Updated: Jun 27, 2022
Many people struggle with restful sleep and therefore energy the following day. Here are some tips for improving your sleep-wake cycle and overall sleep hygiene.
1) We should be comfortable! A too soft or too firm mattress, an uncomfortable pillow, or an older, worn-out bed can all impede on a good night's sleep. Check your mattress for signs of wear at least twice a year and consider new pillows.
2) Have a quiet, peaceful place to sleep. If your bedroom is noisy, consider a "white noise" generator, an inexpensive but effective device for making soothing sounds to mask the less peaceful ones. Try not to watch TV while trying to fall asleep, if you absolutely “must”, make sure the TV is on a timer, so it does not continue to wake you throughout the night.
3) Learn how to quiet the mind. If you can't sleep because of an overactive mind - thoughts whirling through your head, try breathing techniques, stretching before you go to bed, meditations, writing your “worries” down before you lay down, using aromatherapy whether it be oils or herb pillows, etc. This can help you put aside the thoughts that are keeping you awake just for the night.
Tell yourself: Right now, the best thing I can do for myself is to sleep, I will get back to my responsibilities tomorrow.
4) Refrain from alcohol, caffeine, and excessive amounts of water a couple hours before bed. If you are constantly getting up to urinate and then are not able to get back to sleep … eliminate caffeine and alcohol, especially before bedtime - both can increase nighttime urination and increase sleep disturbances. Refrain from drinking a lot of water right before bed. You should not be drinking caffeine any time after 2:00pm.
Caffeine is psychoactive in the body for 4-5 hours and will completely leave the body within 8 hours. That means if you plan to go to sleep at 10 p.m. it would still be safe to finish your intake of coffee around 2 p.m. But it is best to keep caffeine intake to the morning.
5) Set a Routine. Our brains love rituals, cycles and routines. Find out what works best for your body and mind in the hours before bedtime. Whether it is hot calming tea, a bath (try with salts or essential oils. If you like hot baths, make sure to give your body an hour to slowly, naturally cool down from the day before sleep), reading (avoid conflict, intense, or disturbing reads – if adrenaline or cortisol begin to flow, you’ll be awake for hours), meditation, relaxing music, writing of any kind or journaling, setting out your clothes for the next day, make a list of the next day’s chores and then let it be, etc.
If you do this nightly your brain will begin to associate these activities with bedtime. Try to go to bed around the same time daily and if you can include the weekends – this regulates the body to sleep better.
Aromatherapy (Room/linen spray, essential oils):
6) Leave exercise for the morning/afternoon. Many people don’t get enough physical movement during the day which leads to not sleeping at night … they just aren’t tired. But others exercise later at night. This keeps the body and mind in motion for hours. Exercise elevates heart rate and causes mental stimulation as well as other psychological effects. Definitely get your 30min (at least) of daily exercise … but don’t do it within 3 hours of bedtime.
7) Be aware of your partners sleep patterns. Maybe your sleeping problem is actually THEIR sleeping problem. Snoring, restlessness, late night trips to the bathroom, nightmares, etc. It can be worked through. Try your best to stay on the same routine with your partner if you can. If not, make sure both are following good sleep hygiene.
8) Keep your bedroom DARK. Our sleep cycles are directly tied to light. If we have the glow of the TV, phone, lights, no curtains or shades, etc. … this will mess with our sleep. What may surprise you is that help for insomnia starts first thing in the morning. If you can, try to enjoy 15 minutes of bright morning sunshine to signal your brain to wake up, produce feel good hormones, and turn down sleep promoting melatonin.
In the evening, dim the lights so your brain knows it is time to release melatonin in preparation for sleep. Wearing an eye mask at night will also help. But our bodies replenish its melatonin levels while we sleep. So, if we want to be able to sleep well in nights to come, make sure to sleep in the dark.
9) Keep your sleeping area clean of clutter. A chaotic room with clothes, boxes, and piles of things everywhere is not conducive to falling asleep. All the clutter could actually be the primary distraction for your inability to sleep. Even if you are used to it, our minds are not good at feeling relaxed in areas of clutter. Our minds feel anxious, stressed, and actually associate clutter with disease.
Make your bedroom your peace center, your sanctuary. Try not to work in your bedroom especially on your bed. Your brain should associate your bed with sleep, relaxation, and intimacy only.
10) Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t go to bed full. Both are distracting. You should eat a good, healthy dinner no less than three hours before you go to bed including quality protein, healthy fats and quality fiber (veggies, fruits, seeds like flaxseed). Your body needs time to digest before you lay down.
If you are someone who needs a snack between dinner and bed just try to avoid food that is difficult to digest like sugars, anything highly processed or white (breads, pastas, etc.). Try foods rich in tryptophan – they promote calm and sleepiness (poultry, fish like tuna or salmon, cooked spinach, nuts & seeds, tart cherries, goji berries, etc.
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