Looking for ways to sleep better? Insomnia and exhaustion are such a drag! If you are having problems sleeping read these 7 tips for better sleep. The benefits can be felt the first night. It may take time to reset your “sleep clock” and undo disruptive habits to truly get to the point where you feel rested. Hang in there because it will be worth it! Refresh yourself by getting quality, restorative sleep.
Sleep is one of the basic foundations for how we feel yet it is frequently put low on the to-do-list of busy people. Quality sleep is affected by poor sleep hygiene and sleep disorders. There is a long list of consequences to poor sleep such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome,depression and burnout.
Overall good sleep hygiene is critical in improving sleep. Review this post to learn more about sleep basics and sleep hygiene.
Here are 7 Tips for Better Sleep: Take a moment to identify what is getting in your way of a good night sleep. What wakes you up at night? What makes it hard for you to fall asleep? Start with changes that specifically target what is getting in the way of your sleep.
A quick facebook check can turn into hours of mind-numbing scrolling and all of a sudden you don’t have enough time left to get a full night of sleep. I know I have fallen into this trap many times. The plan is always to check “one quick thing” and then all of a sudden 30 minutes (or more) is gone. Don’t trick yourself into looking!
Better yet, don’t even bring your phone into the bedroom. Leave it downstairs to charge.
Does the light coming thru the window wake you? There are simple and cheap paper shades that you can stick up (and cut to size) that will block the light. Try these before you invest in expensive blinds.
I used these during residency when I often needed to sleep during the day after a night on call. I was worried the tape would pull off the paint in the rental but it never did. In my house, I used the light blocking shades in my kids rooms and they worked great- so great that I actually used them for years before getting around to a more permanent solution.
Even if you think you sleep fine after your afternoon soda or coffee, caffeine affects the quality of your sleep. To be cautious, I recommend not having any caffeine within 12 hours of bedtime! This is especially important for people having disrupted sleep. Caffeine still in your system at bedtime is one more thing for your system to overcome in order to settle. (Read more about caffeine and sleep).
Alcohol may help you fall asleep but it can destroy your chance for restful and restorative sleep. Alcohol can cause you to feel tired, anxious, irritable, and depressed. Although a drink of alcohol each night doesn’t qualify someone for an alcohol use disorder, and is part of many people’s normal routines, don’t minimize its effects on your health.
People with anxiety and depression will have a harder time recovering if they are drinking alcohol regularly. Remember that alcohol is a depressant and can cause anxiety when it comes out of a person’s system. On top of that, the sleep changing effects of alcohol make everyone feel worse. Read more about alcohol and sleep here.
Get a white noise machine to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. White noise can be soothing and help block out ambient noise. These noises can be disruptive while falling asleep and wake people up that sleep lightly.
Do anxiety or worries wake you or make it hard to fall asleep? Many people who have had issues with falling asleep develop sleep worries. The worries start as they start to think about going to bed.
Will I fall asleep tonight? I have a big meeting tomorrow. What if I can’t fall asleep for hours? I will only get 5 hours of sleep and I will do terrible in my meeting. I will be so tired and cranky tomorrow……
These worries will just spiral and spiral if they are not interrupted. The source of your insomnia may have originally been poor sleep hygiene but the worries themselves begin to take over. These worries can chronically interfere with sleep until they are addressed.
Commit to doing targeted, short-term, therapy for insomnia called CBTi this year. (Read more about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia). CBTi targets sleep worrying. CBTi has been shown to produce results that are sustained over time, unlike sleeping medication that only works when you take it. CBTi takes practice and the results aren’t instantaneous. The time it takes is worth it and will help set you up for a lifetime of quality sleep.
Do your animals wake you? I know it’s hard to break the habit of sleeping with your animals but be honest with yourself about if they are disrupting your sleep. If you don’t want to ban them entirely is there a compromise that can be made? Maybe allow them in only on the weekends when you have more time to compensate for the disruption?
What ways have you found to sleep better? What tips would you add to the list? Sleep is an essential part of self-care and optimized mental health. Don’t shortchange sleep with poor habits. Address worries that interfere with falling asleep.
If you are still struggling to get restorative rest after trying these tips for better sleep consider getting additional help by seeing a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. It is important to rule out medical conditions like sleep apnea that lead to chronically disrupted sleep.
A version of this article appeared here.
Dr. Melissa Welby is a psychiatrist that participates in people’s process of discovery, empowerment, and search for satisfaction and happiness. She treats a variety of illnesses including depression, anxiety & panic attacks, adult ADHD (Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorders), bipolar disorder, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and borderline personality disorder. She is also the current president of the Connecticut Psychiatric Association.She completed her Internship & Residency at Cambridge Hospital, affiliate of Harvard Medical School, 2000 to 2004. Dr. Melissa Welby is Board Certified in General Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 2005 to present.