7 Steps To Better Sleep

I love sleeping. I need sleep. And one of the things I have wrestled with over the last 10 years of being an independent business owner is figuring out how to stop my brain at sleeping time. For the first 6-7 years of my freelance career I worked in the evenings all the way up until bedtime and it was disastrous both for my sleep and -- not surprisingly -- my household. A few years ago, as I worked on recalibrating my life, my first priority was to stop working at night so I could focus on Jon and the girls. It has improved things enormously, but I still periodically have stressful things on my mind as I’m going to sleep. Isn’t it crazy that something as essential and basic as sleep can be hard?

Why Sleep Is Awesome

I’m thrilled to kick off an editorial series with Tufts Medical Center, the first part of which is focused on SLEEP. Because sleep is awesome. Dr. Kimberly Schelling, a primary care physician in Boston at Tufts Medical Center, shares that getting good sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Why? Because sleep allows your body and mind to rest, restore, and repair, while poor sleep can lead to fatigue, weight gain, depression, anxiety, poor concentration, increased body pain, and a general feeling of being unwell.

7 Steps To Better Sleep

I asked Dr. Schelling to share some actionable steps towards better sleep. Some of these things I’m already doing but it’s been great to initiate steps #1 and #5 (removing tech from the room entirely) and feel like they’re making an impact. I’m also working on #6 (I have a read in bed habit!).

1. Avoid caffeine after 2pm

A lot of people get in the habit of an afternoon coffee, but caffeine can affect the hormones in your body that drive sleep, and delay your natural sleep cycle. Relegating caffeine intake to earlier in the day will keep it from affecting your sleep cycle.

2. Avoid alcoholic beverages before bedtime

Alcohol is another common substance that can affect your natural sleep cycle, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep when you really need the rest.

3. Avoid strenuous exercise close to bed

Exercising after work is common for many people, but try to get that workout in before 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. If you can only work out at night, make sure to stay hydrated and try to avoid an overly strenuous routine. Exercise is great for sleeping better, but some may find a vigorous workout gives them a burst of energy, which can affect your ability to fall asleep at the normal time. In the end, listen to how your body – and your pillow – react to workouts.

4. Regulate your bedroom

Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and remove or block any distracting lights (e.g., get blackout curtains if your bedroom window has a lot of street light coming in).

5. Silence or remove the technology

Remove smartphones and tablets from the bedroom or set them to "do not disturb" mode.

6. Make your bed a sacred space

Do not watch TV, listen to music, read, or work in bed. Limit your bed to sleeping only. Going to bed and falling asleep can be a stressful experience for people who have difficulty doing so. Many people who chronically struggle to sleep start getting anxious at bedtime because they fear not being able to sleep. You don’t want to associate your bed with anything but sleep, and should only get into bed when you’re sleepy to cut down on this anxiety. If you enjoy reading or watching TV, try doing it in an easy chair or another room prior to sleep.

7. Consider your medications

Review your medications with your doctor, including over-the-counter medications, supplements, and herbal medications. Your doctor can help you ensure that you aren't taking anything stimulating prior to bedtime.

What To Do If You’re Still Having Trouble Sleeping

If you’re having trouble sleeping and it’s affecting your daily life, Dr. Schelling recommends making an appointment to see your primary care doctor. Many of Dr. Schelling’s colleagues at Tufts Medical Center Primary Care Boston are now accepting new patients. Your primary care doctor can review your sleep routine and see if there are simple fixes that you can make to help improve your sleep patterns. Your doctor can also ensure that there is not a medical problem that is impacting your sleep, like depression, sleep apnea, or pain. Tufts Medical Center has a Sleep Medicine Center right on the Boston campus, which provides more in-depth sleep studies, diagnoses and treatment plans.

Tufts Medical Center is a renowned not-for-profit academic medical center in downtown Boston. Floating Hospital for Children is the full-service children’s hospital of Tufts Medical Center. Both are the principal teaching hospitals of Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts MC and the Floating Hospital offer a full range of services including primary care, OBGYN services in all areas of women’s health, and dedicated pediatric and adult emergency rooms.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this post is intended solely for the information of the reader. This information is not medical advice and should not replace a consultation with a medical professional.

Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Tufts Medical Center. My passion for sleep, and my thoughts on how working at night is crappy for your family relationships, are -- of course -- my own.