Sleep 101: Tips for Sleeping Better

While going to bed at night is supposed to be the relaxing conclusion of our days, falling asleep and staying asleep can, at times, feel difficult and frustrating. The National Sleep Foundation defines insomnia as continual difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night.

There are two types of insomnia: the first type is directly influenced by some contributing factor like medication, caffeine, stress, or a physical condition, while the second type has no clear cause. Dealing with either type of insomnia can be stressful, frustrating, and, if it continues, can negatively impact your health. However, making changes to your sleep routine can help. Here are some ways to help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the whole night.

1. Make an effort to wake up at the same time each morning.

Waking up at a set time each morning can help signal to your body when you should be asleep and when you should be awake and ready for your day. While this may initially seem difficult, try taking baby steps. Set your alarms thirty minutes earlier or later for a few days to let your body slowly adjust.

2. Don't drink caffeine past 2 p.m.

Try limiting your daily dose of coffee or tea to the morning only. Caffeine can last for hours in your system, even if you don't feel it anymore. Those late-night caffeine study sessions are most likely damaging your sleep pattern and your ability to focus the next day. If you’re used to drinking tea in the evenings, try switching to decaffeinated teas like chamomile, peppermint, or lemon ginger.

3. If you're tossing and turning and still aren't feeling sleepy, get out of bed.

It's important not to connect your bed with stressful feelings about not being able to have a good night's sleep. If you're not feeling sleepy, the National Sleep Foundation suggests going into another room and doing something relaxing instead. Try reading a book, listening to calming music or white noise, or meditating.

4. Put away your electronic devices.

While watching a show or checking social media before you go to bed may seem relaxing, the blue light emitted by most devices actually "prevents our brains from releasing melatonin," according to Business Insider. This disrupts your natural sleep clock and can make you stay awake longer. While breaking the habit is hard, start by turning your devices on night shift, set a time limit for social media browsing, and then finally put your phone away in a drawer out of easy reach.

Source: Pexels

5. Make sure your bed is a relaxing and calming environment.

Are your pillows and blankets comfortable? Does your mattress support your back at night? If the answers to these questions are no, look into something that will be more comfortable for your body. If you study frequently on your bed, try doing work elsewhere like at your desk, in the living room, or even on campus. Your bed should be a relaxing place, and separating it from school may help you sleep more restfully.

6. Carve out winding down time.

Give yourself a set amount of time before bed to get your body ready for sleep. Studies have shown that taking a warm shower or bath roughly 20 to 30 minutes before bed can relax your body and prepare it for sleep. Experiment with pre-sleep rituals in order to signal your body that it's time to start winding down. Calming activities like reading, listening to music, and lighting candles are good places to start.

7. If your insomnia isn't going away, visit your doctor.

Do you have insomnia when you have a test the next day? Or do you have consistent trouble sleeping for ambiguous reasons? If you can't easily pinpoint why you're having trouble falling asleep and making changes to your sleep routine doesn't help, you might need to visit your doctor. Chronic insomnia can take a toll on your mental and physical health and can result in exhaustion and lethargy, among other things. Talking to your doctor will help you come up with a long-term treatment plan to help you sleep more soundly.

Cover Photo Source: StockSnap, Vladislav Muslakov