If you’re a person who finds it hard to go to sleep at a decent time every night because you just lay there awake, it might be a good idea to change some of your sleep and bedtime habits to encourage your body to think it’s time to sleep. You can then doze off faster and have better rest.
Why Sleep is Important
When you sleep, it’s the time that your body heals and prepares you for the next day. Without it, you may experience a wide range of symptoms, from reduced fine motor skills to moodiness, to the inability to solve problems or make decisions well.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute points out that when you sleep, “your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.” Sleep deprived people also suffer from reduced capacity to learn, and they are at greater risk for developing some chronic health problems.
Teenagers and children may experience mood swings, be angry or impulsive, feel sad or depressed, and they may lack motivation to do things they enjoy or to work. They can also have trouble paying attention in school. A 1998 study found that children may also earn lower grades if they have bad sleep habits.
If you’re a person who doesn’t have good sleep habits, you may also experience more infections and have an overall poorer immune system, imbalanced hormones, and you may be at greater risk of obesity.
1.) Cut out Caffeine and Alcohol before Bed.
If you like to drink a glass of wine before bed, it’s time to end the habit. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle even though it makes you feel drowsy and may help you to start out with. It takes a whopping six hours for half of the caffeine a person takes in to leave their bodies as well. So if you drink coffee at noon, that means that, at 8 p.m., you still have half the amount of caffeine in your body. Drinking coffee after dinner is, therefore, not a good idea.
2.) Don’t Smoke Before Bed.
Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, and it can keep you away. So put away the pipe, cigar, and cigarettes well before it’s time to start getting ready for bed.
3.) Create the Right Environment for Sleep.
Turn down the thermostat in your house so that your room is nice and cool. Turn on just a lamp about a half hour before you go to sleep, and make sure it’s quiet. If you want, use a white noise appliance or earplugs to drown out street noise or people in the apartment upstairs. Get blackout curtains and an eye mask to make sure the room is nice and dark. Get a comfortable mattress and pillow so that you can relax into sleep right away. Consider only using the bedroom for sleep and sex to get rid of any association with work, computers, and TV.
4.) Set an Alarm to Go to Bed.
You have an alarm to wake up. Now, set an alarm to ensure that you start going to bed on time. This will help you remember to stop what you’re doing and to start taking a shower, shutting down the computer, turning off the television and phone, not to drink alcohol or smoke, etc. You can brush your teeth, take a shower, do a relaxing activity, get your clothes and lunch ready for the next day, and go to sleep.
5.) Go to Sleep, and Get Up at the Same Times.
When your body expects to get up and to go to sleep at the same time every day, it is in a consistent pattern that helps you to sleep better. You’re not up until all hours on the computer, staring at Facebook yet again when you have to get up for work. On the weekends, keep the same routine so that your body will stay on a consistent sleep-wake cycle.
6.) Set a Bedtime Routine.
Avoid activities that are too stimulating before bed. Stick with light reading (of a book, not on the computer or phone), stretching, and relaxation exercises.
7.) Avoid Blue Light.
Blue light from screens is the type of light humans are the most sensitive to. It can keep people up later as it stimulates the brain. It can also cause you to wake up sleepier and to take longer to actually feel awake. Blue light (and light in general) suppresses melatonin levels in the body, which are at their highest at night. Melatonin helps you sleep. So if you are on the computer or phone too close to bed time, you’re likely to stay awake longer, which is what you’re trying to avoid.
8.) Slowly Get an Earlier Bed Time.
Set your bedtime back 15 minutes earlier for a week. Then, the next week, do it 30 minutes earlier. This will help you go to bed at a reasonable time. Give yourself a curfew for when to start getting ready for bed. Be consistent in heeding that alarm to get ready for bed and for actually getting in bed 15 and 30 minutes earlier, or however much earlier you’re wanting to go to sleep.
9.) Try Tart Cherry Juice.
Cherry juice is a great natural source of melatonin and tryptophan, which help you get to sleep. A Louisiana State University study discovered that study participants slept an average of 84 minutes a night longer when they took in a cup of Montmorency tart cherry juice. They did this twice a day for two weeks.
You can also try two kiwi fruits about an hour before you go to sleep. In a Chinese study, it increased sleep time by 13 percent and reduced mid-sleep wakeful periods by nearly 30 percent after a month. You could also try eating seaweed with dinner. It helped children in a UK study sleep another hour at night because it has high levels of omega-3 DHA.
10.) A Sleep Diary Can Help Discover Patterns.
Jot down when you go to sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up, your overall feeling in the morning, what you eat during the day and close to bedtime, your exercise that day, etc. This can help you figure out what is affecting your sleep and how. You’ll be better able to identify what works for helping you go to sleep earlier and fall asleep faster. Journal your sleep habits for two weeks to see the big picture of what is affecting your sleep.
11.) Journal Your Worries.
If your mind keeps you up at night because it is going in a hundred directions at once, write down a list of what you’re worried about. Then write down action steps you can take the next day and in the coming days to help you solve the problem. You’ll rest easier knowing you’ve actually done something to try to ease your anxiety, especially as there often isn’t much you can do about eliminating your worries in the middle of the night.
Going to bed earlier and falling asleep faster don’t have to be overwhelming. By making small changes such as these over time, you will probably notice an improvement in your overall sleep length and quality. If you still have concerns, talk to your doctor about any potential underlying medical issues that could be preventing your falling asleep earlier.