This year’s theme for Sleep Awareness Week is Celebrate Sleep Health! It’s easy to take sleep for granted, until it becomes a serious problem, and everyone deals with sleep deprivation at some point, but improving your sleep health can be as simple as making 5 lifestyle changes for better sleep. 

Most Americans need better sleep, and that’s especially true for Tennesseans. Tennessee was recently called out as a sleep deprivation hotspot with residents in 12 Tennessee counties getting insufficient sleep according to a study in the Sleep Health journal. 

Sleep deprivation can not only leave you feeling sluggish and drained throughout the day, but insufficient sleep can also affect your safety and overall quality of life.

Insufficient sleep or sleep deprivation comes in many forms. Perhaps you’re a student powering through an all-nighter to study for tests. Maybe you’re a new parent whose sleep schedule is turned upside down with the arrival of a new baby, or your job has you working late to complete a work assignment. Maybe you simply lose track of time and stay up too late. 

Regardless of why you’re sleep deprived you’ll not only feel tired the next morning, but you’re throwing off your entire day and making it more difficult to maintain a healthy sleep routine. 

To help celebrate Sleep Awareness Week— running from March 14th until March 20th— we’re  aiming to promote better sleep, draw attention to the many health benefits that come with being well-rested, and share some helpful tips. 

Whether many realize it, we all have habits that can impact our ability to sleep well. Follow these 5 simple lifestyle changes for better sleep and you’ll be celebrating your sleep health in no time! 

1. Follow a Consistent Nighttime Routine

While it may be hard to get yourself into a new routine, consistency is key to achieving a good night’s sleep— this consistency can also help create long-term sleep quality.

Make sure to wake up and get to bed at the same times each day, even on days when you’re not working or on any set schedule. Make sure you also give yourself enough time to unwind and follow a pre-bedtime routine each night.

Take a nice shower or bath, brush your teeth, and put away your electronic devices— more on that later. As long as you’re allowing yourself time to decompress and fall asleep easier, you can create your routine as you like. 

Even if it’s tough getting into the swing of new habits initially, a healthy new sleep routine will feel like second nature in no time, and you’ll start sleeping better too!

2. Limit Caffeine Consumption

Caffeine may be a helpful pick-me-up first thing in the morning or during an afternoon slump, but it goes without saying that caffeine can wreak havoc with your sleep if you consume enough of it. In fact, a recent study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that consuming caffeine within six hours of bedtime can reduce total sleep time by up to 41 minutes each night.

This disruption in your sleep can really add up, which is especially worrisome since caffeine usage, often in high doses, is so prevalent in today’s world.

So if you need a boost to start your morning, just remember to consume your morning caffeine in moderation. If you enjoy drinking coffee, tea, or soda throughout the day, consider substituting any of these drinks with their non-caffeinated varieties during the afternoon and evening. The side effects of too much caffeine are distracting and potentially unpleasant during the day, but experiencing those jitters when you’re trying to sleep can really ruin your night.

3. “Optimize” Your Sleeping Environment

It’s important to maintain a proper environment that’s productive to getting a good night’s sleep. Decisions like sleeping on a comfortable mattress or making the bed with soft sheets seem straightforward enough, but when preparing your bedroom for sleep, consider how factors such as light, temperature, and noise will affect your ability to rest.

Before retiring for the night, make sure to set your thermostat to an ideal temperature for either yourself or for you and your bed partner. A little compromise may be required here, but it’ll help both of you sleep better.

If you’re concerned about external light such as sunlight or city lights keeping you awake at night or waking you up too early in the morning, consider purchasing blackout curtains for any windows in your bedroom.

If external sounds such as traffic or city life keep you up at night, earplugs are a simple and accessible solution to blocking out that noise. On the other hand, if you struggle to sleep with too little noise, consider using a sound machine. These machines play soothing sounds or relaxing white noise to help lull you off to sleep.

Making sure your bedroom is a comfortable place to sleep may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often difficult to consider annoying factors preventing sleep until they make themselves a problem. Sometimes though, we may not even realize that we’re accidentally sabotaging our ability to rest.

4. Limit Screen Time Before Bed

It may seem harmless to briefly scroll social media or the news before drifting off to sleep, but that extra temptation can potentially have a significant effect on your rest. Whether it’s your smartphone, the TV, or the computer, our favorite devices are often responsible for keeping us up later than we originally planned. Outside of the blue light emitted by our devices, they have other sneaky ways of keeping us up later than we intend.

Revenge bedtime procrastination is the decision to sacrifice sleep in exchange for unstructured free time, often in response— or in revenge against— daytime stress. Bedtime procrastination is defined by delays in sleep reducing total sleep time, awareness of consequences from the lack of sleep, and a lack of valid reasoning for staying up in the first place.

Bedtime procrastination can cause sleep deprivation and exacerbate current sleep issues as well as have a negative effect on your physical health. To help prevent your electronic devices from keeping you awake, make sure to stop using them at least 30 minutes before bed. If you want ways to relax before bed without your devices, consider reading a book or doing some light stretching.

Even with proper preparation and an ideal sleep environment, sleep problems can unfortunately still persist. So what can you do if that’s the case?

5. If You Still Can’t Sleep, Seek Help

If you or your sleep partner experience sleep deprivation or fragmented sleep because of snoring or suspect it may be caused by sleep-disordered breathing, reach out to your doctor or a sleep expert to schedule a sleep test. 

A sleep test can help determine whether you have more serious underlying issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), that could be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Proper treatment following test results can help you start getting back to the restful nights you deserve.

There’s plenty that we can do at home to help ourselves get a full night’s sleep, but sometimes we may need a helping hand to get there. Be sure to contact us today to schedule an assessment if you’re struggling with your sleep.

So, in honor of Sleep Awareness Week, consider evaluating your routine before you head off to bed— you may be surprised by how much of your nightly routine and environment can keep you up at night!