, or 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.