If you suffer from inadequate sleep, your sleep hygiene is probably to blame.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is how you sleep, when you sleep, and what you do before you sleep. Here are some tips to keep in mind to improve your sleep habits. Most importantly, if you are not tired, do not go to bed. Instead, do something that relaxes you like listening to soft music or reading. Be sure to keep a regular schedule in which you go to bed and wake up about the same time every day, this means even on weekends and holidays. Although some of us look forward to our days off when we can “sleep in,” you really should not “sleep in” more than an hour past your normal wake up time. It is also helpful to keep a bedtime or evening routine. This practice typically works well for children and just because we are older does not mean it will not work for us too!

Beginning a ritual in the evening that helps you relax will get your mind and body ready for sleep. Lean towards something calming that will not elevate your heart rate or stimulate your mind, such as taking a bath, having a small snack, or reading a book. Whichever activities you choose, be sure to not do these activities in your bed. This will cause your mind to associate things other than sleep when you are in your bed. Try going to another quiet area of your home, if possible.

Napping is another contributor to sleep hygiene. Some people think a good way to “catch up “on sleep is to take naps during the day, but the opposite of that is true for some people. If you have a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep, a daytime nap may not be the best idea for you. However, if you must nap, keep it at a minimum, like a 20-minute power nap. This should typically be just enough time for you to recharge.

Another culprit to poor sleep hygiene could be attributed to consuming caffeine after lunch. Keep in mind everyone metabolizes caffeine at a different rate. Therefore, consuming caffeine after lunch may actually not be entirely to blame for your particular sleep hygiene. However, it is important to note your caffeine consumption and consider adjusting the amount or time of day in which you consume it.

Drinking alcohol within a few hours of bedtime is not recommended, because of its effect on your level of breathing while you sleep, preventing you from the deep sleep that you need. Nicotine also affects your sleep hygiene in that your body may wake up during the night due to a nicotine craving. Hence, smoking all together could be contributing to your sleep deprivation.

You’ve probably always heard you shouldn’t go to bed hungry, Although that is in fact true, keep in mind it is not advisable to consume a large meal near bedtime either. Going to bed with an empty stomach could cause your blood sugar levels to drop, causing sporadic sleep behavior at night. On the other hand, avoid a large meal within three hours of bedtime. Experts also advise avoiding tough exercise within six hours of bedtime. For most of us, that would mean if we did not exercise in the morning or on our lunch break, we might as well not exercise at all. That is certainly not the case. If your only option is to exercise in the evening, even though it is against the recommendation, it is better you exercise when it fits your schedule than to not exercise at all.

Another aspect of sleep hygiene some people do that contributes to sleep deprivation is using sleeping pills. Unless clinically necessary and prescribed by your doctor, consider using more natural methods of relaxation instead of sleeping pills. Most definitely, never combine sleeping pills with alcohol. Stress is another big contributor to our lack of sleep. Although, it may be difficult for some people to eliminate worry completely out of their mind, there are relaxation techniques that can help “turn off your brain.” Maybe talking on the phone with a friend or relative can help relieve your stressors in life. It may even be necessary to see a therapist to help you discover other stress relieving outlets.

Unbelievably, the temperature of your room contributes to the quality of your sleep. Keep your room at a comfortable, but cool temperature to ensure you do not get too hot during the night, which causes you to wake up.

Finally, avoid technology within an hour of sleep. Most people like to drift off into sleep with the sound of their television or will use a handheld electronic device, such as an eReader, cellular phone, or tablet, until they feel sleepy enough to go to sleep. However, the background light from these devices actually tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime. Therefore, you are doing your body more harm than good! Instead, consider browsing a magazine or reading a book, something without background light.

Now that you have taken all the fun out of your bedtime routine, seriously try our suggestions. Go home tonight, have a light dinner, relax to some nice music, and try reading a magazine, book, or even talking on the phone to a friend to help get your mind off your hectic day. If you do not enjoy reading, try a nice stroll around the block or a simple card or board game with your roommate or spouse. These tips do not require a drastic change in your day and certainly should cost you very little money, if any at all. It is worth a try and you just might wake up having had the best night’s sleep of your life! This information provides tips for helping you determine your sleep hygiene habits and hopefully make changes to improve your sleep habits. In some cases, you may still need to consult a physician for medical attention to your sleep deprivation.