Create a Routine for Better Sleep

Create a Routine for Better Sleep

Most Americans have some type of trouble with sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 3 American adults say they’re not getting enough sleep every day. And millions of Americans have chronic sleep disorders.

 Despite there being a lot of advice out there on how to get more sleep, it isn’t easy to do. People are different. So are their sleep needs and sleep challenges.

But even though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix, you can get help. The first step is to figure out what’s behind your sleep issues. Then you may be able to change your routine to get the healthy sleep you need.

Why Do We Have So Much Trouble Sleeping?

Sleep is the backbone of good health. Getting the right amount is key to good mental and physical health. Long term lack of sleep and untreated sleep problems are linked to many health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity and some cancers, says the National Blood, Heart and Lung Instituteleaving site icon 

So why do so many of us not get enough sleep? There are many potential causes of short or disrupted sleep. It’s worth it to explore why you may be having trouble sleeping.

Your sleep environment and habits can impact your ability to get enough sleep. What you consume, including medicines, food and drink, and when you have them can impact your sleep. Some other common causes of sleep disruptions include:

  • Not making sleep a priority or getting to bed on time
  • Getting up to use the bathroom at night
  • Chronic pain
  • Work obligations
  • Too much light at night
  • Sleep disorders or other medical conditions
Good Habits May Help

Your daily routines can mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicineleaving site icon Even minor changes in how you plan your days, and especially how you spend your evenings, can help.

First, it’s important to think about your habits and what may be contributing to your problem. It’s likely that you’re experiencing some of the common sleep disruptors. In many cases, you can get more sleep by making it a higher priority and changing some of your habits.

After you address any specific sleep disruptors you know you have, try these steps:

  • Make a sleep schedule. Get up at the same time each day. Try not to sleep in on weekends.
  • Create a calming bedtime ritual.
  • Set a bedtime and wakeup time that allows you to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. And stick to it.
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings. Put electronic gadgets away at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Skip the caffeine after lunchtime.
  • Don’t have alcohol at night. Even a small amount can disrupt your sleep.

It’s better not to go to bed if you’re not sleepy. But what if you still aren’t sleepy when it’s time to go to bed? Try some of these techniques suggested by SleepFoundation.orgleaving site icon 

  • The military method. leaving site icon It’s a step-by-step method involving relaxation and visualization.
  • Peaceful, relaxing music or white noise. It can help you relax and mask any environmental noises that may be bothering you.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. It uses breathing and muscle contraction/release techniques. It’s also good for relieving stress.
  • Guided imagery. You can try doing it yourself or find a recorded session. They’re easy to find online.
  • Mindfulness meditation. This practice helps you relax by focusing on the present and letting go of judgment. It may be helpful for those who have trouble shutting down excessive thoughts or if you have sleep-related anxiety.

You can address lifestyle choices that are disrupting your sleep on your own. But if you think you have medical issues that contribute to your sleep issues, talk to your doctor.

Is It Time to Talk to Your Doctor?

Sometimes sleep problems are caused by a more serious issue that you can’t fix on your own. If you can’t shake your sleep issues no matter what you try, you may need professional help, says the National Sleep Foundationleaving site icon 

Millions of Americans have a sleep disorder. These include sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, excessive sleepiness and narcolepsy. Some signs that you may have a sleep disorder include:

  • Feeling tired during the day even though it seems like you get enough sleep
  • Chronic, loud snoring
  • Frequent trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep that lasts a few months or longer
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble staying awake during the day

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you find out what sleep issue you have and what you can do about it. Treatment may include medications, cognitive therapy, lifestyle changes or medical intervention.

Sleep is critical to your health and ability to function. If you have signs of a sleep disorder, don’t ignore it. Get help.

Trouble Getting Back to Sleep at Night?

Can you fall asleep easily but wake up during the night? Waking up during the night is normal. Many people wake up two or three times per night. But finding it hard to get back to sleep can be frustrating.

One in 5 people have difficulty getting back to sleep when they wake up at night. It’s called sleep maintenance insomnia, says Johns Hopkins Medicineleaving site icon 

When you can’t get back to sleep at night, there are better things to do than toss and turn. To get back to sleep:

  • Try some of the techniques listed above for getting relaxed and sleepy.
  • Turn your alarm clock or smartphone away from you. Don’t keep checking the time.
  • Skip watching TV.
  • Aim for comfort. Make sure your room is cool and dark, and go to the bathroom so you don’t need to later.
  • If pain is keeping you up, talk to your doctor about how you can ease pain at night.

It’s especially important to not just lay in bed all night if you can’t get to sleep. You don’t want your mind to link your bedroom with sleep troubles.

Get up after you feel as if you’ve been awake for more than 20 minutes, says the Cleveland Clinic. leaving site icon Leave your bedroom. Find something quiet and boring to do. Keep the lights low. Read a dull book or listen to relaxing music. Go back to bed when you’re drowsy.

And even if you feel tired from being awake, don’t sleep in, nap or go to bed early the next day. Follow your normal schedule.

Sources: Sleep Deprivation: Understanding the Hidden Consequences, leaving site icon, 2023; Sleep Science and Sleep Disorders, leaving site icon National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute; Healthy Sleep Habits, leaving site icon American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2020; Not Sleeping Well? It Might Be Time to See a Healthcare Provider, leaving site icon National Sleep Foundation, 2022; Up in the Middle of the Night? How to Get Back to Sleep, leaving site icon Johns Hopkins Medicine; 4 Simple Steps to Get You Back to Sleep Fast, leaving site icon Cleveland Clinic, 2021; How to Fall Asleep Fast: 5 Tested Strategies, leaving site icon, 2023; The Military Sleep Method: Benefits and How It Works,, 2023 leaving site icon