When I first started studying sleep I was surprised to learn how much my daytime activities affect my nighttime sleep. As parents, we know that keeping a baby on some kind of routine significantly impacts their sleep. As it turns out we never outgrow the benefits of routine. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning makes a difference for most people when pursuing quality sleep. Today’s blog focuses on establishing a routine that may help you sleep better.

  1. Spend some time outside every morning. (This helps set circadian rhythms and it tells your body, This is when the day begins”.The sun suppresses melatonin. Melatonin tells your body to sleep. The sun tells your body it’s time to be awake. 

2. Consistent breakfast timing, heavy on protein because protein promotes wakefulness.

3. Consistent lunch timing. (Are you noticing the word consistent?)

4. Finish supper at least 3 hours before bedtime.

5. Reduce your environment lighting around the time the sun goes down. Again this is sending a message to your body that you are winding down wake time. 

6. If you have trouble with thinking too much when you go to bed try this, 

Allow yourself an hour during the evening to write a to-do list or journal about things that keep you up at night. You may not need the whole hour, but setting a time limit keeps you from going back to it over and over during your evening. When you go to bed if something pops into your brain, remind yourself, I have that on my list, or I am not going to solve that tonight. We can come up with pretty bad scenarios in the middle of the night. Practicing turning off your thoughts helps improve sleep and reduce anxious thinking.

7. Brush your teeth.

8. Take a warm bath – it can improve sleep quality 

9. If you exercise at night it should be light exercises like yoga or meditation.  

10. Read a print book until you feel sleepy. 

11. Turn out the light, and snuggle into a cool room environment. Most people sleep best in a cold room with a heavy blanket.

If it takes longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep don’t worry.  

I want to emphasize this idea of DON’T WORRY if you are not falling asleep. What tends to happen is, we look at the clock and start thinking – “Now I will only get 6 hours of sleep- 5 hours of sleep- 4 hours of sleep”. This creates tension and stress in your body and mind.”

DON’T LOOK AT THE CLOCK! If your alarm hasn’t gone off yet, it is not time to get up.

Lay in bed, imagine pleasant scenarios. Enjoy resting. You can get out of bed if you would like, but resting is good for you too. You may also want to spend some more time reading until you feel sleepy again.

Avoid bright light, picking up your phone or tablet or Television. The light will mess with your circadian rhythm.

I hope this helps improve your quality of sleep. Next week we will focus on things that interrupt our sleep.  

~ Donna Durham, MMFT


Source: “The Sleep Solution” by W. Chris Winter, MD