It goes without saying that not getting a good night’s sleep is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. Still, circumstances in your life can occasionally get in the way, and drifting off to sleep at night can feel out of reach.
Having a good schedule is one of the most important things to consider when trying to improve your general sleep hygiene.
The average person needs around 7-9 hours of slumber per night to ensure that their sleep is restorative and beneficial. Anything more or less than this can indicate sleep conditions or issues in our day-to-day lives that are preventing us from drifting off, such as trying to sleep when stressed or having insomnia.
During this guide, I will look at some of the dos and don’ts before bed, which could affect your ability to fall asleep and stop you from waking up multiple times during the night. This can be as simple as the environment in which you sleep or bad habits that occur throughout the day.
So, let’s look at what to do and not to do before bed to get a great night’s sleep.
Things You Should Be Doing (Do’s)
Here, I will give tips on things you can include in your nightly routine to improve your sleep quality drastically.
Getting yourself ready for the following day is a great way to feel relaxed before you go to sleep. Falling asleep knowing that you have nothing to rush around for when you wake up will help you feel a lot more organized and, therefore, more relaxed, making falling asleep much more manageable.
2. Make Your Environment Comfortable
Three things make an ideal sleeping environment, and those are darkness, silence, and comfort. Combining all these things makes you much more likely to fall asleep.
3. Get Out of Bed When You Can’t Sleep
Sometimes you may feel sleepy, get yourself into bed, and find that half an hour later, you’re still wide awake.
The temptation is to stay lying there, tossing and turning. This can make falling asleep even more challenging as you become more agitated. The best thing to do is to get out of bed, make yourself a cup of tea, or do something that you find relaxing, like reading a book, before going back to bed.
4. Avoid Screen Time
In this day and age, it’s the norm to sit playing on your phone in bed or watch television before you fall asleep, but if you’re someone who struggles to fall asleep at night and you’re guilty of any of the above, then this is likely to be the cause.
Blue light keeps the brain active and will make falling asleep straight away extremely difficult.
5. Set The Alarm
Some people find it difficult to wake up to an alarm clock, but if you’re someone who finds it difficult to wake up in the morning due to a stormy night’s sleep, then set the alarm before you go to sleep can help you to remember it’s time to start winding down.
Of course, exercising right before you go to bed isn’t advised, as you’ll be pumped full of energy from your workout. However, exercising at least once during the day can help to improve symptoms of insomnia, as it improves your general health, which can benefit your sleeping habits.
7. Clear Your Mind
A significant cause of people struggling to sleep is because of worries about something upcoming or something that’s already happened. This can cause massive anxiety, preventing you from drifting off into a good night’s slumber.
Think of a solution to your problem, tell yourself it’s out of your control, keep a journal, and write a plan. Putting things on paper can help stop the worries from invading your thoughts.
8. Relaxation Techniques
You can add some things to your sleep routine to increase your ability to relax before you go to sleep. Yoga and stretching are great ways to wind down, but if that’s not for you, try taking a relaxing bath or learning how to meditate in bed. Some people also find reading a book before sleeping extremely restful.
What to Avoid Before Bed (Don’t)?
People having bad habits affecting their ability to relax before sleep often cause sleep deprivation. A lot of things are usually done without even realizing it, so below is a list of donts before bed you can avoid to improve the sufficiency of your sleep.
1. Alcohol And Tobacco
Many people think having a glass of wine or liquor before bed will help you fall asleep. Although this might be true, it can massively disrupt your sleep quality. Also, many people don’t realize that tobacco is a stimulant, so it will make settling down increasingly tricky.
2. Staying Up Late on The Weekend
Having a set sleep schedule is one of the most vital contributions to a good night’s rest. Although it can be tempting to stay up later on the days when you know you don’t have to be up in the morning, this can negatively impact your sleep routine come Monday.
3. Having a Lie In
Just like going to bed too late can affect your sleep health, the same goes for oversleeping in the morning.
If you’re feeling the need to sleep for longer in the morning or struggle to wake up, it could be because you’re not getting a fully restorative night’s sleep. Also, once you get into the habit of sleeping, it can be hard to get back into a routine.
4. Particular Food
Some foods should not be consumed before bed, including anything that contains a lot of sugar or additives, which is likely to keep you awake late into the night—also, spicy food. Spicy food can raise the body’s temperature, making for an uncomfortable night.
Quite an obvious one to avoid is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that will almost certainly cause difficulty sleeping when consumed at night. It’s advised that you don’t drink coffee or other caffeine-loaded drinks after 3:00 pm.
Also, remember that some painkillers contain caffeine, so check the label if you’re taking medication late at night.
6. Forcing Sleep
Although sticking with a sleep routine and going to bed at the same time each night is essential if you feel you aren’t tired, don’t try to force yourself to fall asleep.
Trying to force sleep will only agitate you and cause distress, preventing you from sleeping. Instead, try relaxing to calm your mind and body naturally.
7. Texting/Voice Notes
Getting involved in a conversation on your phones late at night is now so much easier with our ability to send voice notes and connect via social media.
However, this interaction so close to bedtime can be stimulating and distracting and prolong your awake. The best thing to do is turn off your mobile phone an hour or two before you plan to go to bed.
8. Eating Late
Sometimes, especially for people who work in late-night industries such as hospitality, you can end up eating your meal later at night than is advised.
However, eating a large meal late at night means that your metabolism will kick in, making it challenging for your body to get into a relaxed state and get ready for sleep. Also, eating right before bed can negatively impact your general health.
9. Drinking Lots of Water
Drinking water is advised in our daily lives and encouraged due to its massive health benefits. However, drinking a lot of water a couple of hours before you sleep is likely to mean waking up multiple times during the night and needing the bathroom. If possible, try to have your daily water intake before 6 pm.
If not being able to fall asleep or having a disrupted night is something that you are regularly experiencing, then maybe you are unaware of an underlying health condition.
Therefore, if you feel you’ve tried all the advice given above and you’re still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, I strongly advise that you seek help from a medical professional. This will rule out anything else that might cause your sleep disruptions.
Overall, many common causes could disturb you during the night or make it difficult for you to drop off, such as stress at work, unsociable working hours, a snoring partner, or a change in circumstances. Most of these temporary problems can be fixed by simply changing your habits.
Also, don’t forget to resist the temptation to fall out of routine at the weekend. I am not saying that one lie every few months will ruin your sleep health, but if it becomes a regular thing, it’s time to stop it and get yourself back in a common wake-sleep pattern.