Coping Strategy: Sleep Hygiene Routines

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep Hygiene is a term used to define a consistent set of tasks one completes before going to sleep as to help relax and prepare the mind and body for sleeping.  Medical doctors and sleep research specialists recommend changing one’s environment and surrounds to be more sleep-friendly as part of the sleep hygiene routine.  They also have a research-based list of tasks proven to help one sleep.

Mental health providers include the medical doctor and sleep research checkilst, but are more flexible about what is included or not included in the routine.  They believe the routine can be flexible as long as it is consistent and tailored to the individual.  Some examples include, changing from work clothes to home clothes, hanging up clothes, cooking a meal, watching a movie/reading a book, exercising, making a plan for the next day, meditation, and cleaning.

How does it help?

  • A routine can soothe anxiety because the tasks and the process of completing a task from start to finish is ritualized and occurs around the same time every day.
  • Focusing on one task at a time uses mindfulness techniques and engages the senses; that helps keep the mind and body grounded in the present.
  • As each task or ritual is completed, the individual feels a sense of accomplishment and gets immediate gratification/positive feedback that builds confidence and provides a sense of competence.
  • Going through the sleep hygiene routine relaxes the mind and body as the individual moves around the space and remembers that this room is in a safe environment.  Feeling safe helps relax the anxiety so that sleep can come easier.

My Experience

I learned about sleep hygiene from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook first.  This book was recommended by my second therapist – one who specialized in anxiety and eating disorders.  After she recommended me to the first parital program, I learned more about relaxing rituals, coping strategies, meditation, self-care, and other tasks that can be included in a sleep hygiene routine.

Setting up the routine was easy enough at first.  Sticking to it, though, was difficult.  At the time I first started, I would switch and dissociate without remembering what happened during lost time.  That included my plans for sleep hygiene routines, coping strategies, etc.  Frustrating does not begin to describe the situation.  But I kept trying.  And I learned to be flexible about my routine.  Some tasks had to happen.  Others I could skip if I felt tired, short on time, etc.

These days, I have 3 similar sleep hygiene routines for work days and 2 for weekends/time off.  Each routine has some core tasks and rituals that I always include.  And then, there are about 4 or 5 others I add or skip depending on how my day went.

My Core Routine:
  • Unlock and open my door*
  • Close the door; then turn on the lights*
  • Take off my shoes; put my purse and/or tote down*
  • Hang up my wallet; put coat in closet*
  • Change into comfortable clothes/hang up or lay flat to put away
  • Eat while watching a movie of reading
  • Turn on sleep sounds
  • Get comfortable in bed
  • Listen to the sounds as I fall asleep

For Days when I go to work or go out on weekends

Other Tasks and Rituals
  • Walking or mindfulness meditation
  • Visualization
  • Preparing my outfit for the next day
  • Having a glass of cold water before bed
  • Play time with my alters
  • Cooking a meal from scratch
  • Recite mantras/affirmations with my alters
  • Hot shower or bath
  • Work on my web site
  • Call the hotline
  • Write a blog post
  • Knit

Reader’s Digest

We all know sleep is important.  And sometimes falling asleep and staying asleep feels impossible.  Everyone has reasons for not sleeping.  Sometimes, the problem is medical and can be fixed by a doctor and a pill.  Sometimes, the cause is harder to define.  Nothing seems to work.

I and my parts are sometimes afraid to sleep. The nightmares and body memories wake us up sweating and scared.  Or the flashbacks and hyper-vigilance create tons of anxiety and adrenaline so our body can’t stop.  Not all of us are on the same sleep schedule.

With a lot of experimenting and persistence, we finally discovered a routine that helps us sleep better most of the time.  Because, like any other strategy, it won’t always work.  Or the existing routine won’t work as it is anymore.  That is why one or all of us change up parts when something feels off.  Or when our sleep patterns change.