When the sun goes down, do you find yourself stressing, tossing and turning in your bed? Are you irritated when your bed becomes magically more comfortable after your alarm rudely alerts you about you adult responsibilities? Constantly tired, running on empty, and yet the show must go on. Fueled by caffeine and passion, you push through your day and begin the cycle again.
At Twin Cities Mental Health & Couples Center, we know how frustrating sleeplessness can be. Although the occasional bout of restless nights is a natural part of human life, small changes can make a big difference in improving your quality of sleep over time.
Therefore, we suggest starting with good sleep hygiene as a way to improve sleep.
What is sleep hygiene?
“Sleep hygiene” is an umbrella term for the things you do before going to sleep (see Brown, Buboltz Jr, & Soper, 2002). People with good sleep hygiene are often able to fall asleep quickly and easily and feel rejuvenated upon waking. People with poor sleep hygiene often struggle to fall asleep and wake up feeling groggy or lethargic. It’s all about getting your body into a rhythm for quality rest.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep deprivation dramatically affects how we think, how we feel, and even how we move (see Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). When you sleep you give your brain time to recover, just like when you give your muscles time to recover after a workout.
How can I practice good sleep hygiene?
Although achieving good sleep hygiene depends person to person, one can follow a few rules that will generally do the trick. Give these a try, and pay attention to how your sleep quality changes.
RULE #1: Only use your bed for sleep or sex
This rule is pretty straightforward: only use your bed for sleep or sex. Your bed can be a tempting place to get on your phone or work. Limiting bed-related activities helps you train your mind to associate lying in bed with rest or sleep.
RULE #2: Turn off or silence your phone before bed
Many smart phones provide a “Do Not Disturb” function that will silence your device for a block of time. Alternatively, some people leave their phones outside the bedroom, such as at the kitchen table.
Rule #3: Establish a consistent, relaxing pre-bed ritual
Use the last 30-45 minutes of your day as a pre-bed preparation. Treat this prep time as sacred and stick to this as much as you can, and eventually your body should learn to recognize cues related to sleep. A simple example of this might be:
- 9:00pm: Turn off any lights that are not needed for moving around your abode, play some relaxing music
- 9:10pm: Brush teeth / Wash face / Physical hygiene
- 9:20pm: Write a brief entry in your personal journal
- 9:30pm: Turn off or silence your cell phone, turn off all lights
- 9:45pm: In bed
Rule #4: Do not drink any caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime
The half-life for caffeine is about 6 hours (Statland & Demas, 1980), meaning that your fizzy/hot beverage may still be active in your bloodstream long after consumption. Even a small amount of caffeine may keep you from falling asleep when you want. If you want to fall asleep by 9pm, pass on any afternoon coffee or soda.
Rule #5: Try not to exercise right before bed
For some, working out right before bed tends to arouse the mind and body rather than relax it. Try to finish any workouts 3-4 hours before bedtime.
Rule #6: Wake up at the same time every day
Everyone loves sleeping in, but oversleeping can throw you off your rhythm. Even on your days off, try to maintain a consistent schedule. You are training your mind and body to follow a system of rest.
What else can I do?
Book your first session with us today!
We would love to help you improve your mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.
Brown, F. C., Buboltz Jr, W. C., & Soper, B. (2002). Relationship of sleep hygiene awareness, sleep hygiene practices, and sleep quality in university students. Behavioral medicine, 28(1), 33-38.
Pilcher, J. J., & Huffcutt, A. J. (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine.
Statland, B. E., & Demas, T. J. (1980). Serum caffeine half-lives. Healthy subjects vs. patients having alcoholic hepatic disease. American journal of clinical pathology, 73(3), 390-393.