How to Sleep Better: 10 Tips to Improve Your Sleep

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Having a good night's sleep isn't as impossible as it may seem. Believe it or not, there are many easy ways to improve your sleep! How to sleep better...

Are you frustrated with your sleep? Are you trying different gadgets and gizmos to track and improve your sleep?

We definitely all get frustrated with the fact that we are not in control of our sleep. Unfortunately, some of the things we try actually make our sleep worse.

The key is actually to keep it simple, the more we add the more complicated we are making it. So stick to the basics, which means cueing your body for sleep as best you can and then letting your natural circadian rhythm take over.

How to Sleep Better: 10 Tips to Improve Your Sleep

1. Go to Bed and Wake up at the Same Time Every Day

This helps to regulate your natural sleep-wake cycle. When you stay up late and sleep in on weekends, your body likely has trouble adjusting back to normal hours for the work/school week. Napping should only be done in the early afternoon for no more than 30 minutes. If you sleep too much during the day, you will not be tired when it’s time to go to bed.

2. Get Outside More

Spend more time outside in natural sunlight, especially in the morning, and reduce artificial light at night. Turn off or remove those stimulating screens (TV, computer, iPad) especially one hour before bedtime.

3. Create a Comfortable and Relaxing Sleep Environment

Make your bedroom a place for sleep that is comfortable and relaxing. It is best if your room is cool (65 degrees), dark, and quiet when you are ready to sleep. Fans are a great way to create coolness and white noise.

4. Follow a Bedtime Routine

Train your brain what bed is for by creating a relaxing bedtime routine that may include reading, journaling, a warm bath, stretching, or soft music. Try not to do any stimulating activities before bedtime or in bed during the day.

5. Avoid Arguments or Big Decision Before Bed

Try to plan for the next day earlier in the evening and postpone worrying until the next day. A notepad next to your bed might help with reminders for the next day rather than keeping you up at night.

6. Stay Away From Spicy Meals, Alcohol, and Nicotine Before Bed

Avoid heavy, rich, spicy, or acidic meals before bedtime as well as alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol may help you fall asleep but usually keeps you in a light sleep which makes it more likely that you will wake up during the night. Nicotine is a stimulant that your body will likely crave again during the night.

7. Cut Back on Caffeine

Reduce caffeine intake during the day. Caffeine can impact you even 10-12 hours after consumed, so it is best to not drink caffeine after lunchtime.

8. Exercise Regularly

An optimal amount would be 30 minutes a day about 4-5 hours before bedtime. Less stimulating exercises such as yoga or stretches can be done closer to bedtime.

9. Remain In “Sleep Mode” Throughout the Night

It’s normal to wake up during the night; the trick is to continue to cue your body for sleep by not looking at the clock and remaining in bed in a relaxed position. You might have to tell yourself that relaxation is the goal rather than sleep and focus on body sensations rather than thoughts.

10. Wake Up During Your Lightest Sleep

If you are really groggy when you wake up, try scheduling your sleep as a multiple of 90 minutes (7.5 hours or 9 hours), making it less likely that you will wake up during the deep sleep part of your sleep cycle.

Remember, people often try to control their sleep with things like caffeine, alcohol, or over the counter medications, however, these things are part of the difficulty. Even sleep machines with jungle or thunderstorm sounds can actually do the opposite of what you intend.

Sometimes complex problems have simple solutions, but we have to be willing to follow through and stay consistent with proven strategies.

If you feel like you have done a really good job cueing your body for sleep over a significant period of time and have not seen improvement, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about other interfering factors such as sleep apnea or other medical conditions. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy has also proven effective in helping individuals better understand their sleep and the factors influencing it.

Click here to read more articles by Dr. Andrea Umbach!



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Dr. Andrea Umbach

Dr. Andrea Umbach is a licensed psychologist at Southeast Psych, Southpark. She specializes in treating individuals with anxiety, OCD, hoarding, and trichotillomania. She practices from a cognitive-behavioral approach focused on increasing flexibility in thinking and making adaptive behavior changes. Dr. Umbach is the author of “Conquer Your Fears and Phobias for Teens” and founder of the Charlotte Anxiety Consortium.

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