We have all been there.
Your alarm goes off in the morning, and it feels like you just closed your eyes.
You glance at your clock to see when you will be able to go back to bed.
On a bad day you wander through life feeling like a zombie, and on a good day you are simply on autopilot going through the motions. Being sleep deprived is an all too common problem.
Lack of restful sleep can lead to major physical and psychological issues. Long term effects of sleep deprivation have been linked to some of the following: memory issues, mood changes, low sex drive, weakened immunity, poor balance, and weight gain.
The current situation with COVID-19 is also negatively impacting people’s sleep and daily routines due to being at home all of the time, facing new stressors, fear over getting sick, and possibly feeling isolated.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I have had many clients who suffered from lack of sleep and poor sleep hygiene. Clients who struggle with this often present with more severe symptoms of common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The term sleep hygiene refers to healthy behaviors and environment that can drastically impact the nature of your sleep.
What if there was actually a way to change this? What if there was a way to manipulate things in order to increase the likelihood of you getting a restful night’s sleep?
Well, I have good news for you!
Below you will find some very simple steps you can make to better increase the quality of your sleep and improve your overall sleep hygiene.
1. Step up a regular bed and wake up time.
Go to bed at the same time every night, and try wake up at the same time every morning. You need to get your body into a healthy sleep cycle. Following through on going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is one of the key ways to do this. The more you do this, the more your body will get used to it. In theory, over time your body will fall naturally into this pattern and it will become routine.
2. Avoid all electronics at least one hour before bed! (YES, this means your cell phone too!)
The blue light from electronics activates a area in our brain that is associated with waking. You could be trying desperately to get to sleep while on your phone, and here this area of you’re brain is being told to wake up/stay awake. Limiting electronic use one hour before going to bed can really help. If you absolutely have to be on your phone, turn on the night mode feature. This changes the color of the screen, so the blue light isn’t emitted that activates the waking part of your brain. Rest assured you can resume your Netflix binging and social media scrolling in the morning.
3. Set up a clear nighttime routine.
Give yourself some structure when getting ready for bed. This will help your mind and body get into sleep mode. Good nighttime routines can include: showering, washing your face, brushing your teeth, picking out what clothes you want to wear in the morning, saying goodnight to your pets, kissing your partner, or putting on your pajamas. Part of this routine also means sticking to going to bed at the same time every night.
4. Change your bedroom.
Some researchers recommend making sure your bedroom is dark, quite, relaxing, comfortable, and at a cool temperature to help you get to sleep. Being in your bedroom should promote relaxation and make you feel comfortable.
5. Limit what you do in bed.
Do not work in bed or in your bedroom. Some people don’t even recommend reading in bed. Your bed and bedroom is for sleeping and sex only. Keep it that way.
6. Limit caffeine and large meals during the evening/late afternoon.
Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages later in the day, and try to avoid eating large meals three hours before you go to bed. Also, don’t use alcohol to fall asleep. It can disrupt brain activity while you are sleeping.
7. Exercise during the day.
There has been a great deal of research looking at the positive effects regular exercise can have on your mood and sleep. Exercise and a busy day can also make your body tired; therefore, possibly more likely to fall asleep at night.
8. Avoid taking naps during the day.
Although naps can be very tempting, they can actually disrupt that sleep pattern you are working so hard to establish. Try to save sleeping for your regular bed time.
9. Remember this about restlessness.
If you have been in bed for over an hour trying to get to sleep and it isn’t working, I want you to get out of bed. Get up and complete a small task like going to the bathroom or checking on your pets. No good will come from staying bed in slowly getting frustrated or anxious because you can’t fall asleep. After completing the task, then go back and try to fall asleep again.
10. See a doctor.
Consider seeing your medical provider if sleep continues to be an issue. There may be an underlying issue.
11. Consider going to therapy.
Sometimes issues going on in our lives can consume us. Troublesome thoughts can occur in our mind both during the day and at night. Seeing a therapist to explore these issues, and learning coping skills to manage them may help your mind relax when you are trying to sleep.
12. Sleep well, dear readers!
Hopefully these tips will help you get a better nights sleep. If they don’t, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to talk with you to see if therapy can help.
Hi, I'm Samuel Donath, therapist for couples and individuals at Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help individuals and couples from all walks of life learn the skills to experience increased fulfillment in daily life, their relationships, and with their sexuality.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Samuel