Do you feel it takes you forever to fall asleep? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night with your to-do list running through your head? My experience Counseling in Virginia Beach has made me realize difficulty sleeping is extremely prevalent in our society today. Insomnia and other sleep problems are often thought to be a symptom of anxiety + depression, but new research is suggesting that the opposite may actually be true: anxiety + depression can stem from lack of sleep. In fact, getting a good night’s sleep might be the number one thing we can do for both our mind + body health. So what do you do if you’re one of the millions of troubled sleepers out there?

Sleep Hygiene plays an important role in preparing for those 7-9 hours that we all need. Sleep hygiene refers to a set of practices, habits + environmental influences that impact one’s sleep. So often we come flying into bed after a busy day still buzzing from the day’s events + processing all of the meetings, social events, work deadlines, etc., etc., etc.— making it extremely difficult to initiate + maintain sleep. By improving your sleep hygiene, you can upgrade both the quality + amount of sleep you’re getting.

Here are 7 natural ways to improve your sleep:

Make your bedroom a sanctuary.

It should be cool, quiet + as dark as possible. You should associate your bedroom with sleeping, so try not to make it a place where you work or have stressful conversations. Invest in some blackout curtains if you find there’s a lot of artificial light entering your room from street lights or your neighbor’s house. Artificial light can disrupt your circadian rhythm (yes, even with your eyes closed!) so you want as little of it as possible.

Implement a nightly mindfulness practice.

This could be taking a bath or shower, journaling, meditating, progressive muscle relaxation — any activity that helps signal to your body that the day is over and you’re preparing for rest. If you engage in a mindfulness practice consistently, your body will be able to more readily receive the signal that it is time to wind down.

Block blue light exposure.

Blue light is emitted from the electronic devices that we all love: TV’s, iPhones, iPads, laptops, and even your alarm clock. But did you know that the blue light that is emitted from these devices tricks our bodies into thinking that its daytime? Blue light reduces the amount of melatonin our bodies produce, which is the natural sleep promoting hormone that we need to get a good night’s rest. The good news: you can get eye glasses that block out blue light exposure so you are still able to enjoy your nightly activities without the harmful effects on your sleep. Try these.

Eliminate caffeine intake.

This is one you can start early in the day. Your body needs at least 8 hours to rid itself of caffeine, so depending on when you typically go to bed, cut back on caffeinated beverages for at least the 8 hours prior.

Get off the internet.

Get off social media + stop browsing the web well before it’s time to get into bed. And certainly don’t browse the web when you’re IN bed. Besides the blue light that is emitted from your phone, your brain needs to be winding down + relaxing instead of receiving constant stimulation from the outside world. It’s best if you can leave your phone on the opposite side of the room from where you sleep (or in a different room if you don’t need the alarm.)

Limit alcohol consumption.

Many people like to unwind from the day with a glass of wine, but if you’re drinking alcohol late into the evening it can disrupt your sleep. Sure, it may help you initiate sleep faster, but it blocks REM sleep, which is the most restorative type of sleep. Without the proper amount of REM sleep, you may wake up feeling groggy and tired. Try to eliminate alcohol at least two hours before bedtime.

Shoot for the same bedtime each night.

New research suggests that those who go to bed + wake up at the same time each day are far more healthy than those who do not. Inconsistent sleeping routines prohibit the body from releasing sleep hormones at the correct time, throwing off your circadian rhythm. Though not always possible, do your best to shoot for the same bedtime every night.