How to Get Better Sleep

How to get better sleep

I’ve been struggling to get better sleep over the years. In my monthly therapy session, I discussed this issue with my therapist and asked if a night owl can be a morning person? One of my goals this month is to put boundaries on my work life and get more sleep. Although I love working late at night when everyone is asleep, I know it would be better for my family if I started waking up and sleeping earlier. My big dilemma is how to change my sleeping habits and get better sleep.

Apparently getting better sleep is a common problem and my therapist gave me two handouts (sleep hygiene rules and stimulus control instructions) which I will share with you today.

SLEEP HYGIENE RULES

The first three rules listed will help give you a consistent sleep rhythm and synchronize your biological clock. With time, your bedtime, or the time you become drowsy, will also become more regular.

  1. Do not go to bed until you are drowsy.

    I typically sleep so late that when I get in bed I immediately fall asleep.

  2. Get up at approximately the same time each morning, including weekends. If you feel you must get up later on weekends, allow yourself a maximum of one hour before waking up.

    So if you typically get up at 6:30am, you can get up at 7:30am during the weekends. I break this rule all the time. Because I don’t get a lot of sleep during the weekdays, I typically sleep in during the weekends and wake up around noon. I’ve always slept in during the weekends even when I was a teenager. It’s a habit that I need to break now.

  3. Do not take naps.

    This is another rule that I always break. I’m that person that can pass out any where and any time during the day or night. If I’m tired, I fall asleep. This just happened tonight while watching television in the family room around 7pm. I fell asleep while sitting in my recliner (and the chair was not reclined). I wish I hadn’t taken a nap and went straight to bed. I’m hoping these sleep hygiene rules will reset my biological clock to be a morning person soon.

  4. Do not drink alcohol later than 2 hours prior to bedtime.

  5. Do not consume caffeine after 4pm, or within six hours prior to bedtime. Learn all the foods, beverages, and medications that contain caffeine so you can avoid taking those six hours before you sleep.

    I have to stop drinking tea in the evenings and only drink tea in the mornings.

  6. Do not smoke within several hours prior to your bedtime.

  7. Exercise regularly. The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon. Avoid strenuous physical exertion after 6pm.

    Like sleep, exercise is something that I struggle with. I went to see my doctor yesterday and she told me that I need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. I’ve started walking and biking for the past two weeks during the weekends but need to make that a daily occurrence.

  8. Use common sense to make your sleep environment most conducive to sleep. Arrange for a comfortable temperature and minimum levels of sound, light, and noise.

    The best thing I did for my master bedroom is installing blackout curtains. That’s why it’s also easy for me to sleep in during the weekends. I typically sleep my entire morning away since my room is dark.

  9. If you are accustomed to it, have a light carbohydrate snack before bedtime (like crackers, graham crackers, milk, or cheese). Do not eat chocolate or large amounts of sugar. Avoid excessive fluids. If you awaken in the middle of the night, do not have a snack or you may find that you begin to wake up habitually at the time you are feeling hungry.

    I typically don’t eat late in the evenings. It also makes sense to not drink too much fluids so you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

STIMULUS CONTROL INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Do not use your bed or bedroom for any activity other than sleep.

    You should not watch television, read, talk on the telephone, surf on the web and check your emails / social media accounts on your phone, worry, argue with your spouse, or eat in bed. The only exception to this rule is that you may engage in sexual activity in bed.

  2. Establish a set of regular pre sleep routine to signal that bedtime is approaching.

    Brush your teeth, set the alarm, and perform any other behaviors that make sense for this time of night. Do these activities in the same order each night. Use your preferred sleep posture and combination of favorite pillows and blankets.
    For me, I know my bedtime is approaching when my computer screen is getting redder since the software is reducing the blue light on my screen and also has popup reminders of how many hours I have until I wake up.

  3. When you get into bed, turn out the lights with the intention of going right to sleep. If you cannot fall asleep within a short time (about 10 minutes), get up and go into another room. Engage in some quiet activity until you begin to feel drowsy and then return to the bedroom to sleep.

    I’ve done this wrong, typically if I’m unable to sleep I read in bed until I feel drowsy and sleep. To get myself out of my office I started bringing my laptop and work on my bed. To fix this issue, I’m now working in part of my bedroom on my chaise. I will also have to read on my chaise if I’m not yet drowsy before getting into my bed to sleep.

Now that I know these sleep hygiene rules and stimulus control instructions, I hope that I can become a morning person. These rules can work as soon as a week. For me it may take longer, but I’ll keep you updated.

What tips do you have to get better sleep?

2 Comments
  1. marissa claire 2 years ago
    I have observed that if have coffee late evening, I will have very disturbed sleep at around 2-3 am. After that it gets worse.
    • Author
      Jen 2 years ago
      Hi Marissa, If you are serious about getting a good night's sleep, try to avoid anything with caffeine after 4pm. If you feel you need coffee, try drinking decaf. That's what I do with tea. If I'm craving for tea in the evening, I drink herbal tea which doesn't have any caffeine. Good luck! I've been sleeping earlier but I keep napping which breaks rule number 3. Once I stop napping, I'll finally get better sleep. It's difficult to break a habit so I'm giving myself some time to incorporate these sleep hygiene rules into my life.

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