by Emma Ekum, LMFT
Poor sleep is connected to several health risks, as mentioned in our previous blog post, Get Better Sleep. Here are some habits you can practice to help yourself get proper sleep and optimize your physical and mental health.
- Keep the bed for sleep and sex. If you find yourself lounging on your bed while working on your laptop, phone calls to your friends, or reading a good book, you may be training your brain to associate your bed with work or fun over rest and relaxation. This will make it harder for your body to fall and stay asleep.
- Make a bedtime routine. As it grows dark outside, prepare your body for sleep time by getting out of your work clothes, dimming lights, and engaging in slower, relaxing activities that you can associate with getting closer to bedtime (i.e. enjoying a cup of herbal tea, reading, cuddling with a loved one, softer music, etc.)
- Limit your exposure to screens and bluelight. Electronics have come a long way with “nightmodes” on our screens so that the bluelight does not impact our sleep, however it is important to reduce the amount of screen stimulation you get. A good rule of thumb is to have “one screen on at a time,” the closer you get to bed, meaning try to not scroll through social media while watching a television show. This will lower your brain’s stimulation and help it prepare to slow down for sleep. Another good rule to hold for yourself is to limit how much screen time you have in bed before you fall asleep. This helps with helping your body associate your bed with sleep as well.
- Exercise during the day. Exercising during the day will help exhaust the body (and quiet the mind) for night time. Be sure not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime, because it can boost your adrenaline and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Stay consistent. Our bodies need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to work optimally. Be sure to allocate enough sleep time for yourself when you are setting your bedtime and wake-up time. Additionally, try not to shift your sleep and wake times too drastically. Shifting more than 30 minutes on either end of your sleep period can confuse your body clock and create more sleep trouble.
- Watch your diet. Caffeine takes 10 hours to move through our bodies. Try not to have any caffeine after a certain time, to make sure your body can wind down for bedtime. If you find yourself waking up to use the restroom more than once a night, make sure you aren’t ingesting liquids later in the evening. Additionally, sugar, processed or heavy foods, and alcohol are harder for our bodies to process. This can impact the body’s ability to fully recharge and rest when you are sleeping, and may cause you to wake up throughout the night.
- Get yourself back asleep. There are several factors that can cause us to wake up throughout the night. If you find this happening to you, the easiest way to get back to sleep after 20 minutes of trying to fall back asleep is to take yourself out of bed. This preserves the body’s association of the bed with rest, and shifts the body’s temperature to a place where it will long for the temperature of the bed. If you engage in a boring activity with low light for about 20 minutes (reading, folding laundry, coloring, etc.), and then put yourself back to bed, you are more likely to get back asleep faster.
Changing even a few of these habits can enhance your quality of sleep, and improve your physical and mental health. For further assistance, the Avedian Counseling Center would be happy to help.
Authored by Emma Ekum, LMFT
Emma is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Clinical Supervisor at Avedian Counseling Center and Anger Management 818 in Los Angeles, California. She is certified in CBT-I, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. Her practice includes adolescents, individuals, couples and families. Emma uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Systemic approaches.