Do you have a bedtime routine? Sleep is a challenge for many members in the mental health community — over 3,000 PatientsLikeMe members say they have difficulty sleeping through the night.
Establishing a regular bedtime and better sleep hygiene is one way to help manage restless nights. Check out some pointers from around the web, and hear from other members about their nighttime rituals.
Setting aside “worry time” and other sleep hygiene reminders
Along with getting into a consistent sleep-and-wake cycle, building these habits into your nightly ritual might help:
- Set aside worry time— A few hours before you go to bed, take time to address and contemplate all you have on your mind (vs. letting it keep you up later).
- Go to bed only when you feel tired enough to sleep
- Prepare your brain and body for sleep with a signal it’s time to wind down, whether that’s a warm bath, dimming the lights or listening to soothing music
- Stop screens (phones, tablets and computers) an hour before bedtime
- Skip the book: “I don’t read in bed (that was a hard habit to break — I LOVE reading in bed),” says one member. Beds should be kept for sex and sleep, not reading, watching TV or looking at your phone.
Make your space suit you
- Research shows the perfect sleep temps are somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your preference. A room that’s too hot or too cold can keep you up at night.
- Keeping the room as dark as possible helps. Try black out curtains or an eye mask.
- Turn that neon alarm clock toward the wall so you don’t know what time it is. Ticking off the minutes can lead to more anxiety about how you’re not sleeping.
- Some folks swear by white noise machines (with sounds from nature, like frogs or rain). Find the right white noise that works for your, even a fan or air purifier can help.
Long before lights out: Tips to keep in mind throughout your day
It’s not only about what you do right before you hit the hay — see how other actions throughout your day can help (or hurt) your sleep quality at night.
Yoga or other types of relaxation exercises, like mindfulness meditation can make falling asleep easier, but some members go for something more rigorous..
- “Another thing that helps is getting pretty serious exercise (1 hour of heart rate at or above 130, for me at least) five or six days a week,” says a member. “That’s not possible for everyone, but it definitely helps me.”
- “I made the mistake of going for a run too late in the evening,” says a member. It only served to rev her up. Now she plans exercise well before bedtime.
- Scheduling your exercise outdoors during the day can help some people. Sunlight helps establish your body’s sleep and wake cycles.
Eating and drinking
Drinking alcohol, which you might think will help put you out, actually has the opposite effect, and after a late night cocktail you can find yourself tossing and turning at 3 a.m.. Here are a few more pointers on food and drink from members
- One member says skipping caffeine including coffee, tea and chocolate after 12:00 p.m. works best for her.
- Eating meals at regular times also helps your sleep. “None of this dinner at 10 p.m. stuff, which can keep you up,” says a member.
- “I know some folks who have had luck with Valerian extract, several drops on a sugar cube,” says another member. (Be sure to check with your doctor before trying Valerian or any other herbal remedy.)
Write it down
- “When I write by hand in my journal every night, it is easier for me to just ‘word vomit.’ Of course, I can’t read anything I write afterwards, so it’s more an exercise of getting the feelings of the day out so I can go to sleep,” says another member.
- “Writing is part of my bedtime routine, and includes my ‘gratitudes’ for the day, which I also find helps me wake up with a positive attitude in the morning,” a member explains.
- You may find it helpful to go one step beyond just setting aside worry time (mentioned above) and writing it down or talking to a friend before settling in for the night.
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