Certain eating and exercise habits, nighttime routines, and more can help you wind down before bed.
While the word “hygiene” conjures up images of hand-washing and teeth-brushing, sleep hygiene is different. It’s the habits that you can put in place each evening to optimize sleep. Don’t worry—it doesn’t take much effort. Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and night spent tossing and turning.
Create a Zen Bedroom
Learn how to set the right scene, so your space is peaceful and calm.
- Get earplugs or a sound conditioner: Extraneous noise in the bedroom can disrupt your sleep; use whatever you need to create a quiet environment. Just try to ensure that the noise is consistent—like white noise—and not variable, like a television. The latter can actually disrupt your sleep, not help it!
- Avoid bright light: Keep overhead lights and lamps in your house dim (or turn as many off as you can) in the 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. The light from cell phone and TV screens also distracts from your ultimate goal in the bedroom—to fall asleep, so shut all devices down during that timeframe, too. We know it’s hard!
- Position your alarm clock correctly: Watching the seconds and minutes of a clock tick on and on as you try to fall asleep can increase your stress level, making it harder for you to fall back asleep once you’ve woken. Position the alarm clock so it’s hard for you to see it from bed, and then, if you still can’t sleep, read or listen to soothing music until you’re tired enough to fall back asleep.
Adjust Your Lifestyle
Try certain activities and avoid others to sleep better at night.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day—even on the weekends—reinforces the natural sleep-wake cycle in your body.
- Skip the nap: Sleeping throughout the day makes it harder to fall asleep at night. If you must, limit your snooze session to 30 minutes, and give yourself at least four hours between the nap and when you plan to go to bed for good.
- Develop a bedtime routine: Creating a set of habits to run through at night will help your body recognize that it’s time to unwind. For instance, 30 to 60 minutes before bed, read in bed or take a warm shower or bath. (The warm water trick is particularly helpful – as you cool off, the drop in your body temperature will help you feel sleepy!)
Make Healthier Choices
The foods and beverages you consume, whether you smoke, and how often you exercise can all play a role in how well you hit the sack.
- Stay away from stimulants at night: Nicotine and caffeine are chemicals that are designed to help keep you awake, so drinking tea or coffee or eating chocolate (all of which contain caffeine), or using anything containing tobacco or nicotine should be avoided for four to six hours before you plan to go to sleep. Even alcohol, which initially makes you feel sleepy, makes it harder to get high-quality slumber, so skip more than a single glass of liquor, wine, or beer in the evening—especially as bedtime gets closer.
- Pay attention to food and drink intake before bed: Feeling hungry or overly full at bedtime means that you’re less likely to get comfortable sleep. Plus, drinking too many liquids late in the evening could cause you to make multiple trips to the bathroom throughout the night. So choose your foods and beverages wisely and time your meals accordingly.
- Get physical during the day—at the right time: Exercising during the day fosters sleep at night, but keep this in mind: Exercising too close to bedtime may keep you wired and make it hard to settle into sleep. Listen to your body; most people will want to work out at least a few hours before bed, if possible, or at least swap their Crossfit routine for something more relaxing, like yoga, if they are working out in the later evening hours.