Sleep Hygiene Tips

I tend to think I’m a pretty good sleeper.

As a kid, I was always – always – the first one to fall asleep at slumber parties; in high school, I abided by a self-imposed bedtime; and even as an adult, I’ve been known to fall asleep in the middle of a party.

Like, say, at a bar.

Or, like, in a car.

Sleep happens.

But as of late I’ve had a little trouble sleeping. I toss and turn all night, have the weirdest/most stressful dreams and I wake up tired.

I see clients who have a similar issue, and because the topic was brought up over a dinner conversation last night, I thought, hey – maybe it’s time to write a post about sleep hygiene. 

Here are some tips I suggest to clients, as well as tips I do my best to follow in my personal life.

  • Set a schedule – Don’t just stay up as late as possible so your body has no other choice but to collapse on you.  For a lack of a better term, set a “bedtime” and make your best effort to stick to it, give or take 30 minutes. Our bodies like routine, so we might as well give in ;)
  • Don’t make naps a regular thing – Sometimes naps are totally necessary. Like, on Sundays when your husband is watching football. But when you nap regularly, it becomes difficult to stay awake during the day, as well as sleep through the night.
  • Nix the nighttime snacking – I tend to suggest avoiding sugars and carbs 2 – 4 hours before you go to sleep. Simple as that.
  • Turn off the TV. And the computer. And the cell phone. – Let’s be honest, our brains are over-stimulated all day long. “Unplugging” 30 – 60 minutes before bed allows our mind to calm down, resulting in less weird dreams and “thoughts that keep me up at night.”
  • Release the worry – If you’re a worrier like myself, it helps to keep a notepad bedside. Why? Rather than replaying a worry or thought, simply write it down and roll back over. Releasing worries from our mind is essential for a good night’s sleep!
  • Your bed is for two things: sleep and sex – When you make your bed your office, your dining room, and your living room, your body doesn’t recognize it as a place of rest.
  • Avoid alcohol – It’s a common misconception that alcohol aids in sleep, but it actually does just the opposite. Alcohol may make us pass out (like, in a bar, or in a car), but as it metabolizes and leaves our system, it acts as a stimulant.
  • Lastly if you can’t sleep, GET UP – Don’t lay there hoping you’ll fall asleep. Get up, get a drink of milk, or read a book for ten minutes. I like to think of it as “hitting the reset button.”

Let’s chat – Do you have any specific sleep hygiene habits? While I try to abide by all of these tips, the one I won’t compromise is my sleep schedule. If I stay up too late, get up too late, or don’t get 7 – 8 hours, I’m all out of whack! 

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15 Responses to Sleep Hygiene Tips

  1. I lecture on sleep & consciousness in my Gen Psych class and these are the same tips I share with my students (who are notoriously bad at sleeping well). My best tip is to always stick to a sleep schedule – as crazy as it sounds i wake up at 5 a.m. every day (even the weekends) just because it helps me SO much when I have to wake up that early during the week!

  2. Having a sleep schedule is key for me and something that despite often having in place, is also hard to maintain at times. Working a job with varying hours means some days I work at the butt-crack of dawn and some days I don’t work until the afternoon. So I try me best to keep my bed-time the same and wake up at a reasonable time on those other days rather than sleeping in.

  3. Parita says:

    I’ve been having sleep issues for the past few weeks, but I know what the problem is…I don’t “unplug” until right before my head hits my pillow. I’m going to try turning everything off 30 minutes before bed and see if that helps! Thanks for the tips!

  4. Those are all good ideas, I will have to try some of them!! :)

    However, the “unplug” thing is kind of hard because I like the sound of the computer/television running while I fall asleep (that way I do not have to hear someone else snoring)!

  5. Great tips! I used to sleep terribly in college (I think it was all of my anxiety/stress), but thankfully my sleep habits have gotten a LOT better in the past few years. I try to keep my body on generally the same schedule (hit the hay at about 10 to 10:30, wake up between 6 & 6:30), I make sure I have some quiet time/prayer each day to keep my mind quiet as I go to sleep, I don’t have caffeine past 2 or 3 PM, and I try not to eat sugary or heavy food right before I go to bed. It all seems to help a lot!

  6. Erika says:

    My husband has been complaining about not being able to sleep lately and I try to tell him to turn off his phone and TV and that he needs to sleep train just like we had to sleep brain our baby but he doesn’t believe me. Whatever – I’m sleeping good! I look forward to going to bed every night and reading always puts me right out.

  7. I desperately need that 8 hours of sleep every night too. I’m really good about keeping a routine of it…I also keep a notepad and pen by my bed so that when I start making lists in my head of things I need to remember I can just roll over, write it down, and fall asleep without worrying about it.

  8. I’m a big fan of “unplugging” before bed. I almost always read a book, magazine, or whatever when I go to bed each night, and depending on how tired I am or how good the book is, it always helps me fall asleep within 10-30 minutes. The advice to release the worry is so great too, if something’s on my mind, it helps tremendously for me to just write it down (or type it into my iPhone notes, whatevers handy). For some reason, once something’s written, it’s like it flies right outta my mind and I can sleep again!

  9. I struggle with anxiety, so sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. I’ll usually check emails and browse Instagram until I’m ready fall asleep again. I’m getting better at sleeping through the night, though — we’ve lived in our apartment for five months and I’m still hearing weird noises, which make me nervous!

  10. Julie says:

    Thank you so much! These are fantastic tips. I suck at sleeping.

  11. Hey Colleen- Sleeping well runs in the Whitney side of the family. Hannah slept 12 hours last night and I slept 10. My brother gets an A+ for good sleep. Sleeping in your old room with
    the stars and moon was the best!! XO

  12. I’m notorious for staying up late, even when my morning calls for a 3:18am alarm (yes, that is typo-free and it happens on the regular). I really need to make sleep more of a priority. I always feel so much better mentally and physically after I’ve caught up (to me “catching up” is 6.5-7.5 hours, that’s how bad it’s gotten), so I really need to kick my butt in gear when it comes to getting to bed early.
    Thanks for making me think about it Colleen. :)

  13. I’m such a grandma, but dang it, I don’t care! I’ve embraced it and love it :) I get up between 4:45-5am to workout, so my bedtime is no later than 9. Some nights, like tonight, it’s not even 8pm and I could very easily snuggle up and go to sleep.

  14. I definitely need to work on this! Love these tips :)

  15. I feel like I need 9-10 hours of sleep per night to be happy and functional! One of the things I contribute to my good sleeping abilities (can I list this on a resume??) is the fact that I cut caffeine out completely. I know this isn’t possible for everyone but I have noticed dramatic differences in my ability to fall asleep quickly and feel awake in the morning without the aid of coffee!

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