You toss and turn. You spend endless hours scrolling through social media feeds on your phone. You do anything to try to distract you from the fact: you can’t sleep.
Disruptions to a good night’s sleep can affect your mood, your work performance and your overall health. It’s an old adage that a good night’s sleep is important, but how do you make it happen when the struggle to doze off seems impossible?
The importance of good sleep hygiene is easy to overlook. Sleep hygiene are some good habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It is important because of how crucial getting good sleep is for your mental and physical health.
Simply put, without a good nights sleep, your brain cannot function properly. Your body has a built in routine that lasts over a 24 hour cycle. There is a time to be awake and a time to be asleep. When you fall out of this routine, you feel it fast.
If you can fall asleep, you won’t wake up feeling refreshed. Feeling groggy, unable to concentrate well or not handling everyday situations well are all signs of a poor nights sleep.
The good news is, there are simple ways to improve your sleep hygiene, better your time awake and experience restful sleep.
Here are some best practices for you to try tonight.
Keep and consistent sleep schedule. Plan a bedtime that allows you 7-8 hours of sleep.
Develop rituals that help with relaxation. This might include reading, listening to music, gentle stretches or taking a warm bath. The body may be trained it is bedtime when these activities occur.
Make the bedroom a restful place. A cool, dark, quiet room may be ideal. It is also important to have a comfortable mattress, pillows and bed linens.
Manage Stress Before You go to Bed. Write down stresses or to-do lists before you go to bed or try meditation to relax your brain.
Stop Doing This
Do not go to bed unless sleepy. Instead participate in relaxing activities until becoming sleepy.
If you are not asleep after 20-30 minutes, get out of bed. Lying in bed for long periods trying to fall asleep will create stress. Do not get on electronics.
Avoid the use of electronic devices just before bedtime. It is recommended to turn these devices off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light from these devices causes melatonin levels to dip which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
If it didn't help, what now?
If you try all of these methods and you still wake up in the morning feeling tired, you might have a sleep disorder.
The first thing to do is visit with your family doctor. These primary care providers can look at easy to assess problems that are affecting your sleep. If they cannot find a solution, ask them about a sleep study.
Sleep studies are medical tests that help diagnose sleep disorders. These tests can be done at home or in a medical facility, depending on what the doctor conducting the test thinks is best. For more advanced sleep studies, doctors will look at your brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing and body movements.
If you come to the NMC Health Sleep Disorders Center for your sleep study, it does require a doctor to order the tests.
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Health Sleep Hygiene Habits, Hersh, Erica & Dasgupta, Raj MD. August 17, 2020
Polysomnography (sleep study), Mayo Clinic
Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene, Deardorff, William PhD., December 12, 2016
Why do we need sleep?, Sleep Foundation, December 9, 2021