Published on December 19, 2020

Woman sleeping.

Improve your sleep to reduce stress and enhance life

Poor sleep can affect your ability to function and can contribute to health risks such as cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety. Poor sleep habits and worry about sleep can even negatively affect sleep quality and hours of sleep.

“Sleep is so important for health,” said sleep medicine specialist Brittany Meyer, MD. “If you can consistently get a good night’s sleep, you can improve other aspects of your life.”

If the pandemic or other concerns are causing you to lose sleep, you can take some simple steps to get a better night’s rest.

The easiest ways to improve sleep are to:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Spend some time outside during the day.
  • Let the daylight into your home.
  • Walk, exercise, read or engage in a hobby to relieve stress on a daily basis.
  • Limit caffeine, especially after lunch time.
  • Limit alcohol use, especially after dinner time.
  • Limit electronic device screen time, especially in the evening.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleep.
  • Limit the amount of light in the bedroom, or use a sleep mask.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom in the lower 60s at night.
  • Ensure that you will not be disturbed by noises, or use earplugs.
  • Choose preferred bedding that helps you sleep well, such as flannel sheets, a down comforter or a weighted blanket.
  • Keep pets in their own safe space at night, and out of the bed.
  • Avoid using over-the-counter sleep aids. Instead, try 5mg of melatonin before bed, if needed.

To prepare for sleep, Dr. Meyer recommends keeping a “worry notebook” and pen on the nightstand. Use it before sleep or during the night if insomnia occurs.

“Take five minutes and write down a couple of top concerns or things you need to do the next day,” she said. “Writing things down can release stress and worry.”

Dr. Meyer also recommends using meditation, breathing or other mind-body techniques to relax before bed. A simple technique involves breathing in for five counts, holding your breath for six counts, and breathing out for seven counts. It may also help to focus on and then tense areas of your body sequentially from your toes on up to the top of your head. 

“Good sleep habits and stress management are more important than ever,” Dr. Meyer said. “They are just as vital to quality of life as nutrition and exercise.”