Written by Stacey Krauss, Psy.D., ABPP, Chief Executive Officer Transitions Counseling and Consulting
It's no secret: Sleep is important! We've all heard the saying, "sleep like a baby" but many people aren’t aware of how important consistent, high-quality sleep is for both mental and physical health. When demands increase or when people become increasingly busy, sleep is often one of the first things to be sacrificed. However, it’s just as important as eating healthy, exercising, and socializing. Improving your sleep hygiene can lead to better mental health – and it's especially important for students. School can be stressful and it's crucial to get enough rest in order to focus in class and perform to the best of one’s ability over time. Read on for tips for improving your sleep hygiene today and learn a little more about how it can benefit your mental health!
1. Avoid caffeine before bed: One of the most important tips is to avoid caffeine in the evening. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can take several hours to wear off. If you have an energy drink, a soda, or a cup of coffee in the afternoon, you may find it difficult to fall asleep on time. In addition, caffeine can disrupt your sleep cycle and interfere with deep, restful sleep. One of the most direct ways to sleep better is to avoid caffeine after 2pm on most days.
2. Create a sleep schedule and establish a bedtime routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps to regulate your body's sleep cycle by training your natural sleep rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep every day. It’s often helpful to work with a family member or friend to support sticking to the schedule. To really make an impact, creating a wind-down routine before going to bed can help to signal to the body t
hat it's time to sleep. Taking a bath or shower, reading a few pages of a book, or listening to calming music can all help to prepare for sleep. This type of routine can support consistently improved sleep, which can in turn have a positive impact on mental health.
4. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet: Creating a sleep-friendly environment is another important part of good sleep hygiene. Darkness and quiet signal to your body that it's time to sleep. Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and comfortably cool to signal to the body that it's time to sleep. If you live in an area with nighttime noise – or when one member of the family goes to bed before others, consider using a white noise machine or earplugs to limit sound. If light is coming in from outside, try using an eye mask or heavy curtains to block it out.
5. Avoid working or using electronic devices in bed: Doing work or using electronic devices while in bed can make it harder to fall asleep. The bright screens of laptops, phones, and tablets can stimulate the brain and make it difficult to fall asleep. Additionally, using devices in bed can create negative associations with the pre-sleep routine and make it harder to relax. If you find yourself working late into the night, try to take breaks every 20 minutes to look away from the screen and allow your eyes and mind to rest. When it’s time for bed, leave your laptop in the living room and charge your phone outside of the bedroom to avoid the temptation to use them. If you need to work at night, try doing so in a different room. Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before sleep. Establishing a boundary between work/device time and relaxation time will help you to drift off to sleep more easily and get a more restful night’s sleep. Plus, getting enough quality shut eye has been linked with improved mental health, so it’s worth the effort to disconnect before bed!
6. Regular exercise is important for sleep hygiene: Most people are aware that exercise is good for their physical health, but few realize the benefits that exercise can have on sleep. According to sleep experts, one of the best ways to improve sleep quality is to exercise consistently. Exercise helps to regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle and can promote deeper, more restful sleep. (Exercise also releases endorphins that help to improve mood and alleviate stress so it’s a two-for-one in terms of benefits!). For those struggling with mental health issues, exercise can be an effective treatment method. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. So, if you're looking for ways to improve your sleep and mental health at the same time, make sure to include exercise as part of your daily routine.
Improving your sleep hygiene is important for everyone, but it's especially crucial for students of all ages. Good sleep habits directly support the ability to concentrate and cope with increased stressors, particularly important around exam time.
If you’re not sleeping well, odds are it’s affecting your wellbeing in some way. By following good sleep hygiene practices most of the time, you can improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep. We hope these tips for better sleep hygiene help you get the restful night’s sleep you need to feel your best mentally and physically. Do you have any other sleep hygiene tips that work well for you? Please share them with everyone in the comments below!
Transitions Counseling and Consulting is honored to provide evidence-based mental health care including therapy, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, and medication management for children, teens, and adults throughout Arizona! Stop by the website to learn more: Transitions Counseling and Consulting.
 According to sleep experts link: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/exercise-and-sleep