If you spent the last few nights — or weeks — tossing and turning, it may be time to think about your habits in the hours that lead up to bed. With a few small changes, you can go from restless to restful. If you’re guilty of any of these 7 habits, it’s time for a change.
1. Your world is aglow with electronic screens.
What's the last thing you do before you go to bed? If you're watching TV, playing Candy Crush, or checking your Instagram feed, you may hinder your ability to sleep. An hour or so before bed, shut down everything with a glowing screen: this means TV, iPad, computer, and phone. It's best if you don't keep any of these devices in your bedroom since the blue lights can disturb your sleep even in the middle of the night.
2. You go to bed and wake up at different times during the week.
Consistently going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends) will help your body and mind to get on a regular sleep-wake cycle. As much as you can, try to keep your sleep schedule consistent. If you're unable to fall asleep within 15 minutes, don't agonize and try to force yourself to sleep. Do something quiet and relaxing until you feel sleepy and try again.
3. You’re not taking the time to unwind.
While you're avoiding late-night screen time, find another way to occupy yourself in the hours before bed. Whether it's reading a book, taking a bath, or having a cup of decaffeinated tea, aim to do something quiet each night that separates your end-of-the-day activities from your sleeping time. Bright lights and activities that cause stress or excitement before bed will make it that much harder to fall asleep.
4. You’ve become a couch potato.
Research from Northwestern University Department of Neurobiology and Physiology suggests that inactive adults who began incorporating four days of aerobic exercise into their routine noticed an improvement in their sleep. The only trick: make sure you don't exercise too late in the day, or you will be too excited to sleep. Be sure to end your workout several hours before bedtime.
5. You’re letting your mind get the best of you.
If you have a difficult time winding down at night because you can't stop thinking about tomorrow's to-do list, it may be helpful to take a few moments and write things down. First, write down what is worrying or concerning you. Do you have a work deadline coming up and you're not sure how you'll pull everything together in time? Write down whatever your issues are. Then write down a few steps you can take to work on the issue. For example, you could set up a meeting with your boss to propose an extended deadline, or you could delegate some tasks to other coworkers. Now that you see a few solutions on paper, allow yourself to forget about the problem tonight and tackle it tomorrow.
6. You’re keeping your room too bright or warm.
The best temperatures for sleeping are between 60 and 67 degrees, so aim to keep your nighttime thermostat set there. Also, look around your room and see if any light is getting in. Sometimes even the subtle light of a digital alarm clock is enough to cause a disturbance. If you're sensitive to the light, consider wearing a sleep mask.
10. You’re letting other things come into the bedroom.
Don't bring your work — or your TV — into the bedroom unless you want to make it even harder for yourself to be able to fall asleep. Limit your bedroom activities to two things: sex and sleep. Everything else can be done in another room.