If you’re in post secondary, this time of year can be particularly stressful. Prioritizing sleep is a crucial part of overall wellness as a whole, and especially during times of stress. Here are a few of my go-to tips to help with sleep:
If it’s safe for you to do so, taking about 30 minutes to incorporate healthy movement into your day will often have a positive impact on your sleep. Just try not to do it within three hours of your desired bedtime so that you aren’t too stimulated to sleep!
Aim to avoid caffeine at minimum within six hours of bedtime, alcohol ideally not within three hours of bedtime (it’s a common myth that alcohol will help you sleep, it’s actually more likely to disrupt it and can decrease your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which often leaves you feeling tired the next day), and also try not to have too much sugar in the late evening.
Drink herbal tea one to two hours before bed, especially ones like chamomile, lavender, peppermint, oat flower, or lemon balm. I try to limit all liquid intake in the hour or two before bed, as having it too close to bedtime often leads to me needing a pee break in the middle of the night. For me, it helps to be intentional about this being part of a wind down routine, i.e. the tea may not be very calming if I’m listening to high energy music or watching a busy show.
Reduce screentime in the two hours leading up to when you’d like to go to sleep, and if you are using screens during this time, adjust display settings to dim brightness and increase light warmth (the brightness and blue light stimulate the brain and can disrupt sleep).
Write out some of the to-dos that are on your mind, or other things that may be racing through your head, so that you can be assured they’re documented for you to look over the next day. I tend to worry I’ll forget things if I don’t write them down, since this does tend to be my reality, so I write down even the small things that may seem obvious e.g. go to the pharmacy tomorrow or email so-and-so this week.
Try out some calming breathing exercises. You can start with some of the examples in this blog Breathing Exercises to Try.
Use aids like white noise, sleep music, and sleep meditations. For white noise I like to use my fan, and for both sleep music and sleep meditations, I like to use a free app called Insight Timer.
If you find yourself tossing and turning, consider getting out of bed and going to a different room to try a relaxing activity. Activities like reading or doing a word search may help you to feel sleepy enough to go back to bed and try again.
If you’re trying these sleep hygiene tips and still struggling with your sleep, you may want to reach out to your family doctor.