March 10, 2022

5 Tips to Developing a Healthy Sleep Routine

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Despite being crucial to ensuring physical and mental wellbeing, we often overlook the importance of sleep. For some, the issue is falling asleep; for others, the issue is staying asleep. And of course, many of us prioritize other activities at night (e.g., computer or cellphone use, social media, etc.), voluntarily sacrificing sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is of paramount importance where it concerns your physical health, attention span, concentration, and mood. How much and how well you sleep is what determines how you function throughout the subsequent day. Chronic sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the body and mind. Therefore, it’s essential to develop and maintain a healthy sleep routine so that you can function optimally. What can you do to start sleeping better?

1) Aim for consistency. We’re hardwired to thrive on routine. Whenever possible, strive to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. A fluctuating sleep schedule will interfere with your ability to fall asleep soundly and wake up comfortably each day. We need anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep each night, so pay attention to what your body needs, and aim to create a schedule that enables you to align with your internal clock. In doing so, you’ll naturally feel tired at the same time each night, and in the mornings, you’ll feel energized upon waking.

2) Limit or avoid caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evenings. Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps us wired and alert, and stays in our system anywhere from three to seven hours. Begin to observe how caffeine affects you, as tolerance varies, and be mindful of what time of day you consume it.

3) Avoid screen time before bed. Research consistently suggests that blue light acts as a stimulant and suppress production of melatonin, the hormone largely responsible for regulating sleep. As tempting as it may be to use the time before bed to catch up on texts, emails, and social media, do your best to end screen time thirty minutes before you plan to fall asleep.

4) Restrict using your bed for activities other than sleeping and sex. When we use our beds for activities other than sleep and sex, bed becomes associated with those other endeavors. Pay attention to how often you eat in bed, or sit on your bed to work. Whenever possible, find other places at home for those activities so that bed is only associated with rest, sex, and sleep.

5) Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Get yourself in the mood for sleep. Dim your lights, read a book, sip noncaffeinated tea, set your bedroom to a comfortable temperature, block out noise or light with ear plugs or a sleeping mask if you prefer silence and darkness, listen to soothing music or nature sounds if you prefer calming noise, take a warm bath or shower, and mindfully let go of your worries.

If your sleep struggles are persistent, therapy can help. You may only need short-term therapy to receive help identifying problematic behaviors that interfere with sleep and restructuring your schedule and habits in order to optimize sleep.