Troubleshooting Sleep Habits
So, sleep is important. Duh. If you missed our first article on the importance of sleep, you can find it here. But how do you get a better night’s rest? Here are a few tips with some advice on troubleshooting sleep habits. Some of these tips may or may not work for you. However, it’s important to focus on the behaviors, not the results. If you’re harping on getting 7-9 hours, you may put too much pressure on yourself and do the opposite. Instead, focus on the habits. If you use some of these habits, the results will follow. Check out the video below to see our troubleshooting sleep habits tips. The tips are also outlined in text below the video.
Tips for Troubleshooting Sleep Habits
Follow a regular schedule
This includes wake up time, sleep time, meal times, and even exercise during the day. A good night’s rest actually starts in the morning when you wake up. Turn the lights on right away and avoid the snooze. Getting up right away gets your cortisol levels up and helps your body get into a natural rhythm of waking up and falling asleep. Try to keep your dinner more on the medium side and not snack too much 2-3 hours before your bedtime. Also, make your dinner a balanced meal with not too much liquid to avoid the 3am stumble to the bathroom.
Set your bedtime and stick to it
Plan backwards. If you need to wake up at 7am, the latest you should go to sleep is between 11am and midnight, but always try before midnight. That means you’re ready for the next day and in bed.
Turn off electronics
This is the most difficult for me and many people, especially when Netflix or sporting events are involved. This includes your phone, TV, computer, etc. The false lighting can interfere with your sleep patterns. Plus, it occupies your mind.
Keep alcohol and caffeine intake moderate
Caffeine intake 8-9 hours before bed is usually no bueno. Remember, even decaf coffee has caffeine in it, so be careful of that afternoon pick-me-up or late night tea. Green tea can help with relaxation, but be mindful of the caffeine and liquids. You can try it, but some people will have problems with it.
Stretch, read, or shower before bed
All of these things can be relaxing.
Keep the room dark and use white noise
Fan, humidifier, blackout curtains, etc.
Write your thoughts on paper and leave them there
If you have trouble “turning your brain off”, make a list of what you need to do the next day. That way, your thoughts are on paper and not distracting you from passing out. This helps me a lot, since this area is something that I particularly struggle with.
If you’re stressed, deal with the stress
We’ll do a separate video on stress. If the stress is too much for you to tackle alone, consider talking to a friend, family member, or even therapist.
Try supplementation if necessary
Remember, supplements are just that, supplements. They shouldn’t be the focal point of all of troubleshooting sleep habits. However, then can be effective. Some people like things like melatonin, St. John’s Wart, L-Theanine, Magnesium.
There are a lot out of supplements brands there. Talk with your pharmacist or doctor and make sure you try and quality brand you can trust.
Pro tips that work for me and others for troubleshooting sleep habits
I’ve struggled with sleep most of my life, mostly because I have trouble turning my brain off and love Netflix. However, having a routine is extremely helpful. Again, the most important thing is focusing on the habits and behaviors, not the results. Set and follow your routine and the troubleshooting sleep habits results will follow.
- Set your alarm on your phone or wherever greater than an arm’s distance from your bed. This will force you to get up to turn it off. Make it a really annoying sound. Trust me.
- If you don’t walk or bike to work, or even if you do, try going for a leisurely walk at night. The extra sun is good for you. Plus, the walking will help with digestion.
- Set your wind down time before bedtime and stick to it. For me, when 10pm comes, I pack for the gym the next day, lay out my clothes for the next day, brush my teeth, and head to bed. I won’t lie, I usually watch about another 30 minutes to an hour of TV beforehand, then turn it off at 11pm. I typically wake up between 6-6:30am, so 11pm is pretty much the latest I can stay up to ensure I get 7hrs. Adjust it for your wake up time, but always go to bed before midnight. Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth 2 hours after.
- One thing that I struggled with is watching crazy, intense TV shows late at night. I’d be amped up and really tempted to keep watching. Same with sports. So, I stopped watching those shows after 10pm, my wind down time. It’s really hard to turn things off and I like TV. So, I make sure my room is pitch black, watch light comedies I’ve usually seen before so I don’t care what happens, and often pass out before I finish an episode. No matter what, TV goes off at 11 for me. This is a great step if you’re addicted to late night TV.
- I try to stretch most nights before my wind down time. It’s hard to find time in the middle of the day or at the end of a workout when I just need to run to work or head home. This is also calming.
- Regular exercise is great for sleep. Even on days I don’t lift weights, I try to get some cardio in. At the very least, I’ll go for even a 15 minute walk outside.
- I’m used to the whole darkness and white noise thing from my college days. I needed white noise to drown out the 3am techno music blasting in my ears, so I’ve always slept with a fan. Some people don’t like it. But that, plus really thick curtains, has helped me.
- I also supplement with Gaspar’s Best L-Theanine. L-Theanine is an enzyme from green tea and there’s a lot of efficacy about it promoting relaxation. It won’t knock you out, but it’ll help you get in a calmer state of mind. I take one 100mg pill almost every night. Again, if you’re very very stressed, supplementation likely won’t help you relax and you may need to see a therapist.
- Keeping a sleep journal is another great idea. Or, you can use a watch like the Apple watch that has that functionality. You can track how much you sleep every night. Also, be sure to mark your ritual and how well you adhered to it in your journal.
Remember, it’s important to focus on the habits, not the results. If you’re harping on getting 7-9 hours, you may put too much pressure on yourself and do the opposite. Instead, focus on the habits. If you use some of these habits, the results will follow.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions or feedback. If you’re interested in putting these habits in action with help from a wellness coach, check out our services and classes.