Improving Your Sleep Hygiene: 5 Strategies for Better Sleep

Having trouble falling asleep? Here are 5 tips for better sleep so you can get into a routine and fall asleep faster.

Woman lying in bed sleeping
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

While it might be tempting to skip a few hours of sleep to binge-watch the latest Netflix series or stay up late to study or finish work, this is actually disruptive not only to your productivity the next day but your overall health as well.

A lack of sleep can cause a whole host of problems impacting everything from your metabolism to your emotions to your cognitive functioning. It also increases your risk for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, mental health concerns, and more.

But how do your recommended 7 hours of sleep each night when you find yourself tossing and turning? Instead of counting sheep, here are five strategies proven to help you get better sleep once you cuddle into your covers:

1) Set up a nighttime routine

Most people are moving a mile a minute throughout the day getting things done or going from one activity to the next. Your brain has a hard time making the transition from constant activity and mental stimulation to the bed where it’s all of a sudden expected to rest and relax.

A nighttime routine that you repeat every night before you go to bed can help your body make that transition from daytime to bedtime. This makes sleep feel less forced and more automatic. But what makes up a good nighttime routine?

  • Skip the screens: An hour or more before you head to bed try to reduce or eliminate the need to scroll through social media, watch TV, or stare at a computer screen. The blue light from your screen overstimulates your brain and makes it hard to fall asleep.
  • Add in relaxing activities: Take a bath, get into a skincare routine, read a book, audio journal, meditate. There are many ways to find your own relaxation before bedtime, even if it’s only something you do for a few minutes.
  • Don’t work in bed: Don’t bring your work into your nighttime routine, even if it feels right to work in your bed late into the night. Your body needs to associate your bed with sleep, and as soon as you turn it into a workspace it makes that connection even harder.

2) Go to bed at the same time every night

As part of your nighttime routine, it’s important to practice consistency. The more consistent your sleep schedule, the more of a rhythm you establish for your body.

A sleeping rhythm makes it easier to fall asleep once you turn off the light because your body has adjusted to falling asleep and waking up at a certain time.

3) Use journaling to get the thoughts out of your head

Most people find themselves unable to fall asleep thanks to all the thoughts bouncing around rent-free in their minds.

Incorporating journaling into your nighttime routine, such as audio journaling with Sound Off, can get those thoughts out of your head BEFORE your head hits the pillow instead of the other way around.

4) Spend more time outside during the day

Light impacts your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal sleep clock. When the sun goes down, your circadian rhythm is what signals to your body that it’s time to fall asleep. This produces a hormone called melatonin which makes you sleepy.

This is why any artificial light from a TV or computer screen can impact your ability to fall asleep. But it’s also why it’s important to take in sunlight during the day.

Sunlight helps enforce your body’s circadian rhythm. Not getting enough exposure to sunlight can negatively affect your body’s internal clock. This makes it harder for melatonin production to pick up in the evening, which your body needs to transition into sleep.

5) Build exercise into your routine (but not at the expense of sleep!)

As you’re soaking in more of the sun’s rays, spend some of that time outside exercising. Research has found that there is a positive relationship between exercise and better sleep.

There are several reasons why this might be. Exercise helps boost your mood, reduce stress levels, and improve’s your body’s health and functioning. These things also help promote better sleep.

Not only that, but a tough workout has a way of exhausting the body making you crave that recovery time in bed. However, don’t sacrifice your seven hours of needed sleep for a workout routine! This can throw off the benefits of your workout and over time this lack of sleep could lead to some major health concerns.

Still having trouble?

If you’re laying in bed unable to fall asleep after 20–30 minutes the last thing you want to do is lay there feeling frustrated. This creates an association between sleep and anxiety, making it even harder to have a restful night.

To help train your brain to associate laying down in bed with sleep, don’t let yourself lay there sleepless. Get up and read a book, do some relaxing stretches, or open up your Sound Off app and sound off about how you’re feeling.

Take back control by journaling, reading, or meditating until your body is ready to fall asleep. Then, lay your head back down on the pillow and give sleep another go.

If you’re having continued difficulty falling asleep it might be time to talk to your doctor to explore other options. You could be struggling with insomnia, sleep apnea, or another sleep disorder that requires further treatment to help get the rest you need.

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