Recent research has rapidly expanded our understanding of sleep and its importance to a healthy lifestyle but all this new information can lead to a lot of confusion. This list of do’s and don’ts will help you establish a healthy sleep hygiene routine so that you can fall asleep, stay asleep, and get the sleep you need every night.
- Take medications that are meant for nighttime use. Some over the counter medications like those taken for allergies or cold relief contain ingredients like pseudoephedrine which can keep you awake. Medications that provide the same relief but that are formulated for nighttime use are less likely to impede your sleep.
- Log-off and disconnect from all your electronics at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted by televisions, computers, and smart phone screens can trick your brain into believing it is day instead of night which may interfere with sleep.
- Take a cool shower. As we fall asleep, our body temperature drops. This is one of the signals the body uses to signal that it is time to sleep. Taking a cool shower right before bed can help speed up this process and making falling asleep easier.
- Relax your mind and body. Try to avoid things that increase your stress levels and focus on relaxing and letting go of stress so that you can fall asleep more easily.
- Get a good pillow. While feather pillows are seen as the ultimate in luxury they aren’t necessarily the best choice when it comes to sleep quality. People sleeping on feather pillows are more likely to report poor sleep quality than those sleeping on other kinds of pillows.
- Follow a routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- Exercise early in the day. People who exercise generally report higher sleep quality and less non-sleep disorder related sleep problems.
- Take your work, or anything else, to bed with you. Working on a laptop or even using your smart phone to check email or play a game can interfere with sleep in two main ways. First, these activities keep your brain going which can make it harder to fall asleep. Second, the blue light from the screens can trick your body into staying awake long after bedtime.
- Take a HOT bath. While it might feel relaxing, it could also increase your body temperature which sends the wrong signal about sleep. Our bodies are not able to fall asleep and stay asleep when our body temperatures are elevated.
- Eat a big meal within a couple hours of bed time. When you go to bed with a full stomach you are more likely to have nightmares and the effort required to digest the big meal can impede your sleep.
- Get in an argument or broach a controversial topic. Many people believe that they key to a good marriage is never going to bed angry but if that means having it out before you sleep, you are better off letting things cool off overnight and dealing with them in the daylight. Anything that riles you up and gets your emotions going and your mind spinning will make sleep elusive.
- Exercise at night. Exercise elevates body temperature which, again, can keep you from falling asleep.