Five Steps to Improve Your Sleep Routine for Better Quality Sleep
April 22, 2020
Maija Bruzas, PhD, a licensed psychologist and member of the Penn Bariatrics team, shares information on how to improve your sleep. Dr. Bruzas has worked in both adult and pediatric behavioral sleep medicine clinics, helping those with sleep disorders.
For many of us, keeping a regular sleep routine during periods of prolonged stress is difficult. We may go to bed later, wake up later, sleep more or less than usual, or have difficulty staying asleep.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to improve the regularity of your sleep routine.
Sleep Routine Basics: Consistency is Key!
Enhancing the quantity and quality of your sleep can help you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically charged to take on the day. Here are five steps you can take to improve your sleep routine:
- Have a consistent wake time - It’s tempting to sleep in some days, but that makes it harder to stick to your bedtime. A lack of routine can shift your bedtime and wake time later than you would like. Try to stick to a consistent wake time at least five days per week. On weekends, try not to sleep later than one to two hours past your typical wake time.
- Have a consistent bedtime - Try to stick to the same bedtime at least five days per week. On weekends, try not to go to bed more than one to two hours past your typical bedtime. If you aren’t sleepy at your usual bedtime, engage in relaxing activities, like reading, until you get sleepy, but stick to your same wake time.
- Unplug from electronics one to two hours before bedtime - Light from electronics can reduce the levels of hormones in your body that help make you sleepy. Also, reading the news or working your brain too hard late at night can make it difficult to wind down.
- Make a relaxing bedtime routine - Up to two hours before bed, do a series of activities that let your body know it is time to relax. This could include stretching, listening to calming music, reading a book, coloring, or drinking herbal tea.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet - Turn your thermostat down or ditch that extra blanket. Make sure your curtains block out light and your TV is off while you sleep. Also consider using a white noise machine if there are sounds in your house or neighborhood.
Tips for Falling and Staying Asleep
Getting into bed is only part of the battle. Here are four tools you can try to make it easier to fall asleep:
- Practice mindfulness - If your brain is busy or you feel stress in your body when you’re in bed, notice what thoughts, feelings, and sensations you are experiencing. Accept them as they are and try to not judge them as good or bad.
- Practice deep breathing - Breathe in to the count of four, pause for one second, breathe out to the count of four, pause for one second, and repeat. As you breathe in, inflate your belly. As you breathe out, let it deflate. Deep breathing can help calm your body.
- Practice a body scan with muscle relaxation - Scan your whole body for all physical sensations. Notice any places of tension and then actively try to relax those parts of your body. Mara Wai of the Penn Program for Mindfulness shares body scan tips in this short video.
- Change your self-talk - If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, you might feel pressure to fall asleep or worry about not getting enough sleep. These experiences make it harder to fall asleep. To counter this, practice a more accurate and positive thought, such as “I might be a little tired tomorrow if I don’t fall asleep right away, but I’ll make do. I am just going to focus on relaxing my body with deep breathing and allow myself to drift off to sleep when my body is ready.”