21 Sep 5 Steps to Improving Sleep
It’s no secret that quantity and quality of sleep have effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Our bodies need rest in order to function at their optimum level. So, the obvious challenge arises–what to do when you struggle with disrupted sleep?
Disrupted sleep can include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, never entering a deep sleep or sleeping at irregular times. Often, individuals begin to think their sleep habits and patterns are out of their control and those thoughts only contribute to the difficulties.
Below are five simple ways to take back control of your sleep patterns and facilitate healthy and positive sleep.
The first step to promoting good and well-rested sleep is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (give or take about 20 minutes). This includes the weekends. If you stay up significantly later or wake up significantly later, this can disrupt your sleep pattern. Sticking to a schedule will help train your brain and your body to know when it’s time for rest and when it’s time to be awake.
Set the Tone
Your environment can impact ability to sleep easily, so help yourself by setting the tone. Make sure your room is dark and quiet. Shut all the lights, use blinds, turn off the TV, radio, music, etc. If there is uncontrollable noise, use earplugs, a fan, a noise machine, or some other source that creates a repetitive and soothing sound. Additionally, keeping the room cool at night is typically better and facilitates slumber, as it matches the body’s natural drop in temperature during sleep.
No TV, Phone or Other Screen Use
This is a BIG and commonly disregarded no no!
When using devices while in bed, you may be tricking your brain that it is time to be awake. Instead of allowing your mind to unwind by surfing the web, Facebook, Instagram or even writing one last email, you are continuing to stimulate the brain, which makes it difficult to relax.
Additionally, the blue light emitted by your technology limits the production of melatonin, the natural hormone in our bodies that impacts sleep. Thirty minutes to an hour of gadget-free time before bed will reduce the possibility of disrupted sleep.
Lastly, even if you are not using your devices before bedtime, by keeping them near you at night there is a possibility of them waking you up. The chime or vibration of an unexpected text, call, calendar reminder or notification can disturb a good night’s rest. That being said, the best choice would be to make your sleep environment a technology free zone!
Daily exercise enhances quality of sleep. Try to incorporate at least 20-30 minutes of exercise into your day, even if it is just a brisk walk. However, remember that vigorous exercise triggers the release of endorphins throughout the body, so it is best to exercise in the morning or early afternoon.
Your Bed is for Sleep ONLY
It is important that your bed is for sleep only. Not for lounging, studying, TV watching, web browsing, chatting on the phone or eating. You want your bed associated with sleep and sleep alone. Confusing your brain by engaging in activities while lying in bed, can lead to wakefulness and restlessness when trying to utilize your bed for its true intention.
Improving sleep is just a piece of the puzzle to improving overall health. Even if sleep is not often a challenge for you, making these positive changes to your sleep behavior can only increase the quality of your slumber.
Authored by: Jessica Oppenheimer, LCSW