Rebecca Wolf, LCSW
Almost every day, I hear someone say that they are tired, haven’t gotten enough sleep, or just don’t feel well rested. Unfortunately, many of us are not getting enough sleep or enough good sleep, leaving us feeling less than our best. It’s all too common. As a therapist, I am frequently talking to my clients about how to get better quality and quantity sleep. Sleep hygiene is a multitude of varying practices that are necessary to have consistent quality nighttime sleep and strong daytime alertness. Making some small or large changes to your sleep habits may allow you to get better sleep as soon as tonight. Here are 6 basic sleep hygiene tips that can help improve your sleep:
1. Stick to a regular schedule for waking up and going to bed 7 days a week. Most of us have varying schedules day to day, but sticking with a set wakeup time and bedtime daily can actually help you get into a healthy routine of good sleep.
2. Bed is for sleep and sex only. Many people’s beds become their spot for reading, watching television, doing work, and general lazing around. By doing all of these other activities in bed, we are conditioning ourselves to think that bed is for a multitude of activities. If we can limit time in bed to sleep and sex, we can recondition our bodies and minds to associate bed with what it should be used for, which should lead to better sleep.
3. Avoid napping during the day. Naps during the day throw off our general sleep schedule and can cause difficulty sleeping at night. If you find yourself feeling very sleepy and feel like you absolutely must nap, keep it short – 20 minutes or less.
4. Cut off caffeine intake at least 6 hours prior to bedtime. Caffeine can linger in your system and cause difficulty sleeping even if you don’t think it does. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, and even in some medications. Check the labels and talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication regimen.
5. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol dehydrates your body and causes poor sleep. It might help you fall asleep initially, but it tends to cause difficulty staying asleep and the sleep you get tends to be of poor quality.
6. Manage your bedroom environment. Bedroom environment consists of bed, bedding, bedroom temperature, light in bedroom, noise in bedroom, bed partners, and much more. It is best to be in a quiet, dark room that is a comfortable temperature to you.
Hopefully these practices can be helpful for you and lead to better quality and quantity sleep at night as well as increased alertness during the day. For more information on sleep, you can visit the National Sleep Foundation website at http://www.sleepfoundation.org/