Want a Better Night Sleep? These Tips Will Help

Sleep has never come easily to me. I remember nights when I was in high school where my mind would chase dozens of thought rabbits down their holes. I remember the frustration and sitting awake wide-eyed when the first hints of sunlight would brighten the morning sky.

As an adult, I feel that I had come around to better nights of sleep until the pandemic hit. Like many people, the significant changes to my routine resulted in substantial changes to my wake-sleep schedule.

In the beginning, when we sheltered in place, I was waking up a little later than usual and staying up later. I also was able to take little midday naps, something that wasn’t part of my pre-pandemic life.

Now that we are becoming more established in a new reality, it seems like a good time to get a better night’s sleep.

In this post, I will be going over some strategies you can use to reclaim a good night’s sleep.

Establish a sleep routine: One of the best things you can do for yourself is creating a ritual around sleep. Just like an athlete warming up for a big race, you should engage in behaviors that get you ready for marathon sleeping.

It would be best to start your wind-down about an hour before you are ready to go to bed. It is helpful to set the alarm to remind you when you should start your process.

Once you are into your warm-down zone, choose activities that signal that it is time to relax and look toward a good night of sleep.

Sample Sleep Ritual:

  • Brush teeth and cut off any eating.
  • Journal about your day and what you have going on tomorrow
  • Do some relaxing yoga, mediation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Read a bit to some soothing music.

Alcohol Use and Good Sleep Do Not Mix:

Many people use alcohol at the end of their day to relax and detach from stressful thoughts and feelings. There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation, and you can enjoy drinks throughout the week without issue for the most part.

However, if you want to get a better night of sleep, you should reconsider those vodka tonics at the end of your day.

We can cycle through multiple REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stages when we get a good night’s rest. I like to think of sleeping like a person swimming in a lap pool where they repeat a pattern of swimming down to the bottom and up to the surface until they reach the other side.

When we drink alcohol before bed, it messes with that smoothing up, down swimming pattern. Instead of going all the way down to the bottom, we may only go partway and resurface.

Alcohol negatively impacts our ability to engage in REM sleep patterns to support a refreshing night of sleep. If you do plan on drinking in the evening, have a cut-off at two drinks and no drinking within two hours of bedtime.

Want to sleep like the dead, workout like a beast!

When was the last time you had a physically exhausting day? I helped a friend move into a new multi-story house back in May. We were at his old place around ten and finished unloading the Uhaul after the second trip around five.

That was a long day, and when I hit my pillow and was out within 10 minutes. I enjoyed one of the best nights of sleep I have had in years and woke up refreshed and excited about morning.

You don’t have to help someone move into a house every day, but getting in a workout will help you sleep on multiple levels. The benefits of physical activity are pretty immediate, even if you haven’t worked out in a while.

If you want to get a good night of sleep tonight, get moving right now.

If you are struggling with sleep during the pandemic, take a look at these tips to reclaim your good night’s rest. You may need to make some changes for them to be effective, though, so give it some time before judging whether or not they work for you. We hope that our list of helpful pointers has been useful and would love to hear about any additional strategies that have helped you get more zzzs. What other ways do you think people can improve their sleep?

Matt Lawson, MA, NCC, LPC

Matt Lawson, MA, NCC, LPC

Hi, I'm Matt, and I'm a counselor who helps people achieve optimal health. I currently offer counseling services here at Chicago Compass Counseling and specialize in eSports and video game addiction. If you're interested, you can read more about me on my about page.