I think we can all appreciate the value of a good night’s sleep. It helps us feel energized, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the day. But we are not always good at engaging in the behaviors that can help us sleep well on a regular basis. As a result, we don’t always feel as rested as we’d like, or we may even end up with insomnia! But there are some simple changes you can make to your sleep routine to improve your sleep quality and start reaping all the amazing benefits of a great night’s sleep!

1) Create a Sleep Schedule for Yourself

Your body is highly adaptable and it also thrives on routine and schedule. In fact, the more consistent you are with a routine, the better your body adapts to it. Sleep is no exception to this rule. That means that creating a sleep schedule that you can follow every day (meaning going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time) helps you establish an internal clock that maximizes your sleep time. Over time, your body will start to let you know when it’s bedtime, and you will wake up easier and feeling more refreshed in the morning. Plus you will fall asleep faster which means more time in the stages of sleep that rejuvenate and repair your body- a real win-win!

2) Stop The Weekend Sleep-Ins

As I just discussed, your body thrives on routine- especially when it comes to sleep. And if you’re someone that routinely sleeps in on the weekends, then you’ve noticed this impact by finding it significantly harder to wake up on Monday mornings than Thursday mornings. By going to sleep later on Friday and Saturday nights, you naturally sleep later on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This creates a phenomenon known as “Sunday night Insomnia” where we struggle to fall asleep at our usual time on Sunday night because we haven’t been awake as long as we are used to being awake during the weekdays. Simply put, our body is not ready for sleep yet. The key to stopping this impact is to maintain our sleep schedule on the weekend. I know it sounds hard, but the benefits are well worth it!

3) Your Bed is Not an Office or a Couch

We want to create a very strong association between our bed and feeling sleepy. We want to crawl into bed at night and feel calm, relaxed, and ready to embrace a good night’s sleep. The way to create this association is by making sure your brain links your bed to sleep ONLY. The problem is that many people use their beds for things that are associated with being very awake and aware, like, watching TV, paying bills, making phone calls, and doing work on our laptops. Now our brain is confused and doesn’t have a strong association with the bed and sleepiness anymore! Commit to making your bed a place for sleep and commit to engaging in all of those other behaviors elsewhere. Your sleep will greatly benefit from this change!

4) Ditch the Alcohol Before Bed

It’s a common misconception that alcohol is a sleep aide. While it is true that alcohol may actually help you fall asleep, it actually drastically decreases your sleep quality. What it does do is help you achieve the light stages of sleep (stage 1 and stage 2) but as the alcohol metabolizes, we wake up and/or stay in these light levels of sleep. So, alcohol impairs our ability to get into the deeper layers of sleep where all the true rest and repair happens. So, when we use alcohol to help with sleep, we actually stop ourselves from getting the true restorative sleep that we need. Instead, try a nice cup or herbal tea or a bath to help with sleep!

5) Get Out Of Bed When You Can’t Sleep

I talked already about the value of connecting your bed with sleepiness and how important it is to not spend your awake time in bed. Well this is also true for awake time that happens in the middle of the night! It is so frustrating to wake up and not be able to fall back asleep and we often try to convince ourselves that if we just close our eyes tight enough, we may be able to drift off. But we know when we are kidding ourselves and the best thing to do in those situations is to GET UP! Get out of bed and go sit somewhere else and engage in a quiet activity like reading, or watching TV. Give yourself about 20 minutes or so and then, when you feel sleepy again, go back to bed. This will help build that bed/sleep association.

Start implementing these five strategies and see how much benefit you will find from improving your sleep. You will feel more energized and focused, more motivated and engaged, less victim to cravings and have a stronger immune system----that’s an amazing list of benefits!