3 Totally Do-Able Daily Habits for Better Sleep

3 Totally Do-Able Daily Habits for Better Sleep

We have to admit something: sometimes we can overthink sleep… it happens when you’re as passionate as we are about the subject! And while there are all these interesting tips and hacks (yes, eating sour cherries will give you a melatonin boost!), sometimes, you have to pull back the layers and start at square one.

This is especially true if you’ve noticed negative trends when it comes to your sleep. Whether you’re sleeping too little in general, having a hard time staying asleep, or oversleeping, chances are it’s some non-sleep-related habits that are to blame. We sought advice from psychotherapist Ben Fineman, who specializes in using cognitive behavioral therapy to help people overcome insomnia. Read on for his logical plan for getting better sleep.

Yes, You Need a Sleep Schedule

Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day, even on weekends. We all have a unique internal clock called the circadian rhythm which sends signals from our brain to the rest of our body. These signals can be strengthened by having a regular sleep routine. With a healthy circadian rhythm, you will feel more alert during the day and more able to fall asleep in the evening. To really get in sync with your internal clock, pay attention to whether you are a morning person, night owl, or somewhere in between and honor your body’s natural timing for when to sleep.

Don’t Over-Indulge

Be mindful about naps, alcohol, and caffeine. Certain activities during the day can disrupt sleep at night. If you are having trouble sleeping well, try limiting your caffeine intake to the first six hours after you wake up. You can also boost your ability to fall asleep by avoiding naps after the early afternoon. Alcohol can also interrupt quality sleep—have your last drink at least four hours before you head to bed, and you will sleep better throughout the night.

Take Time to Wind Down

Have a buffer zone before bed. Human beings are good at worrying about things. It’s a feature of our evolved mind. Sometimes, it keeps us from falling asleep. There’s an easy life hack for this—have a one-hour buffer zone before getting in bed. Only focus on calming activities, like reading, stretching, or meditating. Power down your electronics. Let your mind power down, and sleep will come more naturally.

Normal Sleep Doesn’t Equal Perfect Sleep

Know what normal sleep looks like. Poor sleep can become a negative cycle—a few bad nights lead to worries about sleep which lead to more bad nights, and so on. A lot of people don’t realize that good sleep isn’t perfect sleep. Most people take up for 30 minutes to fall asleep at night. It’s normal to wake up a few times in the middle of the night, especially toward the end of your sleep. Everyone experiences sleep inertia—that initial period of grogginess after waking up—for at least a few minutes, if not much longer. If you’re worried about sleep, there’s a good chance you’re in better shape than you think.

WWBD: What Would Ben Do?

I put my phone out of reach from my bed to fight the temptation to have screen time before bed and after waking up. I make sure to avoid caffeine after 2:00 p.m. I also have compassion for myself—sometimes I stay up late or struggle to get out of bed, and I remind myself that those habits are normal and perfectly fine in moderation.

Bottom Line

There are lots of small steps you can take to get great sleep. The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to know what works best for you and focus on one small change at a time.

Ben Fineman is a psychotherapist and sleep expert in Los Angeles who specializes in using cognitive behavioral therapy to help people overcome insomnia. He also cohosts the Very Bad Therapy podcast.

Featured image: @mirza_amjad