As regular readers may well know, I’ve struggled with sleep for as long as I can remember. I struggle to fall asleep. I struggle to stay asleep. I struggle to wake up and get functional in the morning.
My parents have given me loads of advice about how to get more consistent, fall asleep faster, and generally sleep well and awake refreshed every day.
I’ve attempted to gather all that advice, and more, here, but I want to be clear: these are suggestions. Plenty may not work for you, even when applied consistently. This is not your fault. Sleep is tricky for lots of people, and that doesn’t reflect how hard you try or how Good you are.
Personally, my sleep issues got a whole lot better not when I tried harder, but when I found the right medication. (Note: it was not the first sleep medication I tried.)
I had to try a lot of things before any of them made a difference. Keep trying. Sleep matters, and good sleep can change your life.
Go to bed at the same time as often as you can. Same with waking up in the morning – no sleeping in on weekends. Some sources say to aim for sleep/wake times within an hour of consistent.
Have one place (i.e., bed) where you sleep and only sleep. Train your mind to associate this location with sleep. Take this to as far an extreme as you like. Train yourself to associate specific smells, textures, clothings, sheets/pillows/stuffed animals/whatever with bed.
Don’t eat too big a meal too close to bedtime – some people say don’t eat at all within 2-4 hours of bedtime. Likewise, even if you hydrate throughout the day, lay off the beverages close to bedtime, so that you don’t have to get up to pee.
Caffeine is obviously a stimulant, so experiment to find the ideal cut-off time for yourself, or err on the side of caution by not having caffeine past breakfast. Caffeine has a surprisingly long half-life in the body (5 or more hours, generally less than 9). That means if you have two servings of coffee in the morning, you’re on the equivalent of one coffee after that half-life passes.
Some people attempt to cut caffeine out of their lives entirely, and swear by the improvement in their sleep. Personally, I’m scared to try this, which probably means I should.
Alcohol may make you want to pass out, but it decreases quality of sleep. Limit or abstain from consumption to figure out what standards to set for yourself.
Little Details Turn Out To Be Huge
The human body tends to drop in temperature when we fall asleep, so sleeping in a cool room is thought to promote sleep. Sixty-five degrees is ideal – unless and until you discover otherwise for yourself.
Sleeping with a partner can be magical or terrible for one’s sleep schedule, and there’s nothing wrong with sleeping in a separate bed from one’s partner. Even if social media calls it “sleep divorce,” there’s a whole TED talk about how it’s actually fine.
Pets are a lot like partners – they can help or hurt the situation. If a pet is too disruptive, lure them to the floor with fancy pet beds, or even shut them out – if the guilt outweighs the improvement, you can go back to the old system.