Everything You Can Do When You're Awake to Ensure You Get Right to Sleep at Night
Some of your daytime behaviors can actually influence how easily you fall asleep at night. Everything from how late in the day you use digital devices to when you eat dinner can ultimately impact your ability to drift off to dreamland. Ahead, you will find several habits to always practice—and a few to avoid—for improved rest, according to a sleep expert.
Do a digital detox.
According to Dr. Allison Siebern, PhD, CBSM, and Proper's Head Sleep Science Advisor, avoiding digital devices and limiting blue light exposure is critical for better sleep, as is disconnecting from stimulating online content, such as the news, about one hour before bedtime. This means putting down your phone before you head into your bedroom.
Eat well before bedtime.
Something else that can make falling asleep challenging? A full stomach. "Try not to eat a large meal close to bedtime and limit eating to at least three hours climbing into bed," Dr. Siebern explains. Curbing your late night cravings—and nixing your midnight snack altogether—is key, she says.
Find out what relaxes you most.
It can be beneficial to know which activities you find relaxing, so that you can make them part of your unwinding routine. "Everyone is different—some find the same behavior to be be non-activating, while others find it activating," Dr. Siebern says. "It warrants first paying attention to how one feels physiologically when engaging in the activity, such as reading a mystery novel. This might slightly increase the heart rate, while gentle stretching may involve the parasympathetic system, leading to slower respiratory rate—and better sleep."
Avoid falling into sleep traps.
No matter which soothing practice you choose, Dr. Siebern says the key is to avoid engaging in any activity thinking it will "make" you sleep. This is what is called "sleep effort," and actually engages the sympathetic nervous system; it makes you feel more awake and alert, along with distressed and anxious over falling asleep. "Sometimes, people read a list of activities to do and think they will solve their sleep issues—or think that if they do something that is boring enough, it will put them to sleep, she says. "This often backfires, because there is the pressure of, 'Okay, I am doing this activity. Is it working? It doesn't seem to be working. I'm not sleepy or asleep yet,'" she says, noting that, when these feelings arise, the sympathetic alerting system becomes involved, leading to more activation. "Wind-down activities should not be stimulating." You can even leave neutral, repetitive tasks—like washing dishes, sorting mail, or folding laundry—for this time frame, as they are not activating.
Abstain from obvious insomnia triggers.
Alcohol consumption particularly close to bedtime can impact the quality of your sleep, says Dr. Siebern. "Late-day caffeine consumption can also have an impact on sleep onset latency," she says.