We all know that getting a good night's sleep is important for both physical and mental health. Unfortunately, many people struggle with insomnia and poor sleep. While occasional tossing and turning is normal, chronic sleep problems can cause feelings of anxiety or depression, reduce our energy levels, and even affect our relationships and work performance. If you're struggling with sleep, it’s important to examine your habits and make changes that can help you sleep better.
When it comes to sleep, some of our habits may be hurting our chances of getting a good night's rest more than we realize. Here are three habits that you may want to reconsider if you're dealing with sleep difficulties:
1. Lying in bed and trying to sleep:
Many of us have experienced lying in bed staring at the ceiling and waiting for sleep to happen. Unfortunately, this can actually make it harder to drift off. If you're not able to sleep within 10-15 minutes of lying down, it's best to get out of bed and engage in a quiet activity until you feel sleepy. This activity could be something like reading a book, listening to calming music, watching a comedy show, or doing some light stretching. The goal is to associate your bed with sleep, not with anxiety or frustration. And to redirect the brain away from focusing on sleep if you are having trouble sleeping.
2. Reading or watching TV in bed:
While snuggling up with a good book or watching your favorite show in bed might seem cozy, this habit can also interfere with your sleep. If you regularly engage in these activities in bed, your brain will start to associate your bed with wakefulness rather than with sleep.
Instead, try to create a relaxing bedtime routine that takes place outside of your bedroom. You can read, watch TV, or do other quiet activities in another area in order to help your body wind down and get ready for sleep. And when you feel sleepy, then you can get in bed.
3. Going to sleep too early:
While it's important to get a good night’s sleep, trying to push yourself to go to bed before you're actually tired can actually backfire. When you're lying in bed but not actually feeling sleepy, you may start to feel anxious or stressed about not being able to fall asleep. This can create a cycle of negative thoughts that make it even harder to drift off.
Remember, spending time in bed awake is not beneficial for sleep, and going to bed too early makes this more likely to happen. Instead, listen to your body and go to bed when you feel truly sleepy. If you end up getting less sleep than you'd like, try not to worry about it. Over time, your body will build up a natural drive for sleep, and you'll find it easier to fall asleep at the right time.
Improve Your Habits
Seemingly harmless sleep habits may be more detrimental to our sleep quality than you realize. By making these changes to your habits and routines, you can set yourself up for a better night's sleep.
If you're still struggling with insomnia, it may be worth considering cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i). This type of therapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts, as well as behavior patterns that are interfering with your sleep. With a bit of effort and the right strategies, you can improve your sleep quality and wake up feeling more rested and refreshed each day.
For more articles about sleep, check out A Guide to Better Sleep.
Annie Miller is a psychotherapist and owner of DC Metro Therapy, a practice outside of Washington DC.
Annie helps people reset their sleep and rewire their responses to chronic pain and trauma through evidence-based therapies and nervous system regulation tools.