I’ve suffered from insomnia most of my life. The last time I was in a transition house I went nearly 2 weeks sleeping about 1-3 hours a night. I was going a little crazy and after a trip to a psychologist and public health nurse, I was given some ideas on how to create healthy sleep habits to help combat my insomnia. Today I wanted to share with you 6 sleep hygiene tips that I learned that helped me learn how to combat insomnia.
Did I know what sleep hygiene was when I was introduced to it? No. I thought it meant having a clean bed and being clean when going to bed. Sleep hygiene is just a fancy way of saying healthy sleeping habits. The things on this sleep hygiene list are simple and probably going to make your eyes roll. You’ll probably think “this is all so simple, I have a real problem here that your simple steps won’t change.”
I say, give it a chance. Sometimes it’s the simple, little things that add up to the bigger picture. No, I didn’t get good sleep hygiene overnight. It took about a year to get situated, organize my life and create healthy sleeping habits. And might I add that I still suffer from insomnia a few times a week, but take into consideration that I also suffer from PTSD. These were just the first few steps I took to get started on my way to a decent nights sleep.
Sleep Deprivation = War Zone
Did you know that prisoners of war are tortured via sleep deprivation? In a matter of a few days, your mind can be altered and taken advantage of to an extreme. My psychologist told me that I was torturing myself, that I was a prisoner in my own body and it was essential I get some better sleep hygiene to start fighting back and get some sleep. As a result of PTSD, my insomnia has an extra layer of problems than most. But everyone in the world should focus on having healthy sleeping habits so they can live the best life they can.
6 Healthy Sleeping Habits
1. Have a Set Bedtime. I know, I sound like your mother. But having a set bedtime and a time that you wake up each day is going to help regulate your body’s clock by having a set routine. Stop binging Netflix before bed. Your health and sanity are worth more than watching 5 1-hr long episodes of a show that will still be there tomorrow.
2. Skip the Siesta. I’m a fan of taking naps, have been since I was a teenager. Babies and toddlers don’t know how good they have it. Why must they fight naptime? I would love to have naptime again. Even a quick power nap can really boost my mood in the middle of a sluggish day. The problem occurs in the evening when I need to wind down but my body got its second wind and is ready to go for another few hours. Skip the nap, find another energy fix.
3. Exercise. Exhausting your mind is one thing, but to have a restful sleep you need to tire out your body. If you have a job that requires you to sit in the chair a lot, do you find you have restless leg syndrome in bed? Start a workout routine, do something every day that works your body and gets your heart and muscles working. Even if it’s just a 20-minute walk down the road. Working out in the morning can wake up your body and in the afternoon can give you an energy boost in lieu of a nap. Try to avoid working out close to your bedtime because working out stimulates your brain and can actually keep you awake longer.
4. Have a Routine. At the end of the day have a set routine that helps you de-stress and slow down. Turn off and unplug from technology. Don some cozy PJ’s and light a scented candle. Lotion up, hunker down and snuggle in bed. Or, you know, whatever kind of routine that best suits your needs. The point is to have a consistent routine that your body gets used to that it becomes second nature. You will start to automatically calm down and prepare for rest when you go through the motions. Trigger your body into sleep, just like children, we can thrive off of routines. Just be sure to tweak it to your needs.
5. Have an Amazing Bedroom. Have a clean, made bed to crawl into at the end of the day. Have blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and de/humidifiers if you need them. Don’t have clothes anywhere but put away, have a clean room. Make your room inviting, comfortable, make it your sanctuary where you want to go and relax. Make it nice, decorate, paint, hang photos, have a nice bedspread and pillowcases.
6. Have a Comfortable Bed. On the note of bedspreads, have a good mattress and pillows. It’s worth spending the money if you can. I live on a tight budget and have recently started from scratch, so my mattress was given to me and was hard as a rock. Even my 3 year old would toss and turn and wake up to tell me the bed was uncomfortable. I saved up and bought a foam mattress topper that has now made my bed feel like a cloud. I love sinking into it every night, especially after a hard day, or a road trip. Pillows aren’t that expensive, make sure they are supportive and a firmness that you enjoy.
BONUS: The Bed is only for S&S. You bed should only be used for sleep and sex. Don’t read a book, don’t sit and chat with your friends on the phone. Keep your bed your bed, make it known subconsciously that your bed is for sleeping only. And bow-chika-wow-wow time, sex is the only exception. Although, that certainly isn’t limited to the bed.
Sleeping Well Again
I love my bedroom, as does my son. We share a huge bed and snuggle like we are still sleeping on the floor or cramped on a single bed in a safe house. We have extra blankets, soft blankets, a duvet, Christmas lights that line the ceiling and 6 pillows that are all different firmness levels. With a small fan in the corner, we are set for hot nights or cool weather, when we need firm support or a squishy cloud to sleep in.
I look at my bed and I feel cozy and want to curl in to go to sleep. It is enticing, when I sit on the couch and slow down in the evening I can’t wait to fall asleep. In fact, I often fall asleep before my son when trying to put him down for the night. I feel safe, warm, and comfortable, the mood of the room is bright, loving and cheerful. I wish my bedrooms had been like this all my life. Thanks to my newfound knowledge on sleep hygiene and experiencing the grand effects, I don’t think I’ll ever neglect to have the perfect bed and bedroom ever again.
Before You Go
It’s much too important to me to get a good nights sleep. Have you ever been around me when I am tired? I sure hope not. I can get pretty nasty pretty quickly. I come from a family who needs their sleep, and I’m happy to say that I am finally getting some… most nights.
I know, these are simple things, but these really were the first steps I took to get better sleep. This, and of course, a lot of mental health counseling. But that’s a post for another day. I hope you try out some of these healthy sleep habits and find that they work for you. Let me know in the comments how your bedroom and sleeping has changed or is going to change as your sleep hygiene improves.