6 Tips for Healthy Sleep

Written by Joshua Roland, M.D., FAASM

#1 – Limit Screen Time

Our devices are a source of learning, connecting with friends and family, and entertainment. They are also, overall, terrible for our sleep. They have a lot of stimulating content, which keeps us engaged, but also keeps our mind very active. At times, this makes it hard to shut down our brain for sleep. Putting the phone or other devices away an hour or so before bed can be very helpful for sleep.

#2 – Lower Caffeine Intake

Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and even chocolate. Some people enjoy caffeine to help stay awake, but this can also cause problems with sleep. Caffeine not only keeps us up and makes sleep lighter, it can also cause people to be fidgety when trying to sleep. This can worsen conditions such as restless leg syndrome, a condition where the limbs feel the need to move around in the evening, which can prevent falling asleep or cause nighttime awakenings. Caffeine tends to stay in our bodies for a lot longer than we realize, with it taking about 5-7 hours for half of the caffeine we drink to get out of our system. Generally, this means that for good sleep caffeine should be stopped by the early afternoon at the latest. 

#3 – Decrease Stress

It is hard to avoid stress altogether, but it is important to be mindful as to how it can affect sleep. Many changes are going on during the preteen and teen years. It can be a very exciting time, but also a stressful period at times as well. While stress may be a part of life, it is important to try to minimize stress before bed to help get better rest. This can be easier said than done, but things such as having a good wind-down routine or potentially using mindfulness or meditation can help alleviate stress before sleep. Writing in a diary or making lists of what is on our minds can get stressful things out of our heads prior to sleep. Seeking a counselor or psychologist can also be helpful if you are dealing with a lot of stress or anxiety.

#4 – Get Exercise

Exercise is excellent and very important for wellness. Getting exercise during the day is not only healthy, but also has been shown to positively impact sleep and reduce stress. You do not want to exercise right before bed, however, as it will tend to make the body and mind more alert. Try to exercise daily for a good night’s rest, but try to finish at least 2 hours before bed.

#5 – Limit Your Light

Much of our drive to sleep has to do with light. As it gets dark, our bodies and minds are designed to feel sleepy. These days, however, we have lots of bright lights in our homes as well as coming from our phones and devices, which can throw off our natural drive to sleep. Many devices emit something we refer to as “blue light,” which closely mimics sunlight and can cause our minds to feel confused as to if we should be awake or asleep. Sometimes these devices have blue light filters, which can help, but it is best to try to limit device use and turn off brighter lights in our surrounding environment in the hour leading up to bed.

#6 – Create a Routine

Establish a routine of getting ready for bed at about the same time. Take a shower or bath, and do an activity like meditation, reading a book, journaling about any worries, coloring, snuggling a pet, or talking to a family member or friend, that calms you. Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes so that you are tired enough for restorative nighttime sleep.