Establishing a nighttime routine can be one of the most effective ways to ensure a good night’s sleep. Consistency is key to establishing a routine. You need to stick to a schedule, make certain lifestyle changes, and assure your bedroom is a comfortable space.
Wake up and go to bed at roughly the same time each day.
Your body has a natural sleep/wake cycle that responds to routine. If you go to bed and fall asleep at the same time each day, your body will adapt naturally. You’ll begin to nod off around bedtime and wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. It can be hard to avoid the temptation of sleeping in on weekends, but try not to stay in bed for more than 20 or 30 minutes past your usual bedtime.
If you want to adapt to a different sleep routine, you’ll have to do so gradually. You can’t go from staying up until 2 AM every day to going to bed at 10. If you’re trying to establish a new routine, you’ll have to do so gradually.
If you want to be in bed by, say, 11 at night try moving your bedtime back about 15 minutes each night. Instead of going to bed at one, go to bed at 12:45. The next night, go to bed at 12:30. Keep moving your bedtime back until you’re hitting the time you want.
You may feel tired at first. Even a 15 minute change can make a big difference. However, if you stay consistent you’ll eventually be sleeping on time each night.
Have bedtime rituals.
Bedtime rituals can help you wind down for sleep each night. Your body will recognize certain routines, like reading a book, as a predecessor for sleep and begin naturally shutting down.
Find a low-key activity you enjoy to engage in before bed. Read a book, do a crossword puzzle, take a bath or shower. Try to stay away from activities like watching television or going on your computer, however, as the light created by such devices stimulates the brain.
You can also engage in relaxation techniques in bed. Take breaths. Lie on your back, place your hand on your belly, inhale so that your hand rises, count to three, and then breathe out. Pay attention to your senses. Take note of how the sheets feel against your skin, the smell of the room, and sounds you hear.
Skip the snooze button.
When you wake up, get straight out of bed without hitting snooze. When you hit snooze, you transition straight back into REM sleep. When you’re again immediately jarred from REM, this actually makes you more tired than you would have been if you’d woken up the first time. While it may be tempting to sleep for an extra nine minutes, you’ll be more rested without them.
Vigorous daily exercise is not only good for your overall health. It can also promote good sleep. Those who engage in regular physical activity have better sleep/wake cycles than those who do not.
Pick an activity you enjoy. If you like long walks, go walking every day. You could also try running or jogging. Join a water aerobics or softball team. Try to get in some physical movement each day.
When you exercise is important as well. Exercising too close to bed can be stimulating, causing you to have difficulty sleeping. Do not engage in rigorous physical activity within a few hours of bedtime.
Watch what you eat.
Food can have a profound effect on sleep. Eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime can cause indigestion and discomfort, both of which can result in trouble sleeping. If you get hungry near bedtime, stick to a light snack. Some of the following can be great before bed snacks:
A piece of toast with almond or peanut butter
Turkey slices spread with cream cheese and avocado and then rolled up into mini-wraps
Whole grain cereal and milk
Cheese and crackers
Cut back on alcohol and nicotine.
Alcohol and nicotine are both stimulants. Cutting back on substances can help.
As smoking can cause many health problems, you should strive to quit if you do smoke. You can talk to your doctor about quitting and look into programs that can help you cut back on tobacco.
While alcohol can make you drowsy, the sleep you have when inebriated is actually of less quality. The sleep you do have when drinking will leave you feeling tired in the morning. Try to drink in moderation and never on nights when you need to be up early.
Do not consume caffeine late in the day.
Caffeine is a very powerful stimulant that blocks feelings of sleepiness from affecting the brain. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to six hours, so try to cut back on drinking coffee, soda, or energy drinks later in the day. Teas also sometimes contain caffeine. If you’re a tea drinker, stick to herbal and caffeine free teas.
Stick to cool colors.
Warmer colors, like reds, can actually increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Cooler colors, like light purples and blues, tend to have a calming affect. Use these shades for your bedroom. If you really love red or yellow, confine that color to small items like a pillow or bedspread.
Avoid carpet if possible.
Carpet is often made out of synthetic materials which can lead to indoor air pollution. This can result in difficulty sleeping. If possible, opt for hardwood floors in the bedroom.
If you can’t remove carpet from your floor, try area rugs made of natural fabric and make sure to vacuum often.
Separate your sleeping life from your waking life.
You do not want to associate your bedroom with anything but sleep. Make efforts to separate your sleeping life from your waking life.
Do not work in your bedroom and especially not in bed. This can confuse the brain as you’ll learn to associate your bed with go time instead of sleep time.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom. The blue light emitted by phones, laptops, and TV screens stimulates the brain and makes it difficult to fall asleep at night.
If you live in a studio or dorm room, it might be difficult to separate your sleeping life from your waking life. You can try hanging a blanket or tapestry between your bed area and your living room/kitchen area and see if that helps.
Evaluate your bed.
If your bed is uncomfortable, this might be affecting your sleep. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and bedding.
Pillows, comforters, and blankets should be free of any potential allergens and irritants. Pillows can lose firmness over time, so replace your pillow if it’s not providing adequate support.
Mattresses have an 8 to 10 year shelf life. If your mattress is getting old, consider a replacement. If you can’t afford a new mattress, try investing a foam mattress pad.
Stick to a specific bedtime.
Like adults, kids have a circadian rhythm that naturally adapts to a scheduled sleep/wake cycle. By giving your kids an established bedtime, they’ll be more likely to feel tired at night and energetic during the day.
If you have multiple young children, consider having different bedtimes for each kid. That way, you’ll be able to make sure each child gets individual attention before bed.
Have a sequence of events that lead up to bedtime as well. For example, have dinner, then homework, then bed.
Help your child relax before bed.
Kids respond to the same basic stimuli that drive adult sleep/wake cycles. To help your child fall asleep easily, help them relax before bed.
Turn off the TV and other electronics a few hours before bed time. You could have a set rule, like “No TV after seven” depending on when bedtime is. The lights from electronic screens cause a surge in energy, making sleep difficult.
A bedtime snack can be a great, relaxing ritual that helps prep a child for sleep. Choose a healthy snack, like whole wheat bread with a slice of cheese. Carbohydrates tend to make people tired.
Make sure your child has comfortable bedtime pajamas. Itchy pajamas, or PJs that are too warm or too hot, can make sleep difficult.
If your child is old enough to safely sleep with a favorite toy, leave this toy in bed with your child so he or she can fall asleep easier. Very young children, like babies and toddlers, should not be left alone with toys during sleep, however.
Have a bedtime ritual.
Engaging in certain rituals helps alert the body that it’s time to sleep. Have certain relaxing rituals to engage in around bedtime to help prep your child for sleep.
Ease your child’s fears. If he or she is afraid of the dark, invest in a nightlight. Support your child if he or she expresses fear by saying something like, “I know you can get to sleep fine on your own. I believe in you.”
Read your child a bedtime story. Not only do bedtime stories help children fall asleep faster, many studies show they can improve your child’s reading and comprehension skills.
Play or sing soft, soothing music before bed.
Encourage your child to sleep independently.
Children often want to sleep with their parents or be slowly eased into bedtime. However, it’s important for your child to learn to fall asleep independent of you. Encourage your child to sleep alone and provide things like sound machines or fans to block out unwanted noises.