A flowchart for getting to sleep.
We all know how elusive sleep can be, but quality sleep is essential for physical and mental health. When sleep feels hard to come by, “sleep hygiene” is the go-to remedy. While some sleep and insomnia-related issues need specific treatments including medication or longer-term psychotherapy, psycho-education about sleep hygiene is the first response for both medical and mental health providers.
Sleep hygiene includes some innovative ideas – along with some boring no brainers – so I think it can be helpful to review these methods in a board-game reminiscent sleep flow chart, rather than a mundane brochure or checklist.
Some aspects of sleep hygiene include:
- Maintaining a schedule for times you go to bed and wake up.
- This may include maintaining a weekday-wake up time through the weekends.
- Set a nighttime routine that you follow every night before crawling into bed.
- If you’re in the midst of a sleepless night, don’t remain in bed if you are wide awake. Get up and do a calming activity for 30 minutes, then repeat your bedtime ritual when you go back to bed.
- Calming activities could be reading a book, coloring or drawing, or breathing exercises. You could also listen to a story time podcast, or simply listen to your body and see if any specific part is asking for care.
- Making a bedroom sleep-friendly.
- As more and more individuals and couples live in tight quarters, this can be a challenge. Ideally, the bedroom is reserved for sleep and sex, but realistically, even just setting boundaries like “no work in bed” can be helpful.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
- Here’s where some hardware can go a long way: blackout curtains, white noise machines, eye masks, essential oil diffusers with calming scents, and fans can all improve sleep.
- Limit screen time before bedtime.
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Image description for screen readers:
Hand-drawn black, white, and blue flowchart with the question, “Can’t sleep?”
The flowchart asks yes or no questions to lead you to an answer for why you can’t fall asleep.
The suggestions are:
If you are sleepy but cannot fall asleep, try a guided meditation. If you’ve tried a guided meditation, try closing your eyes and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. If none of those work, try a calming activity for 30 minutes.
If you are not sleepy yet are not wide awake, make sure your phone is off.
If you are wide awake, make sure you are calm. You can do a calming activity for 30 minutes.
If you are not calm, ask yourself what is wrong.
You can do a body scan to see if there are any parts of your body that need care.
If you are worried, ask yourself if it is rational or irrational. If it is irrational, you can tell a plant or pet why it rational, or try a sleep story podcast. If it is rational, leave bed to make a checklist of worries and three things you can do in the morning to help. Walk away from the list and go to bed.
If you are anxious, try deep breathing exercises, meditation, or prayer. You can also try putting a stuffed animal to bed, tucking it in and telling it a story. If none of that works, you should simply give yourself permission to be awake and relaxed for the moment.