What you do before you sleep can have a major impact on the quality of your sleep. It is extremely important for people who suffer from disruptive sleep cycles, and even those who want to improve their sleep quality to have a healthy pre-sleep routine.
What you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you choose to spend your evenings – can significantly impact your quality of sleep. Even a few slight adjustments can, in some cases, mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night.
Step 1: Let’s get into the basics
Sleep Hygiene refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits are a cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most effective long-term treatment for people with chronic insomnia. CBT can help you address the thoughts and behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well. It also includes techniques for stress reduction, relaxation and sleep schedule management.
By following a set pattern prior to sleeping, you can really convince your mind that it is relaxed, at peace and ready to be asleep.
Step 2: Record your sleep
Completing a two-week sleep diary can help you understand how your routines affect your sleep. Writing down what you think, do or don’t do in the entire day can help you understand or pinpoint the problem that may be keeping you awake at night. A sleep journal therefore, can help you get a clear perspective on your thoughts that may have been stressing you out without even knowing. Knowing that the thoughts are there in written form, gives you the advantage of knowing that these will be there tomorrow as well, and you can deal with them the next day.
So after, you have noted down your daily thinking process, you record the hours of your sleep and the quality of it. This will help you form a pattern that may have gone unrecognized earlier due to lack of conscious clarity. Therefore, keeping a sleep diary can help you identify the root to your problems, and perhaps as a result you can find solutions through specialists that deals with similar issues.
Step 3: Lifestyle change – the Do’s and Don’ts
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
- Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
- If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
- Use your bed only for sleep
- Relax at least 1 hour before bed – for example, take a bath or read a book
- make sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet – use thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs
- Make your bedroom quiet, cozy, dark and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature and use thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs to block yourself from any thoughts.
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
- Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo.
- Smoke, or ingest tea or coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed
- Eat a big meal late at night
- Exercise at least 4 hours before bed
- Watch television or use devices right before going to bed – the bright light makes you more awake
- Nap during the day
- Sleep in after a bad night’s sleep – stick to your regular sleeping hours instead
By adopting these tips and tricks and avoiding the do not’s of it, you condition your brain over time to accept them as prerequisites of falling asleep. These changes will after a while become the process that makes you sleepy because the brain knows it as the way of inviting a restful night. Be patient, even if these changes do not initially bring about a change in your sleep quality. Wait it out and let it become a habit that can brings about a relaxed, and peaceful night of sleep!