Establishing better sleep hygiene habits refers to taking simple steps to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep more reliably, achieve more rejuvenating rest, and wake feeling more refreshed. The sleep habits below are time-tested—and tested by me, as well; I use them every day, and I almost always wake up feeling great!
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #1 – Sleep on a Schedule
Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. This way, you establish a routine that trains your body to fall asleep and wake up on a schedule. Obviously, you probably won’t be able to stick to this schedule exactly all the time. Still, do your best to keep the times as regular as possible and your body should retain the habits you instill.
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #2 – Calm Yourself Down
Before you go to bed, relax! I tell my patients that the mind is like a pond that needs to be stilled. Figure out what best helps you relax as bedtime approaches, because there’s no one right answer for everyone. For some, it’s listening to soothing music; for others, drinking warm tea; and for others, a warm bath works wonders. Whatever it is, make it part of your bedtime routine and your mind goes from choppy to motionless with increasing efficiency and effectiveness.
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #3 – Focus on the Positive
Think about something good at bedtime. One of the top complaints I hear with insomnia is that patients experience racing thoughts—and usually they’re stressful thoughts. Keep a journal and make two columns. On the left, write down the concern. On the right, put down a possible solution and resolve to try it tomorrow. Close the book and start to relax, focusing on using the next day to take positive steps.
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #4 – Get Off the Electronics
Kick that TV out of the bedroom. The TV is stimulating and its light confuses your body. Also, the sound while you sleep interferes with completion of sleep cycles. If you think it doesn’t affect you, consider whether you’ve ever woken and realized you were dreaming about what’s on the TV. Also, get off the computer, tablet, phone, and other electronic devices for the last few hours before bedtime. It all works against your ability to fall asleep.
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #5 – Don’t Read in Bed
Stop reading in bed. Yeah, I know, reading in bed is a classic pastime. But if you want to get sleep, your bed should be reserved for sleeping (and sex), not for high-frequency brain activity. If you want to read before turning in for the night, that’s OK. Just do it in a comfy chair, in your home office, or on the living room couch—not in bed.
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #6 – Stop the Stimulants
Eliminate caffeine. “But the caffeine was earlier in the day!” Yeah, but you can’t sleep. Caffeine is associated with insomnia, headaches, and even high blood pressure, and its effects can last for many hours. Why not just make this a non-factor? Drink some decaf tea (with lemongrass and honey) and go to town—Dreamtown, that is!
Better Sleep Hygiene Habits: #7 – Create a Soothing Sleep Environment
Go to a massage room at a spa. Not for a massage (though you might as well since you’re there), but to check out the ambiance. What do you see? A calming environment with dim lights and gentle music, the perfect relaxation space. Why isn’t your bedroom like that? You have to make your bedroom a sort of refuge. Otherwise it defeats the purpose—and your sleep.