Welcome to Part 2 of my sleep hygiene series! In Part 1, I began by discussing important skills and routines to establish before going to bed in order to improve the quality and quantity of sleep. If you haven’t read part 1, I would suggest you do so by following this link below before continuing.
Now that you’ve done all your prep work (i.e. pre-bedtime rituals), it’s time to actually go to sleep. Though pre-bedtime is important in ensuring good sleep, there are strategies that are equally important to use when you actually go to bed.
1. Set a consistent bedtime. It may sound simple, but it might be the most important strategy for getting good sleep. Remember that your body and mind run on an “internal clock” that responds to cues that trigger sleep. By consistently going to bed at the same time every night, you’re training your body to run on an efficient and predictable cycle. After a while, and with a little consistency, you’ll notice your body starting to prepare itself naturally for sleep around your bedtime. It’s also easier to set up your pre-bedtime routine with a consistent schedule.
2. Set up your bedroom for sleep. Your brain likes to make associations and if your bedroom is associated with sleep your mind will more readily accept sleep when you’re there. If your bedroom is associated with work, watching TV, and other activities, it will be hard to get your mind to “shut off” in this environment. Designate your bedroom as a place for sleep only. During the day, spend as little time in your bedroom as possible, and definitely find another place for your TV and computer. Soon, your body and mind will begin to identify your bedroom as your sleep environment.
3. If you have trouble falling asleep, or you wake up frequently during the night, stay in bed. You might still find it hard at times to fall asleep or stay asleep, but it’s important to work through these periods and continue to train your body to go to sleep when you want it to. Getting out of bed and continuing with mental and/or physical stimulation only makes it harder to get back to sleep. If you have to go to the bathroom during the night, do your business ASAP and get back to bed before you have time to fully wake up. Also, try to avoid turning on lights if possible. If you feel like you can’t get back to sleep, do something relaxing like reading or deep breathing for a max of 10-15 minutes and then attempt to go back to sleep.
4. Let go of your worries about sleep. Worry means stress, and stress means difficulty sleeping. Ironically, the stress and worry about not getting enough sleep often times is what keeps people up at night. You might start to get anxious about the thought of going through yet another day feeling tired and slowed down if you don’t get to sleep, which is only going to keep you awake longer. One way to combat this problem is by not keeping a visible clock in your room. “Clock watching” is a sleep killer; looking at the clock to see how much time has gone by only causes more stress and anxiety about getting enough sleep.
5. Keep your focus away from racing thoughts. Stress about sleep itself isn’t the only thought that keeps people up at night. You might find yourself thinking about work, money problems, family issues, and other life stressors while lying in bed. It’s important to train your mind to let go of these thoughts at night. It helps to focus on other, more relaxing things if you find this happening. If you have trouble slowing down your thoughts, try writing them down before going to bed.
You’re one step closer to getting a better night’s sleep, but we’re not done yet! The last step in proper sleep hygiene is implementing routines in the morning to ensure a proper night’s sleep for the next day. In part 3, the final part of this series, I will be discussing sleep hygiene techniques to apply at the end of the sleep cycle.