Of course, writing is just one technique to help with insomnia. There are many factors that can affect sleep and attending to them is known as “Sleep Hygiene”—and education about this is another key component of CBT-I (and that may be a strong contributing factor to the success of that program).
Here are seventeen tips from evidence-based research for improving your Sleep Hygiene.
Better Sleep Hygiene
17 Research-based Tips to Sleep Better at Night
Increase bright light exposure during the day
Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy, improving daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration
Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
Blue light — which is emitted in large amounts from electronic devices like smartphones, computers, and television monitors— is the worst kind of light to be exposed to in the evening if you have sleep issues. Move your TV out of your bedroom, and don’t check your emails before bed. Also, if you’re a bedtime reader, go analogue – ie. Read an old-fashioned book.
Try to sleep and wake at consistent times
Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality. Research has shown that participants who have irregular sleeping patterns and go to bed late on the weekends report poor sleep.
Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
While short power naps are beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can negatively affect your sleep.
Exercise regularly — but not before bed
In people with severe insomnia, research has shown that exercise offers more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30%, and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%. Daily exercise is key for a good night’s sleep, but exercising too late in the day may cause sleep problems.
Don’t consume caffeine late in the day
Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and can stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, drinking large amounts of coffee after 3–4 p.m. is not recommended.
Take a melatonin supplement
Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to relax and head to bed. In one study, taking 2 mg of melatonin before bed improved sleep quality at night and energy the next day and helped people fall asleep faster. In another study, half of the group who took melatonin fell asleep faster and had a 15% improvement in sleep quality. And no withdrawal effects were reported in either of the above studies unlike with prescription sleep aids.
Consider trying these other supplements as well: ginkgo biloba, glycine, valerian root, magnesium, l-theanine, and lavender. Make sure to only try them one at a time. They can be useful when combined with other natural sleeping strategies.
Don’t drink alcohol
Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns. It also alters nighttime melatonin production as well as decreasing the natural nighttime elevations in human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in circadian rhythm.
Don’t eat late in the evening. Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, certain meals and snacks (high carb) a few hours before bed may help.
Optimize your bedroom environment especially with regards to noise and external light.
Set your bedroom temperature
One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality more than external noise, and other studies reveal that increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness. Around 20°C seems to be an optimal temperature for most people, though obviously there are individual differences in preferences.
Relax and clear your mind before bed
Relaxation techniques, including listening to relaxing music, reading a book, meditating, deep breathing, and visualization, have been shown to improve sleep quality.
Take a relaxing bath, shower or footbath.
Studies indicate these can help improve overall sleep quality and help people — especially older adults — fall asleep faster. If you don’t want to take a full bath at night, simply bathing your feet in hot water can help.
Don’t drink liquids before bed
Although hydration is vital for your health, don’t drink any fluids 1–2 hours before going to bed. Also empty your bladder immediately before going to bed to decrease your chances of waking in the night.
Make sure your bed, mattress, and pillow are comfortable.
What you sleep on/in can greatly affect sleep quality and joint or back pain.
Rule out a sleep disorder
An underlying health condition such as sleep apnea may be the cause of your sleep problems. If you’ve always struggled with sleep, consider talking to your doctor about it.
If you are interested in the complete list of references for the original research, please go to the full Healthline article.