Good sleep is integral to our mental and physical health. Here are 5 tips to improve sleep:
#1 Develop a Routine.
Doing the same thing, night after night, signals our brain that it's time to go to bed.
For example: brush teeth, engage in a relaxation exercise, get in bed, and read a book.
Find something that works for you.
#2 Limit Electronics.
Electronics emit blue light, which mimics sunlight by inhibiting the release of melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep).
Try to leave a 1-2 hour window between using electronics and getting into bed.
TRY NOT to bring electronics into bed with you!
#3 Evaluate Your Diet and Exercise Routine.
Improving sleep can be as simple as cutting down on caffeine use. Or being mindful of certain foods before bed (e.g., those that trigger acid reflux).
Exercising during the day can also improve sleep. Some people find it helpful to exercise closer to bed, however others do not.
#4 Get Out of Bed!
This one is extremely difficult. But if we cannot fall asleep after 15-30 minutes, it's best to get out of bed and do something else.
What happens is that our brain ends up pairing a) lying in bed, with b) being awake. This is called classical conditioning (think of Pavlov's dog).
So, get out of bed and do something else (non-stimulating, such as reading or deep breathing), and when you feel tired, get back in bed.
#5 Practice Relaxation Before Bed.
Relaxation exercises quiet the mind and body. These might include meditation, deep breathing, stretching, tai chi, reading a book, among many others.
Do something that focuses your attention, so that it is not ruminating about content from the past and future. Or, write down your worries on a notepad and pick it up in the morning.
An equanimous mind is more likely to slip into restful sleep.
Matthew S. Goodman, Ph.D., BCB is a Registered Psychological Assistant (PSB94024933) and Board Certified Biofeedback Therapist working under the supervision of Dr. Chris Marrero (PSY23017) in private practice. He specializes in teaching self-regulation techniques using practices such as mindfulness/meditation and biofeedback, and working with patient with co-occurring mental and physical health symptoms.