Daytime Habits for a Good Night’s Sleep
The foundation to a good night’s sleep is built during your waking hours. To optimize your rest, work in some new habits to your mornings, afternoons, and evenings that can help you be primed for sleep when night time arrives.
Why Healthy Sleep Habits for Adults Are Important
If you’re regularly suffering from too little sleep, one or two quick fixes probably won’t be enough to turn things around. Instead, developing a regular routine that guides the predictable rhythm of your days and nights may help your body and brain know when it’s time to get some shut-eye.
Scientific research shows that the habits that form our days make a difference at night. For example, one study found that young adults got to sleep faster and spent more time asleep when they went outside, started work, and ate meals at the same time each day.1
How to Develop Better Sleep Habits During the Day
For a better night’s sleep, it can help to practice good sleep hygiene — a set of practices and behaviors that promote quality rest. Sleep hygiene can include both daytime and nighttime habits.2
Daily practices for better sleep include:3
- Napping less during the day — Avoid sleeping during the day, and you may feel sleepier in the evenings. If you really need a pick-me-up, keep it short: a 20- or 30-minute nap can be enough to boost your energy. Try to keep any napping to the early parts of the day.
- Being more physically active — Workouts are great to help make you feel more tired later on. It’s okay if you’re not able to hit the gym! Taking a walk or getting chores done around the house can also count as physical activity.
- Taking steps to reduce stress — Setting aside time for stress-busting activities, such as organizing your tasks for the day, taking more breaks from work, journaling, meditating, and exercising, may help calm anxious thoughts that keep you awake at night.
- Getting more light during your waking hours — To wake yourself up more during the day, spend some time outside in the sunlight. If you’re stuck inside, try using brighter light bulbs, adding another lamp or two to your environment, or sitting in front of a light therapy box. It is most helpful to get light within the first hour after you wake in the morning.
- Not eating or drinking too much soon before bedtime — A heavy meal sitting in your stomach may keep you awake as your body works to digest it.
- Keeping a consistent wake-up time — Try to wake up at the same time each day. Try not to stray too far from your schedule on weekends!
- Building a Bedtime Routine — Wind down before bed to signal to your brain that it’s time to start sleeping. You may want to try taking a warm bath or shower, turning the lights down, reading, or listening to relaxing music.
What Are the Benefits of Healthy Sleep Habits for Adults?
Your daytime habits affect your circadian rhythm — your body’s internal clock. Your circadian rhythm uses cues like physical activity, light, and eating patterns to control different processes in your body.4
When your eyes detect light or your digestive system starts breaking down a meal, your brain receives signals that tell it the body is awake. The brain then activates certain genes, sends out hormones (chemical messengers) that wake up the body, and controls the actions of various tissues and organs. Once it becomes dark and your body becomes less active, your brain reverses these processes, causing sleepiness.4
Performing certain tasks at the same time each day may help reinforce your circadian rhythm and set yourself up for good quality sleep. For example, studies show that getting bright light during the day causes people to sleep more at night and spend more time in deeper stages of sleep.5
Quality sleep can in turn improve your mental and physical health, making you less likely to experience conditions like anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.6
Dawn can help you build a schedule for better sleeping with CBT-I
Are you struggling with building a daytime routine that can help improve sleep habits? Fill out this questionnaire to get specific advice about sleep habits tailored to your own needs and work one-on-one with a sleep coach.
- Dautovich, N. D., Shoji, K. D., & McCrae, C. S. (2015). Variety is the Spice of Life: A Microlongitudinal Study Examining Age Differences in Intraindividual Variability in Daily Activities in Relation to Sleep Outcomes. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 70(4), 581–590. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbt120
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, July 15). Tips for Better Sleep. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
- Mayo Clinic. (2020, April 17). Sleep Tips: 6 Steps to Better Sleep. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Overview of Circadian Rhythms. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/85-93.htm
- Campbell, S. S., Dawson, D., & Anderson, M. W. (1993). Alleviation of sleep maintenance insomnia with timed exposure to bright light. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 41(8), 829–836. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb06179.x
- MedlinePlus. (2021, October 18). Healthy Sleep. https://medlineplus.gov/healthysleep.html
Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty practice in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Areas of expertise include insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Dr. Ehrnstrom is not a medical provider and is not providing any recommendations regarding medications. Rather, she is sharing and reviewing the research as it relates to education when learning how best to treat insomnia.