Good Sleep Habits

Sometimes we develop habits and routines that can unintentionally inhibit our ability to fall asleep and/or negatively affect the quality of the sleep we get. Conversely, there are a plethora of things we can do to promote good sleep. Let’s explore below. 

Aim for consistent sleep and wake times each day.

Guidelines suggest that college students between the ages of 18-25 need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Just as quantity of sleep is important, so is consistency of sleep and wake times. Going to bed at different times each night and or waking at different times each day as well as sleeping less during the week and catching up on weekends all contribute to poorer quality of sleep, even if you are getting the same number of hours of sleep. Shifting sleep just one day affects your sleep for several days after and also contributes to decreased concentration and poor mood. 

Develop a good bedtime routine.

When you were younger, your caregivers may have provided you with a consistent bedtime routine that helped you to quiet your body and your mind. It may have included a warm bath or reading stories right before bedtime. Our need for a routine to calm our minds does not change. Learn about specific practices you can build into your bedtime routine to promote good sleep.

Limit caffeine and nicotine use.

While caffeine can give you a little jolt to improve alertness, it also interferes with your ability to fall asleep. Limiting caffeine after 2pm is one way to promote better sleep. Similarly, Nicotine from vaping or combustible tobacco is also known to cause sleep difficulties. 

Exercise regularly, but it may need to be earlier in the day.

Regular movement through fitness and activities during your day is known to promote sleep latency–the time it takes you to fall asleep and sleep quality. For some people, working out too late in the day though has the opposite effect because the endorphins or natural high you get from fitness makes you more alert. If you find exercise has this effect on you, consider working out earlier in the day to give your body time to settle back down.  

Cut off screen time at least a half hour before bedtime.

Being exposed to the light from computer and TV screens, tablets, and phones can inhibit the time it takes you to fall asleep and impact your ability to fall into the deep restorative sleep cycles your body needs. The light emitted from the screens delays the onset of your body’s production of melatonin, which is your natural signal to settle down for bed. 

Your sleep environment matters.

If you are able to control the temperature in your room, The National Sleep Foundation suggests that 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Your sleeping environment should also be dark. Room darkening blind, curtains or shades can keep your room dark at night. If this is not possible, using an eye mask can help.

Don’t study or do homework in bed.

You need to build a strong association with your brain and sleep. Doing work in bed can cause you to associate stress with sleep. Conversely you might fall asleep while studying because your mind associates that task with your bed thus preventing you from accomplishing your schoolwork.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep.

It can be frustrating when you can’t sleep. Staying in bed and tossing and turning can build a negative association between your bed and sleep. Instead, try doing a quiet activity somewhere else like your desk chair or the lounge down the hall, just as long as it is not on your computer, phone or tablet!

Limit alcohol and marijuana intake.

While alcohol can sometimes make you feel drowsy, it actually gets in the way of good sleep. Alcohol use can interrupt your sleep. It inhibits you from getting into the deep restorative sleep cycles cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, or earlier than you normally would and can also cause the need to go to the bathroom more. 

Like alcohol, cannabis that contains THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid, also inhibits your body’s ability to get deep restorative sleep. People may feel like they fall asleep easier from marijuana use but the quality of sleep is impacted. If you are using marijuana or alcohol to help you fall asleep, it may be helpful to talk to a medical or mental health provider. Relying on a substance to help facilitate sleep can be a sign of self-medicating for another condition.

Nip the excessive napping.

Napping can be positive. But too much of a nap or too late of a nap can interfere with your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.