Do you have trouble falling asleep? Are you averaging less than 7 hours of sleep a night? Do you find yourself tossing and turning, or maybe just, "not tired" until 2 or 3 in the morning, just to be exhausted and sleep deprived the next day?
If you answered, "yes" to any of these questions, you may benefit from checking in on your sleep hygiene. According to the National Sleep Foundation, "sleep hygiene" is a term that refers to, "a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness". AKA what you need to do on a daily basis to sleep good and then feel good.
Now some statistics: Sleep problems are more likely to impact folks with psychiatric disorders (50%-80%) compared to just the general population (10-18%). This means that if you have a mental health diagnosis, you're also more likely to have a hard time getting a good night's sleep. The good news is that getting quality sleep can greatly benefit your mental health, and can bring you some relief from symptoms. Here are my top five sleep hygiene tips for clients.
Tip #1: Cut the Caffeine... by 12pm.
As tempting as that afternoon coffee sounds, by the time bedtime rolls around, the caffeine will likely still be in your system. Sorry to say that decaf coffee, chocolate, and PMS medications all contain caffeine. Other more caffeine carriers include soda, white, green, and black tea, and anything flavored with chocolate. Some birth control may extend the half life of caffeine, which is why I recommend the 12pm rule.
Tip #2: Regular bedtime and uptime, and schedule 8 hours sleep minimum. (Research says teens need 9).
The key here is getting up at the same time every day (regardless of weekends and holidays), and going to bed at the same time every day (regardless of weekends, holidays, parties, best date ever, you name it). Okay, obviously no one follows this rule 100% of the time. But truthfully, it's a way of training your brain when it's time to be tired, and when it's time to be awake.
Tip #3: NO SCREENS an hour before bed.
The blue light that our cell phone and computer screens omit mess with your brain and tells it that it's wakey wakey time. I recommend my clients set their alarm, set, "do not disturb" mode, and put down their phones for the night an hour before bed. This allows your brain the time to recognize that it's not daylight anymore, and to start producing melatonin (sleep hormone).
Tip #4: Create a bedtime routine that you LOVE.
Bedtime routine is key. We are creatures of habit, and so is our brain, so the more we can signal to our brain that it's that time when we relax, feel sleepy, and fall asleep, the better. I highly recommend my clients develop a bedtime routine that they love and follow it to the T. For example, at 10pm every night you might set your alarm, take meds, put on your most luxurious PJs, wash your face, drink a cup of (herbal) tea, write in a journal, brush your teeth, apply a relaxing essential oil, and call it a night by 11pm. Make this routine be something you look forward to every night.
Tip #5: Listen to guided imagery and music before bed.
For racing minds that still won't slow down, I recommend using guided imagery and music before bed. This approach is SO effective that it's not uncommon for my clients to fall asleep in the therapy room during an exercise... Seriously. Recordings that are personalized to your music, sound, and imagery preferences are most effective. However, there are also many of generic versions available on Youtube and Spotify. If you need helping getting to sleep, and would like my help trying out guided imagery and music, you can schedule me for a free consult by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Esther Craven, MT-BC is a board certified music therapist, and the founder and CEO of North Star Therapy. She is passionate about using music to help young adults who are struggling with their mental health so that they can level up in life, be their best selves, and live well. Esther loves to solve problems and is available to hear about your challenges if you schedule a call with her by clicking here or emailing email@example.com.