Experiencing sleep disturbances, such as having a hard time falling asleep at night, frequently waking up throughout the night, and falling asleep during the day are all signs that we may need to re-evaluate our sleep hygiene. Re-evaluation of our sleep hygiene practices consists of reflecting on our daytime habits and our nightly routine, which can in turn assist us in identifying what changes we can make to increase our quality of sleep.
Reflecting on our daytime habits can help us understand which areas we can experiment with to see if it assists in decreasing sleep disturbances. One key daytime habit is exposing ourselves to light or being outside. As humans, we have a circadian clock that is impacted by the cycle of the sun/light. Our circadian clock uses light to assist us in predicting what to do in the future: when to be alert and when to prepare for sleep.
It can help to open up a window in the morning for your circadian clock to understand it is time to wake up and be alert, and it can also be helpful to get outside and catch some rays as well. Later at night, it can be beneficial to dim lights in your home about 2 hours before bedtime so you can help your circadian clock recognize it is time to get sleepy and to go to bed soon.
Another daytime habit that can assist in sleep hygiene practices consists of physical exercise. Regular exercise during the day can make it easier to sleep at night, which is only one of the added benefits of being physically active. Allowing ourselves 15-30 minutes a day to go for a walk, run, or participate in yoga can assist us in falling asleep at night by channeling that energy into an activity during the day.
Lastly, it is important to restrict in-bed activity during the day in order to create an association in your mind between sleep and being in bed. As comfortable as it may be to do homework, watch YouTube, or scroll through Tik Tok in bed, it can be beneficial to complete these activities on the couch or another comfortable area that is not your bed so the strongest association you have to that space is connected to sleep.
Nightly routines can assist in decreasing sleep disturbances. As stated previously. dimming the lights can help your circadian clock realize it is time to unwind and go to sleep. Additionally, keeping a consistent nighttime routine, such as dimming the lights, brushing your teeth, putting on pajamas, and unplugging from electronics, can reinforce in your mind that it is bedtime. It is important to keep these steps as routine as possible.
It can also help to include relaxation techniques in your nightly routine because focusing on relaxation can be easier than focusing on falling asleep. Relaxation techniques include meditation, mindfulness, body scans, and paced breathing.
If you are feeling restless and too awake while trying to fall asleep, it can be helpful to get out of bed in order to assist your mind in creating the association between sleep and your bed. If you are tossing and turning, try getting out of bed for 15-20 minutes in a slightly dim room. You can flip through a magazine or an article until you feel yourself becoming sleepy again, and repeat this process until you fall asleep.
Lastly, having a set sleep schedule can be highly beneficial in getting the sleep that you need. In order to achieve this, it can help to prioritize sleep over work, studying, socializing, or exercise. Treating sleep like a priority is essential in order to create a nightly routine where you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning.
In using these methods, feel free to try whichever you think will work best and to also try them altogether if needed! Hopefully, you will soon be getting the restful, consistent sleep you deserve.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 1). Effects of light on circadian rhythms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/
Trusted sleep health information and product reviews. Sleep Foundation. (2021, September 10). Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.