Humans spend a lot of time asleep — about a third of our lives, in fact. It should come as no surprise, then, that developing and maintaining good sleep habits is a key factor in maintaining good physical and mental health.
Unfortunately, data show Americans don’t have the greatest relationship with sleep. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control found at least 28.5 percent of American adults sleep less than seven hours a night, while 68.8 percent of teens reported getting less than 8 hours of sleep each night even though it’s recommended that teens sleep more than adults.
Sleep deprivation can make it harder to learn, focus, and react. According to the National Institute of Health, you may have trouble “making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.”
So how can we develop better habits around sleep? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the term “sleep hygiene” refers to “healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.”
Here are some of the top tips for developing and maintaining good sleep hygiene from NAMI, the CDC, and AASM:
- Consistency – It’s important to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. This helps your body develop a rhythm, so you spend less time lying awake waiting to fall asleep. Choose a bedtime that is early enough for you to get seven to eight hours of sleep.
- Routine – Develop a bedtime routine to trick your brain into winding down and getting ready for sleep. Find a quiet activity that does not involve screens or bright lights, such as reading, to do right before sleep. Try to train your brain that your bed is only for sleeping. Lying awake in bed can reinforce sleeplessness.
- Bedroom environment – Your bedroom should be quiet, relaxing, and dark. Limit bright lights and make sure to keep a cool, comfortable temperature.
- No screen time – Screens and bright lights can make it difficult for your brain to get into sleep mode. Remove electronics such as TVs, computers, and smart phones from the bedroom.
- Watch what you eat – While a light, healthy snack is fine to eat, stay away from large meals too close to bedtime. Avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol. Alcohol can be sedating in limited quantities, but it can also disturb your sleep patterns.
- Exercise – Being physically active during the day has been shown to make sleeping at night easier.
If you try these tips and still have trouble getting enough sleep, talk to a doctor or sleep specialist. There are many treatment options available, including cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapies, so don’t hesitate to seek help. In the meantime, practice good sleep hygiene by giving these tips a try.