We use the term "sleep hygiene" to describe good sleep habits. Some of these points may seem silly, but a considerable amount of research has gone into the topic and good evidence suggests that many of these strategies can provide long term improvements to your sleep quality.
Get consistent with your sleep pattern. Stick with a usual bedtime and wake time everyday including on weekends.
Avoid naps. Even if you have a bad night, keep your daytime routine consistent and try to avoid naps. Naps will only make it harder to initiate sleep the next night and perpetuate sleep challenges.
Sleep when tired. Don't try to initiate sleep while you are wide awake and just laying in bed. If you are getting sleepy, time to lay down.
If at first you don't succeed, start over. Don't lay in bed endlessly tossing and turning if you are unable to fall asleep. If after 20-30 minutes, you haven't fallen asleep, get up out of bed, focus on a few of the other tips below, and then try again. This also means no clock watching. Don't look at the clock tossing and turning for hours as this increases negative thoughts which makes sleep harder.
Make sure the space is right for sleep. Conditions matter. Sleep is easiest in a cool room with plenty of blankets to keep warm. Curtains to limit outside light are also helpful. White noise machines help some. For others, ear plugs will help set the right environment.
Bed is for sleeping only. Don't eat, watch TV, or work from bed. This tricks our body into knowing what the bed is for and can impact our sleep. When we use our bed for sleep and sex only, it helps our body and mind associate sleep with our bed.
Bath time. Data shows that a warm bath or shower a few hours before bedtime will help us become drowsy as our body temperature lowers again.
Get plenty of exercise and activity. Don't do it right before bed as this can adversely effect our sleep, but regular exercise during the day will help us to feel sleepy at bedtime.
Watch what you eat and drink. You probably don't need that triple shot of espresso at 5pm. Avoiding nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol several hours or more prior to bed can help improve sleep. Further, avoiding trying to sleep on an empty stomach is also helpful. The flip side is true too though, don't try to sleep with a belly full of food. It can be hard, but planning a healthy & balanced dinner can really set the stage for better sleep.
Put down that phone. And tablet. And computer. And whatever other device you are going to try to bargain with. The blue light our devices administer can really mess with our normal sleep/wake cycle. Ideally, we should avoid screens for 2 hours prior to our intended bedtime. If it isn't possible, make sure you are using a yellow light filter on your devices. In those screen-free hours leading up to bedtime, focus on reading instead.
Get a book and go on an adventure. Well, let your mind go for the adventure. Keep your body still and calm. Reading helps our eyes to feel fatigued and puts our mind in a better place for sleep.
Use melatonin correctly. If you are going to take a supplement like melatonin, make sure you are taking it at the right time. A common misconception is that 20-30 minutes after taking melatonin, it will help us initiate sleep. However, it is actually a much slower process than that. It can take 2-3 hours after taking melatonin for levels to achieve full effect. Try taking your melatonin earlier, like shortly after dinner. There is also evidence that sleeping with a weighted blanket may help to naturally increase melatonin levels!
Make sleep fun: Develop a ritual. Keep a diary. Find what works for you and keep doing it!
Stuck awake at night reading this? Tell us about your sleep. What works for you? What doesn't? Send us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org