Do you struggle with poor sleep quality, have sleep difficulties, or go to sleep and wake up before you’d like?  Lots of adults are looking for better sleep.  If you struggle to fall asleep, dread your bedtime, wish to establish better sleep habits and sleep schedule, you’ll want to use these simple tips to learn ways to get the sleep you need!  Improving quality of sleep and structuring your environment in order to fall asleep faster can promote sleep and help you get to sleep or get back to sleep with ease.

Sleep Hygiene

While falling asleep can seem to be a struggle for many people, there are proven ways to improve your sleep and combat insomnia.  Sleep medicine experts recommend that we make use of positive sleep hygiene.  Sleep hygiene refers to all of the sleep tips for better sleep that form the protective factors setting us up for a good night sleep.  The following tips will help you practice positive sleep hygiene and fall asleep more quickly.

Sleep schedule

Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is an important strategy to support sleeping better.  Go to bed at roughly the same time every day, and get out of bed at roughly the same time each morning, even on weekends.  Try to keep your activities and routine in the hour or so before bed as consistent as possible.  Choose calm activities and perhaps build in some relaxation strategies, while limiting electronics, prior to bedtime. While it may be tempting to nap if you are tired, experts suggest that you avoid daytime napping if trying to improve your sleep at nighttime.

Exposure to light and sound

Use dim lights close to bedtime if you are trying to improve sleep, as exposure to bright light can send the signal to the brain that it is daytime rather than night time.  Exposure to light in the morning helps set our internal clock to daytime, and decreased light in the evening tells us it is time for relaxation and sleep. Keep the bedroom as calm as possible: a quiet, and cool sleep environment helps us to fall asleep and stay asleep.  Noises can disrupt sleep, so you may find using earplugs, a sound machine, or a fan to be helpful to minimize sounds that could interfere with sleep.  To get solid, restful sleep, you may also want to use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to minimize light. Similarly, minimizing electronics use in the hours before bed can help you fall asleep if you struggle with sleep.

Cool temperatures

A calm, cool environment at nighttime leads to a drop in body temperature, which then signals that it is time for sleep.  Make sure your bedroom is cooler later in the night to promote healthy sleep and lead to sleeping better at night, as cooler temperatures mimic the drop in temperature late in the day that would normal send a signal to our brain that it is time to sleep.  Conversely, a room that is too warm can signal that it is daytime, leading to a decrease in sleep and trouble getting enough sleep.

Substance use and food

Other healthy sleep habits that encourage you to get a good night’s sleep include limiting alcohol and drug use, as these can interfere with sleep patterns and reduce quality sleep.  Prescription and over the counter medications can also cause sleep problems, so talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have.  Some people find that certain foods can disrupt their sleep or cause nighttime awakenings, so be aware of how your body reacts to foods and which foods may affect how well you sleep. Caffeine makes it much harder to fall asleep and feel sleepy, so be aware of your caffeine consumption and limit this later in the day.

Keep bedroom for sleep

If you are having difficulties with sleep, you can help improve your sleep by keeping the bedroom for sleep and sex only.  Try to do other things like work, hobbies, or important/heated conversations in other parts of your home.  By limiting the bedroom to sleep, your body will begin to associate that environment with going to sleep.

How much sleep is enough?

How much sleep you need is unique to you, though the National Sleep Foundation lists the average adult as needing 7 to 9 hours of sleep.  You’ll know if you’ve had the right amount of sleep if you can wake up naturally and feel rested at your desired wake up time.  If it takes an excessive amount of time to wake up or you are fatigued through the day, your sleep may be insufficient in quality or quantity.   Healthy adults typically do not need a daytime nap, and naps can interfere with sleep at night.  If you are feeling excessively tired during the day, you may find that your sleep quantity is insufficient.  This could mean going to bed earlier, as long as you are able to drift off to sleep relatively quickly.  Sleep deprivation has a clear impact on our ability to function.  Research shows that being awake for 19 hours straight results in driving skills equivalent to driving drunk.

What are the phases of sleep?

Sleep is divided into two major phases.  Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, often referred to as deep sleep, allows your body to get the rest and repair it needs.  Dream sleep occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.  REM makes up a greater portion of sleep later in the night, and is important for processing emotions and new memory.  When we decrease sleep time such that we cut off our sleep due to staying up late and not having enough opportunity for sleep night after night, we have insufficient time for emotion processing and can wake up feeling grumpy.  We also can’t pay off a “sleep debt” by sleeping in on the weekends. A better strategy is to work to get better sleep at night in order to help improve the balance these stages of sleep every night.

How to get more help

If you make use of these healthy habits and they fail to help improve your sleep, you may consider finding a sleep specialist.  Medical conditions including sleep apnea can interfere with sleep, and should be assessed by a qualified professional.  Sleep disorders can also make it hard to get quality sleep. Check with a local hospital or medical school division of sleep medicine for local professionals to support you in ruling out medical causes for sleep trouble.  A therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) should be your next stop: CBT-I is considered the gold standard treatment for insomnia.

Interested in learning more about sleep and sharing the importance of sleep with your organization? Dr. Kim Dwyer is an expert speaker on the topic of sleep and a trained CBT-I therapist.  She is passionate about supporting people to get the sleep they need for optimal physical, mental, and emotional functioning.  Contact Dr. Kim today to see how your employees and group can benefit from learning more about sleep!

Want more sleeptips?  Complete the form, below, to access my free guide to sleep hygiene!