Do you have difficulty falling asleep? Wake up frequently throughout the night? Wake too early? Feel like your sleep is not restorative? Not get enough sleep?
All of these are common but also often preventable. Poor sleep habits are easy to develop and can be just as easy to kick. Sometimes implementing just one or two new strategies is all it takes to make a difference. Other times it takes a bit more trial and error. Either way, it requires a commitment from you to make a change.
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Here are 20 simple strategies and tips to help you fall into a restful and restorative sleep.
1. Go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time each day.
2. Make your sleep environment dark and cool. Use blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask if needed.
3. Limit caffeine after dinner time.
4. Invest in a comfortable, good quality mattress and pillow. You spend 1/3 of your life using them, it is worth it!
5. Go to bed early enough to ensure you are allowing yourself to get 7-8 hours of sleep.
6. Avoid napping during the day. Napping makes it harder for our body to know when to sleep and can affect how well we sleep at night. Except for new moms. They can nap whenever they please!
7. Reserve your bed for sleep (and sex) so your body associates it with sleep. Avoid working, watching TV, eating, planning, etc. in bed, or even in your bedroom.
8. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up. Get a glass of water. Read a chapter. Return to bed when you start to feel sleepy.
9. Use a white noise machine to drown out noises (or silence).
10. Refrain from eating a large meal before bed.
11. Avoid smoking and nicotine before bed.
12. Dim the lights in your house in the evening.
13. Avoid falling asleep in other places (such as the couch).
14. Avoid clock watching. If you wake up during the night refrain from checking the time.
15. Limit fluids in the evening if you often wake up needing to use the bathroom.
16. Don’t rely on alcohol to help you sleep. Yes, it can make you drowsy and help you to fall asleep, however, the quality of your sleep will be compromised.
17. Wind-down and release your thoughts, worries, stress, etc. before bed. Without a wind-down period after more stimulating activities (such as work or vigorous exercise) it is difficult to turn your brain off and fall asleep. Talk to someone, read a book, write in a journal, use a relaxation CD/app or do something else to help you relax and turn off your brain for the night.
18. Implement a bedtime routine with calm activities. It can be as simple as brushing your teeth and reading for a couple of minutes or more extensive such as having a bath, listening to a relaxation CD and drinking a cup of tea. Either way, implementing a routine helps your body wind down and lets it know that sleep is coming.
19. Exercise regularly. Research shows that individuals who exercise regularly sleep better (read more about the benefits of exercise here). Just be careful how late you exercise and it can be stimulating before bed.
20. Avoid relying on sleeping medication. Sleeping medications mask the problem rather than fixing it. Not only can they interfere with the quality of your sleep, they can be addictive. Make sure you have exhausted other strategies before speaking to your doctor about why you are not sleeping and possibly starting a sleeping medication.