After a long night of tossing and turning, you feel in the morning like the Princess and the Pea, exhausted, grumpy, and with aches. Expect to have more restless nights as you get older because your sleep patterns change. Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, states that with age, the hours slept decrease because the body experiences some changes in how it regulates its internal clock, also known as circadian rhythms. The shift in age makes it more challenging to fall asleep and have a peaceful sleep at night.
Alongside your age, your behaviours during the day can impact your sleep patterns. What you eat and drink, how you schedule your workdays, the medications you choose, how active you are, and how you spend your evenings can impact your sleep quality. In most cases, a few adjustments can mean the difference between a restless night and a peaceful sleep, even if you’re later in life. To understand where you need to start from, keep a sleep diary for two weeks so you can evaluate your routine and identify the changes you need to adopt.
Here are some sleep hygiene improvements you can adopt to fall asleep easier, stay asleep, and wake up rested in the morning.
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1. Create a sleep-inducing environment
The best way to encourage sleep is to create a comforting and relaxing space. Even if it seems obvious that the bedroom should feel welcoming and calming, this feature is often overlooked in the modern design when everyone considers first the style and second the space functionality. When you design your sleep environment, keep distracting elements at a minimum, and add more comforting details.
Tips for creating a sleep-inducing bedroom
- Buy high-performance pillows and a high-quality mattress to make your bed feel welcoming and relaxing. After a long day, you want to dive into a comfortable mattress that hugs your body and provides proper support for your pains and aches.
- Use quality bedding because the blankets and sheets covering the bed play a key role in making the bedroom feel inviting. Hand-pick the bedding to ensure it feels comfortable at the touch and is made from a fabric that maintains a comfortable temperature while you sleep.
- Remove light disruptions because excess light can disturb the circadian rhythm and throw off your sleep. Install blackout curtains and use a sleep mask to cover your eyes and block light from disturbing your sleep.
- Wear comfortable loungewear made from soft and moisture-wicking fabrics that make you feel comfortable at night. Bamboo pajamas are a great option because they are both functional and fashionable.
- Keep an agreeable temperature because a too hot or cold one can distract you from sleep. The ideal temperature varies according to your preferences, but it’s best to keep it around 65 degrees.
- Use pleasant aromas to calm your senses and ease sleep. Natural aromas like lavender have a soothing effect and make the bedroom feel welcoming.
2. Optimize your sleep schedule
Creating a sleep schedule is a powerful way to improve your sleep patterns. Here are some strategies that can help you develop a schedule that works for you.
- Set fixed times to go to sleep and wake up. Your body cannot get accustomed to a healthy sleep routine when you’re constantly going to bed and waking up at different times. Pick times and stick with them even on weekends and holidays, and your body will fall into this new habit.
- Get the recommended amount of sleep daily if you want to feel rested and energized throughout the day. Identify the ideal target bedtime that allows you to sleep for 7 or 8 hours a night and go to bed an hour before it to wind down and get ready.
- Be careful with naps if you want to sleep better at night because a too long or too late nap can disrupt your sleep schedule and make it more challenging to fall asleep. You can nap for about 20 minutes after lunch if your daily chores exhaust you.
3. Develop a pre-bed routine
When you struggle to fall asleep, try to identify the factors that lead to this situation. Start by looking at your pre-bed routine because the activities you do around night-time play a crucial role in preparing your body and mind to fall asleep easily. Poor pre-bed habits can trigger insomnia and other sleep issues, so check your sleep journal and change the negative habits so you can create a more relaxed routine that gets you ready for sleep.
If possible, create a consistent routine you follow daily because it can reinforce healthy habits and signal your body when bedtime is close. Here are some tips that may help you.
- Wind down 30 minutes before going to sleep. It’s easier to doze off when your body and mind feel relaxed. So, 30 minutes before bedtime, engage in some calming activities like listening to soothing sounds, stretching, reading, or relaxation exercises.
- Don’t exercise late but stay active. It’s crucial to exercise regularly to stay healthy and strong, but it can affect your sleep when you do it late at night.
- Lower the light to prevent bright light from disturbing your sleep patterns. Dim lights help you make the transition to bedtime and trigger melatonin development, which is a hormone that promotes sleep.
- Stay away from all devices. Devices like TVs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets keep your brain wired and make it challenging to wind down. Screen devices produce light that suppresses the natural production of melatonin, so put them away 30 minutes before bedtime, and you’ll notice an improvement in your sleep patterns.
If you feel like a grumpy dwarf in the morning, try the above tips and see if they impact your sleep quality. Stick with the new routine for about two weeks to allow your body to adapt to the changes. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you cannot change your habits in a week.
Sleep is different for everyone, so don’t worry if these tips don’t work for you. Experiment with different strategies, and discover what works for you.