Do you regularly find yourself lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you’ll ever doze off? Or maybe you tend to fall asleep fairly quickly but then wake in the middle of the night, unable to slide back into slumber? Perhaps you wake up feeling groggy and unrested even though you technically got plenty of shut-eye?
If you’re routinely getting poor sleep, it’s time to take a good look at your sleep hygiene (aka, sleep habits) and how you can improve it because lack of sleep is terrible for your health. From down regulating your hormonal health to weakening cognitive function and physical performance, insufficient shut-eye has several deleterious effects on your brain and body.
Luckily, getting better sleep is possible (yes, even for you), but you’ll need to implement some new habits to get there. What do you need to do? Here are five simple things you can work on to improve your sleep hygiene so you can regularly enjoy long, restful nights of shut-eye.
Choose the Right Sleepwear
Your PJs should be comfortable and loose to encourage excellent sleep. So if you’re used to snoozing in anything that’s even slightly restrictive or heat trapping, upgrading your pajamas can make a world of difference in the quality of your sleep.
What’s the best PJ material for encouraging deep and restful shuteye? Personal preference will play a major role in determining the best material for you, as will your bedroom temperature and the type of bedding you use. Generally speaking, however, silk and bamboo-derived fabrics are excellent choices as suggested by SleepMattress.
For example, Quince offers silk pajamas that are breathable to help regulate body temperature. This makes silk a particularly great choice if you tend to sleep hot or suffer from periodic hot flashes. Silk is also remarkably soft and smooth, so you’ll never get tangled up in them no matter how much you thrash about while you snooze.
Practice a Relaxing Pre-Bed Routine
Did you know you can essentially train yourself to sleep? It’s true! Regularly repeating a relaxing pre-bed ritual like taking a warm bath, donning comfy silk pajamas, and listening to calming music can help you condition your body that it’s time to snooze.
When you engage in the same pre-bed routine every night, your brain and body begin to associate previously neutral stimuli with relaxing and falling asleep. And when you start your ritual near the same time each night, your body will gradually recognize that the actions you perform mean it’s time to wind down.
Not a fan of warm baths or super-soft PJs? That’s totally fine. Your pre-bed routine should include whatever makes you feel most relaxed. Try these on for size:
- Perform a few minutes of gentle stretching to release muscle tension and help your body relax.
- Sip on a warm, calming beverage like tea or hot cocoa.
- Take a few minutes to journal about your day.
- Jot down tomorrow’s to-do list if your mind tends to stress about the next day’s tasks before bed.
- Spend a few minutes in quiet meditation to calm your mind and body.
- Take a few minutes to indulge in a great read.
To ensure you’re able to wind down your mind and body before bed, avoid mentally taxing activities like working or serious conversations. The less stress involved in your pre-bed routine, the better it will set you up for a deep and restful night of sleep.
Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Going to sleep (and waking up) at the same time each day also gets your brain and body accustomed to getting a full, restful night of shut-eye. And yes, even on the weekend, you should wake and go to sleep at roughly the same time you do during the workweek.
Be sure to choose sleep and wake times that allow you to get seven to nine hours of snooze time each night. That’s the amount of shut-eye that sleep experts recommend. Even more importantly, stick with the schedule you choose, so your brain and body learn to expect sleep at the same time every day.
Once you select your sleep and wake times, don’t try to switch up your existing schedule in a single day. Instead, make gradual adjustments to your current bedtime, modifying that time by 15 to 30 minutes over several days. When you get used to a small adjustment, adjust that time by another small increment. Eventually, you’ll arrive at your ideal chosen bedtime, and your brain and body will be better prepared to hit the sack at that time.
Turn Off Screens Before Bed
All electronic devices that feature screens — like your phone, tablet, and television — emit blue light, which interferes with your body’s ability to produce melatonin. Since melatonin is the hormone that regulates your body’s sleep-wake cycle, when you don’t have enough of it, you’ll have a tough time falling asleep.
To help your brain produce the melatonin you need for restful sleep (and to avoid distractions that can keep you awake) it’s best to shut down all screen-based electronics about 30 minutes before bed. What if you normally use your phone as a morning alarm? Opt for a digital or analog alarm instead.
When you keep your phone on and by your bed, notifications, backlights, and buzzing can easily disrupt an otherwise peaceful night of sleep. And if you wake in the middle of the night to a notification, you may have serious trouble falling back asleep.
Make Your Bedroom Environment Conducive to Sleep
The environment you sleep in plays a central role in your ability to get a full, restful night of shut-eye. So if you want to sleep deeply and peacefully, you must set up your bedroom so it encourages a great snooze.
To optimize your sleep space, make sure it’s dark, quiet, and cool (65 Fahrenheit is ideal). Be sure both your mattress and pillow are comfortable and well-suited to your normal sleeping position(s), and use comfy bedding. If you can’t get your room totally dark and quiet, consider wearing an eye mask and/or earplugs to block out any light and noise that may wake you up.
While good sleep hygiene looks a bit different for every individual, everyone can optimize their habits and environment for better sleep. To figure out what works for you, test out different adjustments and different combinations of adjustments until you notice your sleep improving. Keep in mind, though, that even with diligent implementation, good sleep hygiene practices won’t work for everyone. If you have long-standing, severe sleep issues, it’s best to chat with a doctor who can help you find a solution.