By Andrea Hanson, MS, NCC
Sleep is an important part of our overall health and well-being. Sleep helps in learning, memory, and proper functioning of the immune system, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Despite sleep’s importance to our functioning, we often don’t get enough. You may have experienced difficulty falling asleep and/or waking up frequently throughout the night.
Different disruptions can decrease the amount of sleep we get, or the quality of our sleep. However there are several strategies to improve your “sleep hygiene” – or good sleep habits, as defined by the Centre for Clinical Interventions.
Here are some tips from the Centre for Clinical Interventions to help implement good sleep hygiene:
- Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time. This can help the body get on a routine. Even on vacation days and weekends, going to bed and waking up at the same time can help the body develop a sleep rhythm.
- Go to bed only when you’re tired. This can help prevent spending too much time awake in bed. If you are unable to get to sleep, get up and try doing something relaxing or even boring to help you feel sleepy. Reading a book, doing some stretching, or drinking some caffeine-free tea can help the body to feel more calm and ready for bed. Try to avoid watching TV or using your phone, as this can signal the brain to wake up.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol 4-6 hours before going to bed. Using these substances too close to your bedtime may not only reduce the quality of your sleep but also interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Eating right and exercise can also be important for good sleep; however, try not to eat a big meal or complete a difficult workout too close to bedtime.
- Have the right space for sleeping. Make sure you are comfortable where you sleep and limit distractions in that space. Keeping the room dark or using an eye mask, as well as using earplugs for sleep, can help. Sleeping in a cool room and using blankets to keep warm can aid in your ability to sleep.
There are many resources available to help you with the sleep difficulties you may be experiencing, including counselors at The Village Family Service Center. Contact an office near you or request an appointment online.