If sleep is a constant struggle for you, it’s important to carefully examine your habits. What you do each day, and how you prepare for bed, can help or hinder your sleep. Rest assured: this module will teach you strategies for promoting and maintaining healthy sleep.
Watch this video or read Setting the Scene: Creating a Good Sleep Environment transcript to understand how your surroundings can affect your sleep.
Your bedroom can have a huge impact on your sleep. Consider the factors below:
Light can interfere with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, so try to limit the artificial light in your bedroom. Street lights, digital clocks, or even or the blinking light of a charging laptop can keep you awake, so block them off with curtains or masking tape, or use a sleep mask. Keep a nightlight in the bathroom, so that a late-night bathroom trip doesn’t completely wake you up.
Some of the sneakier sources of sleep-stealing light are our electronics. Ideally, you should set an “electronic curfew” and stop using your devices an hour before bedtime. If you absolutely must use your phone before bed, try changing your display settings so that the screen automatically dims at a set time each night.
Sleeping in a slightly cool room can encourage sleep, so set your thermostat to somewhere between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. This is a wide range, so tinker with the temperature of your room until you find something that feels comfortable.
Your brain should clearly associate your bed with sleep. When you use your bed for other activities, like watching TV, texting, or studying, your brain starts to associate your bed with being awake. This can lead to more restless nights, so remember: beds are for sleeping!
What you put into your body affects your sleep. Consider making changes to your food, caffeine, and alcohol consumption.
A small snack in the evening can keep you from waking up hungry in the middle of the night, but don’t eat too much. Sleep causes your digestive system to slow down, and a big meal right before bed may make you feel uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep.
It’s also worth considering what you’re eating. According to the National Sleep Foundation, foods like white pasta and sugary baked goods can impair your sleep. They recommend foods like almonds, tart cherries, and bananas that can help you fall asleep and wake up less often.
You’re probably not drinking coffee right before bed, but did you know that the effects of daytime caffeine consumption can last well into the evening? Coffee has a half-life of about 6 hours, which means that when you consume caffeine, it takes about 6 hours to eliminate just half of that caffeine from your body. For example, if you drink a large coffee with 280mg of caffeine at noon, you will still have 140mg, about the equivalent of a small cup of coffee, in your system at 6 p.m. Depending on your bedtime, try to cap your caffeine intake in the early afternoon.
It’s also important to remember that coffee might not be the only source of caffeine in your diet. Chocolate, tea, and soft drinks may also contain caffeine.
If you’re experiencing disturbed sleep, consider avoiding alcohol in the hours before bed. While alcohol may help you get to sleep, it doesn’t help you stay asleep. Alcohol has a rebound effect: it puts you to sleep, but may wake you up 4 or 5 hours later, once it leaves your system.
Watch this video or read Consistent-Zzz’s: The Importance of a Sleep Schedule transcript to better understand the importance of regular sleep and wake-up times.
A consistent sleep schedule works with your body’s natural clock, training you to feel tired and wake up at roughly the same time each day. Getting onto a sleep schedule can be challenging, so here are a few tips:
As you adjust to and maintain your sleep schedule, you should also be aware of two major consistency culprits: social jet lag and napping! Read more below.
Social jet lag refers to the phenomenon of staying up late and sleeping in on weekends, but getting up early during the week. These late nights can seriously affect your sleep and your overall health -- in fact, social jet lag has been linked to fatigue, heart problems and depression.
That being said, schedule-breakers like parties and late-night study sessions are going to happen. If you absolutely must sleep in on weekends, try to limit it to an hour or two of extra Zzz’s.
After a poor night’s sleep, you may feel a strong desire to take a nap. The key here is to nap smart. An ideal nap is:
Yet another reason that exercise is good for you: it can promote healthy sleep. Even a small change can make a difference: just 10-20 minutes of regular, daily aerobic exercise (like walking, running, cycling or dancing) can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Try to get outside for your exercise -- this way, you work the dual sleep benefits of both exercise and exposure to sunlight.
Below, you’ll find some helpful tools to get the best sleep you can.
If you’re being kept awake or woken up by unwanted noise, consider using earplugs. Earplugs are generally very inexpensive and can be found at most drugstores. They come in foam, silicone, and wax styles.
If you don’t like to sleep in complete silence, a white noise app might be a good fit for you. While irregular sounds like your TV or a car alarm can startle you awake, white noise provides constant, soothing sounds to lull you into sleep.
We recommend Rain Rain Sleep Sounds. This app is currently free for iOS and Android devices. Rain Rain allows you to:
If you’re struggling to eliminate pesky, sleep-stealing light from your bedroom, consider a sleep mask. Sleep masks come in different materials, including cotton, satin, and memory foam, so find something that feels comfortable to you.