If you have trouble falling asleep, you know how frustrating it can be. It can leave us wondering why we can’t fall asleep, and what we can do about it.
The good news is that the ability to establish better sleep habits is well within your control.
Efforts to improve your sleep at night need to begin much earlier in your day––not just when it’s time to lay your head on the pillow. And it’s important to implement these habits everyday, because their effectiveness is tied to your ability to stick with them in the long-term.
Here are some handy tips that will help improve your sleep!
1. Don’t Work Out Late in the Day
Exercise keeps us healthy, and plenty of research shows that exercise can promote more restful sleep. However, it’s important to remember that when we exercise, our bodies secrete the hormone cortisol, which makes us more alert. It’s important to remember to finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
2. Avoid Stimulating Substances
Look, I love coffee, but everyone knows that caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake! Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas, and even some pain relievers that contain caffeine for four to six hours before bedtime. If you smoke, you should avoid tobacco products too close to bedtime.
Alcohol might help bring on sleep initially, but it actually acts more like a stimulant after a few hours, and interferes with REM sleep. Avoid alcohol at least three hours before bedtime, and limit the amount you drink per day.
3. Create a Cozy Bedroom Environment
A soothing, relaxing bedroom is key to a restful night’s sleep. If you tend to accumulate clutter, it’s time to tidy up. Clutter can make you feel unhappy and stressed, so it’s important to change your habits to improve your sleep.
You should also avoid having screens in your bedroom: no TV, no phones in bed, and no more answering emails on your laptop. The blue light emitted from these devices will suppress melatonin production and keep you awake.
4. Establish a Bedtime Routine
A familiar transition from wake time to sleep time will signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down. Stick to easy, relaxing activities such as reading a book, taking a bath, or meditating.
Avoid physically or psychologically stressful activities that will activate your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, which will increase alertness.
5. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Keeping your sleep schedule consistent by going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday is one of the best ways to improve your sleep. It helps to set your body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a particular time. Try to keep the same sleep schedule over weekends, too, even if you don’t have to get up for work.
6. Stop Staring at the Clock
Checking the time while you’re initially trying to fall asleep or after you wake up in the middle of the night will make it harder to fall asleep. Staring at the clock will increase stress and keep you awake!
If possible, don’t have a clock in your bedroom that you can see in the dark. Or, turn the clock’s face away from you so that you can’t see it.