In the current environment, people are feeling isolated not only from other people but from their old routines, those daily rituals that probably help us maintain a somewhat-constant sleep schedule. But now, there is more keeping us up at night than ever. Here are some of the best sleep strategies for falling asleep (and the biggest mistakes people make when trying to do so). You can’t force yourself to sleep, but you can position yourself to get there by using these three tips. We’ll have more sleep tips in another blog.
- One of the best strategies to help you feel tired around the same time every night is having a consistent schedule – one where you are not only getting into bed at the same time but also getting up around the same time every morning. Does this plan sound familiar? Yep. It’s called a habit. And it turns out, developing routine sleep habits are one of the most effective ways to help you sleep.
- Cut out caffeine within 10 hours of bedtime. 10 hours? Here’s why. Sleep is a biological process that happens in your brain, and one of the markers of it is a chemical called adenosine. When adenosine levels are high within your brain, you fall asleep fast. But if you still have caffeine in your system, it will actually block the action of adenosine. As a result, you don’t feel sleepy, and your brain doesn’t have the sensation of sleepiness. That’s why you should avoid caffeine within ten hours of going to bed. The specific time you should stop drinking anything that has caffeine depends on your bedtime schedule. Uh oh, there’s that habit thing again.
- Do something relaxing. Your brain won’t let you sleep if you are stressed out or excited. Give yourself a little time – 15 to 20 minutes – to disconnect before bed. This is a crucial step for falling asleep more quickly. You need to do something active for your mind to quiet down. If you sit there and tell yourself not to think about something, your brain will think about that exact thing. But if you replace it with something more neutral or even relaxing, you can outsmart your brain. If you love reading, try that; if you like cleaning, do that for 10 minutes – whatever generally makes you feel calm – and incorporate this relaxing activity consistently in your wind-down routine.
What do all these tips have in common? They are all habit-based. Our habits ground us, even in times of uncertainty and disruption. So, turn to your habits to help get you through these times. One of the best ways to work with habits and routines of course is to use the MapHabit system. You can create maps to remind you of when to stop caffeine, when to start your bedtime relaxation routine, and when to sleep and wake. And you can build in relaxation maps for mindfulness stress-reduction and other calming exercises that will help you sleep.