I wrote last week about the factors that contribute to quality sleep hygiene. Specifically, I talked about creating routines around when you go to sleep and when you wake up – as I mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep hygiene, and the most important factor is determining what works best for you, the individual.
There are some general tips to consider, of course, such as:
- The light from screens can make your brain think it is daytime, so turning on the blue light filter after about 6pm can help your sleep-wake cycle.
- As much as possible, going to bed and waking up around the same time helps your body know when it is time to rest and when it is time to be awake.
- Your brain can associate certain things with bed time, so having a routine can help you get restful sleep.
So, what goes into a healthy sleep routine? Again, the specifics need to be whatever works best for you, but general guidelines include:
- Light. Do you sleep best in complete darkness, or does that bring up some anxiety? Having a small light in your room can be relaxing. Notice how you feel with different options, and do what works best for you.
- Sound. Do you need complete silence? Do you prefer background white noise? Some people have trouble turning their brain off, so a guided meditation or even a familiar television show or podcast distracts their brain enough to get rest. As I mentioned, screens can make your brain think it’s daytime, so turning the device away so you are listening but not watching can aid with sleep. For guided meditations, my personal favorites are from The Honest Guys on YouTube.
- Smell. If you are someone who is sensitive to smells, you can use a diffuser or pillow spray. Your brain can tie the scent to your bedtime routine and help you recognize that it is time to rest.
- Ritual. A good sleep routine is about 30 minutes of consistent behavior done before going to bed. If you find that bathing relaxes you, bathe at night. This routine can also include reading something relaxing, drinking (un-caffeinated) tea, journaling, meditating, or any activity that brings your heart rate down and makes you feel relaxed.
It can be helpful to deliberately and mindfully document your preferred sleep routine to help you practice. After a few weeks of consistency, you can start to see better quality sleep.
Of course, bring any concerns about your sleep to your primary doctor as well.