You need sleep -- for physical and mental health, to function at work and at play, to be happy, and to be safe. If good sleep has been hard to find, you've come to the right place.
Good sleep often starts with good hygiene and a series of small habits that help keep you well. Hand hygiene consists of washing your hands before eating, using soap and water, scrubbing for 15 seconds before rinsing, and so on. Sleep hygiene consists of steps that help your body and brain prepare for sleep. Follow these tips for better sleep hygiene and improved sleep.
Maintain a Thoughtful Diet
- Caffeine: This substance, which is found in dozens of food products and enjoyed by many, isn't a necessary part of the human diet. Healthy enjoyment of caffeine is all about when, how, and how much. Up to three 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is considered normal consumption. Consuming those cups -- or that chocolate or energy drink -- early enough so it won't affect your sleep is critical. If you're consuming more than three cups of coffee per day and your sleep is affected, cut back, but do it slowly to avoid headaches.
- Heavy and spicy foods: These foods are delicious but they can sometimes make it hard to get comfortable when you lie down. If you've had heartburn or an upset stomach at night, or an unexplainable hard time sleeping, try leaner foods for dinner. Avoid fats, heavy spices, citrus, dairy products, and other acidic foods for several hours before bedtime.
- Alcohol: While alcoholic beverages may help some people achieve sleep more quickly, sleep often suffers in the second half of the night as the alcohol is broken down by your body.
Engage in Daily Exercise
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day is enough to improve sleep. For heart health, 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of aerobic exercise is recommended. That amount of exercise helps you sleep better but also live a healthier life.
Be Mindful of Screen Time
Human beings hail from a time long before computer screens and TV, so your brain still expects light and darkness to correspond to day and night. When bright screen light floods into your eyes, your brain thinks that it's time to wake up, not fall asleep! It's recommended that you and your loved ones turn off screens ahead of attempting to sleep, and there are apps, settings, and programs that can help by shifting computer screen light from blue to red. Unlike blue light, red light is less likely to suppress melatonin -- the hormone that helps you sleep -- and is therefore more likely to let your brain find its way to sleep mode.
Heed the Clock
If you constantly move your bedtime around, your brain may have trouble keeping up. Try heading to bed around the same time every night. If you have a fondness for daytime naps, keeping your snooze session under 30 minutes will improve your quality of sleep that night.
Protect Your Sleeping Space
Create a nice sleeping environment for yourself that's free from stress and distracting sounds. Having the room set at the right temperature, blocking out streetlights, and having a comfortable surface can also greatly improve the odds of good sleep.
Establish a Pre-Sleep Routine
Make it a habit to start to relax 20 minutes before you want to go to sleep. Read. Listen to music. Stretch. Ready your body and mind for rest. If you aren't asleep 20 minutes after you've gone to bed, get up and go back to your pre-sleep relaxation routine until you start to feel tired.
If possible, commit to a good night's sleep by combining all these tips. If sleep is a serious issue for you, please consult your health care provider. Keep a sleep journal detailing the steps you've taken, what happens when you try, and so on. This journal will be invaluable in helping your provider decide how to best proceed to help you get the best night's rest possible.