With daylight savings time, people across the U.S. are adjusting to a new sleep schedule. While the need for the time change is debatable, what is not disputed is the importance of having a good night’s sleep. One of the number one complaints from family, friends, colleagues and clients is a lack of sleep or lack of good quality sleep. While everyone experiences poor sleep from time to time, a chronic lack of sleep could mean someone may be dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, traumatic response, or a medical problem. Regardless of the reason for disrupted sleep, here are seven tips which may help improve your sleep. One word of caution: If you suspect your sleep issue is related to a medical issue, or if you have gone more than three days without sleeping, please consult with a medical professional.

7 Tips for better sleep:

1. Turn off the TV! Screen time, which means any screen, (computer, phone, TV, or personal reader), activates part of your brain causing it to wake up. The culprit is the light from the screen. If you have an older Kindle, for example, which is not back lit, that would be okay to use. Ideally, turning off all screens one hour before bed will set you up for improved chance of sleeping.

2. Do not stay in bed if you are not sleeping. It is important that you use your bed for sleeping only, because you do not want to associate your bed with not sleeping. Many people look at their beds and instantly feel aggravated. Having negative thoughts or feeling about your bed will not help you sleep better. It is important to re-frame your thoughts about your bed as a relaxing, comfortable place where sleep happens. If you find yourself laying in bed for 20 minutes or more, and feel like you will not fall asleep, get up and move to another location.

3. Create a bedtime routine. Regardless of what time you choose to go to bed, having a bed time routine may help. Gradually turning off lights as you near your bed time, wrapping up your day, having a mug of chamomile tea, relaxing music are examples of things to do to wind down. Whatever your routine is, it is  important to set the stage for a restful night.

4. Limit caffeine: Caffeine can be a very helpful thing, however, if you have frequent trouble sleeping, try to avoid caffeine. If you believe you must have coffee to start your day, try and make sure you avoid caffeine after lunch time.

5.  Exercise is beneficial for many reasons and one of them is improving the quality of sleep. It is debatable as to whether it is better to exercise earlier in the day or in the evening. You can try both and discover which works best for you. Try exercising in the morning, afternoon or evening and see how that impacts your sleep. Exercise, in general, helps sleep, but people are individualistic as to whether exercising in the evening wakes them up or helps them sleep.

6. Avoid eating too much or too little. Heavy meals or hunger before bedtime negatively impacts sleep.

7. Avoid napping. Allowing naps may contribute to a negative sleep cycle. Napping can make it more difficult to fall asleep when it would be best for you.  In general, when dealing with sleep issues, naps are discouraged.

Sleep issues may be very frustrating, but the way you approach your sleep issue matters. Most of the time, regardless of your sleep issue, you will sleep eventually. You may have some extremely tired days, but you will sleep. Most people underestimate how many hours they sleep. Three to four days without sleeping, while extremely annoying, won’t hurt you physically. If you find yourself having more than just occasional sleep problems, there are many professionals who can help you. Your medical doctor would be a good place to start. Other professional who can help are psychologists, counselors and professionals who are trained in Biofeedback.

Note: You can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, as long as you leave the author’s contact information intact.

Author: Laura Peddie-Bravo, MA, LMHC, NCC 

Edited by therapist, counselor Dr. Leslie Hamilton, Ph.D., LMFT