6 Tips for Better Sleep Habits

Esther Mehesz

Woman sleeping at desk with laptop. Image: Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio

By no means would I say that my sleep habits or sleep hygiene are perfect, but over the past few years, I have made sleep a priority by working on a few habits when it comes to sleep. While being a college athlete, sleep was also important then, once that ended and being in the “real world” I realized I didn’t have to be at 5 am practice the next day, and neither did I need to be in bed “on time”. It’s been a learning curve but I’ve finally found the happy sleep balance that works for me.

What were my sleep habits transitioning into the “real world”?

It was the first time that I could go to bed between 1–3 am and still be up by 6:30 am and be ready to go. Somehow little sleep still allowed me to perform in the workplace and also at the gym. It wasn’t every night that I was going to bed so late, but during the spring and summer, I was thriving on little to no sleep. Looking back on it now, I have no idea how I was functioning, but I knew that I still had responsibilities and I showed up for them.

This all took a drastic change when I was starting to crave more sleep and I couldn’t quite understand why my eating habits were off, why my mood/emotions were off, and that’s when I started to look at what was not exactly right.

What does sleep mean to me today?

Fast forward 3–4 years and now sleep is one of my top priorities. The habits that I have made around sleep and making sure that I get quality sleep are some of the following.

1. Learning to say “no”

This includes saying no to some events in the evenings if I know that the following day will be long. Realizing how much of an impact it has not only on my following day but also on following days has made me take time to reflect and make sleep a priority. I enjoy being social and going out, but there are some times when you need to prioritize and figure out which evening events are the most valuable to be able to also focus on your health. I don’t like to be groggy the following day (and I’m sure no one wants to be around me when I’m groggy either) when possible, I opt for the earlier events.

If it’s an evening out with friends on the weekend that includes drinking, I will be the first one to offer up a day drinking event or a happy hour. It’s the best of both worlds! Not only do you get to socialize and still have drinks with friends that prefer that, but you still get to go to bed at a decent hour! What’s surprising is more and more friends prefer this. Don’t be afraid to speak up and suggest alternatives to events!

It’s a matter of time before we realize how much we appreciate our sleep.

Woman drinking together

2. Going to bed before midnight

Since I am a morning person, and usually up between 4:30–5:30 am depending on the day, one part of my sleep routine that really makes an impact is the time that I actually go to sleep. The sleep that I get before midnight is the best, most restful sleep. This usually means that I am asleep by around 10 pm and sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s what I’m working on during the week. Some may call me a grandma because of this, but I’m taking care of my body the way I can.

Although this is still something that I am working on, and since our lives are not linear, trying to go to sleep at the same time each day and waking up at the same time each day would be ideal, but it’s still a work in progress for me. It’s definitely a habit that is important to the body and I definitely envy those that have that down to a T.

3. Finding the amount of sleep my body needs

This is key! We all know what it’s like to get too little sleep, but there’s also the other side of getting too much sleep and feeling just as groggy. Finding the happy medium is key to building a sleep habit that works for you. For me, the 6–7 hour range is what I need. However, if there are some days when I’m full exhausted, I’ll sleep the 8-9 hours on the weekend. Name a better feeling when you wake up refreshed in the morning and ready to go without relying on any caffeine.

What’s interesting is that this is something that does change with the seasons. During the summer, less sleep is plenty for me whereas, in the wintertime, I feel like I go into hibernation.

4. Listening to my body (and my tiredness)

Being able to listen to your body and finding the right sleep for you is important. Rather than fighting against it and staying up another hour to scroll your phone or watch another episode on Netflix, listen to your body. If you’re tired, go to sleep earlier. There’s nothing wrong with putting your head down an hour earlier.

Just as you are allowed to be selfish with your health goals, this includes your sleep too. Someone else may be able to push through it and be fine, but how much caffeine are they living off of the following day?

Choose the sleep, you’ll thank yourself later!

Man drinking coffee and working

5. The bed is a place for sleep

This is a habit that I grew up with, and for me, being in bed is equated to sleep. Once my alarm goes off in the morning or even if I have a slower morning, I’m out of my bed and I make my bed immediately. I don’t start my morning scrolling my phone in bed nor do I even read in bed. Also, making my bed first thing as soon as I am out of it makes my mind realize that it is time to start the day and the coziness of the bed doesn’t lure me back in.

I try to make sure that my mind and body associate bed with sleep. This way, when I do go to bed at night, it’s not about wanting to do other things.

6. The bedroom environment

I may not be the one with the perfect bedroom environment, but I have found what works for me. One of the main priorities for me is for the room to be at the right temperature. I sure do love sleeping in a room as cold as the tundra. Whether that means the AC is going or a fan for the colder temps but also for the white noise (and yes, if AC season is over, there will be a fan going in the winter).

Important note — this can be tricky when you go away with friends or have a partner and need to find a temperature that works for everyone.

Although there are many things that will be important to your sleep habits, it’s about finding what is right for you and your body. My sleep habits are not perfect, and there are still some nights that aren’t the best nights of sleep, but once I started working towards better sleeping habits, my sleep quality and energy changed drastically for the next day too. Putting a focus on your sleep may not seem productive, but your sleep is just as important to your overall health as everything else that you are doing throughout the day.

For more overall health topics, check out the Ate blog for a new post every Tuesday.

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