Strategies for Promoting Healthy Sleep Habits

Introduction

Improving your sleep habits is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. The following sections provide actionable strategies and techniques to help you achieve better sleep. These sections are divided into two categories: strategies for falling asleep and strategies for managing middle-of-the-night wake-ups.

While some of these strategies may seem obvious, their effectiveness lies in consistent practice. By implementing these techniques, you can establish healthy sleep habits and improve the quality of your sleep, which in turn can lead to a more refreshed and energized you.

Strategies for Falling Asleep

Relaxation Techniques

Engage in activities that promote relaxation and calmness, such as meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques can help quiet the mind and reduce racing thoughts that may be keeping you awake.

Sleep Environment

Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable, cool, and dark. Especially temperature wise, the overall temperature of our bedroom is usually too warm. Our body needs to cool down slightly to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.

Use comfortable bedding and pillows, and eliminate any noise or light that may be disrupting your sleep. If you are living in an area that has a lot of a night time noises, consider using white noise sounds to create a consistent background sound.

Sleep Schedule

Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and stick to this schedule as closely as possible. This can help regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle and make it easier to fall asleep. You can track how regularity affects your sleep by tracking it in a sleep diary.

You can further enhance this by setting the same triggers each evening. For example, you can start dimming the lights or turning a few off to make it more dark an hour before bed. In this way you’re teaching your body that you are ready to go to sleep and you will see over time that you will start getting sleepy more natural this way.

Blue Light

Blue light emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions can interfere with our sleep. Exposure to blue light at night can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. When melatonin levels are suppressed, it can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce the quality of our sleep. 

It is recommended to limit the use of electronic devices in the hours leading up to bedtime. This can be achieved by avoiding the use of electronic devices for at least 30 minutes to an hour before sleep, or by using blue light filters or glasses that block blue light.

Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol are both known to interfere with sleep quality, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase alertness and energy levels, which can make it harder to relax and fall asleep. It can also stay in the body for several hours, meaning that even if consumed earlier in the day, it can still affect sleep later at night.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant that can initially make us feel drowsy and help us fall asleep faster. However, it can also disrupt the quality of our sleep by causing more frequent awakenings during the night, reducing the amount of time we spend in deep, restorative sleep.

Strategies for Managing Wake-ups

The previous strategies for falling asleep will also help to reduce the amount of times that you fall asleep. However, the following techniques are specifically helpful to get to sleep faster again after waking up in the middle of the night:

Try to Stay in Bed

Resist the urge to get up and engage in stimulating activities if you wake up during the night. Instead, stay in bed and focus on relaxation techniques like grounding or visualization to help calm your mind and body.

By focusing on redirecting your thoughts away from negative or unhelpful thoughts, you can help remain relaxed and it will be more likely that you will fall asleep soon.

But what if you can't sleep...

If after 30 minutes of staying awake, you still aren’t able to get back to sleep, it is best to get up and do something calming in a different room. This is to avoid us starting to unconsciously linking being awake and being in bed.

You might consider activities such as stretching, meditating, or reading a book to help you relax. Avoid turning on bright lights or engaging in stimulating activities such as eating, as these can make it more difficult to feel sleepy again. Engage in the calming activity until you feel drowsy, then return to bed and try to fall asleep.

Avoid Clock Watching

Constantly checking the time can increase stress and anxiety, making it even harder to fall back asleep. If possible, remove any visible clocks from your bedroom or turn them away from your line of sight.

The paradoxical intention technique can be helpful in this situation. It is a strategy used to combat sleep difficulties by intentionally trying to stay awake. It may seem counterintuitive, but many people find that attempting to stay awake actually reduces the anxiety and pressure they feel to fall asleep, making it easier to doze off. This technique can be particularly helpful for individuals with performance anxiety related to sleep, such as worrying about how much sleep they’ll get before an important event.

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