Most of us do not enough sleep. How much is enough? Well, that’s a bit of a tricky question because the amount of sleep that any one person needs can vary a bit, but it is generally recommended that you spend 7-9 hours in bed each night. If you are not doing this on most nights, then you are very likely not getting as much sleep as you need to perform at your very best.
So, besides going to bed earlier, what else can you do to improve your sleep?
Sleep specialists use the term “sleep hygiene” to refer to a collection of behaviors that you can do, avoid doing, and ways that you can change your environment to improve your sleep. Some of these recommendations include:
1) Keeping a cool bedroom temperature with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended for good sleep. Try to make your bed as inviting and comfortable as possible – having nice sheets, comforters, and pillows will pay dividends in wanting to go to bed and in getting good quality sleep.
2) Make the bed and bedroom a place for sleep and sex only. Working or watching TV in bed creates an undesirable association between being in bed and NOT sleeping.
3) An ideal sleep environment is absolutely pitch black. Try to eliminate any light that remains when you turn the lights out at night. Cover windows with heavy shades or drapes, cover lights from electronics or alarm clocks and turn them away from you, and use an eye mask if you are comfortable doing so. Light is an enemy of good sleep.
4) Protect yourself from noise pollution by running a box fan, air purifier, or white noise maker (sounds like radio or television static). White noise drowns out background noises that might wake you up during the night.
Things to do:
1) Establish a regular bedtime routine to begin at about the same time each night – this helps prepare yourself physically and mentally for a relaxing night of sleep.
2) Make sure that you get sunlight and exercise during the day – just not right before bedtime. Dim the lights around you as you approach bedtime.
3) Eat a light snack or take a warm bath.
4) When going to bed, close your eyes and focus on staying awake. This is called paradoxical intent, is terribly boring, and helps people fall asleep.
Things to avoid:
1) Try not to do any strenuous exercise several hours before bedtime.
2) Avoid eating any large meals or foods that are spicy or contain caffiene (e.g., chocolate) several hours before bedtime.
3) Do not consume alcohol, nicotine, or caffiene within several hours of bedtime. These will either make it difficult to fall asleep or will result in poorer quality sleep when you are sleeping.
4) Try to avoid taking naps during the day. Naps will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.