Sleeping Habits

Sleeping Habits

Keep up your routine – especially sleep

When we get busy, and the academics increase, sleep tends to be one of the first aspects to our routine that changes. Either we sleep more, going to bed earlier, waking up later, or enjoying that afternoon naps.

Or we tend to sleep less, going to bed later because there is no alarm waiting for you the next morning. Both of these can influence our quality of sleep, and we tend to still feel tired. This leads to us feeling tired, or emotions feel heightened, and we feel less motivated.

When we alter our habits and routines before we go to bed, it will likely not have immediate positive effects. It can take a week or two before you settle into this routine, and you start feeling rejuvenated in the mornings, thus, be patient with yourself.


The following aspect is important when we work on our sleeping habits:

  1. Perfect timing

Most of our sleeping habits is just that, habits. Thus we can train ourselves to get in the habit of falling asleep. It is important to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up the same time every morning. Yes, even on weekends (Centre for Clinical Interventions, 2018).

“It is a myth that there is a right amount of hours to sleep.”

The amount of hours you sleep is individually measured. Thus, find the amount that helps you function optimally, and stick with it.


  1. Sleep when tired

But, be wary of lying in bed when you’re not tired at all. It is important to not spend too much time in bed when you do not feel tired (Geiger-Brown, et al., 2015).


  1. Climb out of bed and try again

If, after about 20 minutes you are still awake and not feeling sleepy, get up and do a mundane task which doesn’t require a lot of effort or cognitive capacity. Like reading a boring article about something that falls outside your interest area, fold your washing, etc. Alternatively, change your scenery (e.g. sit on the couch). It is however important to keep the lights at dim. Do not make the lighting bright, this will tell your body that it is time to wake up. When you then start to feel sleepy, go to bed (Centre for Clinical Interventions, 2018).


  1. No coffee and cigarettes

Drinks (tea, coffee, some cool drinks, some medications) or snacks (chocolates) containing caffeine, and cigarettes act as stimulants, which will wake you up. Try to avoid these a few hours before you start to get ready for bed (Centre for Clinical Interventions, 2018).


  1. Avoid alcohol

Even though alcohol may make you feel tired or drowsy, it decreases the quality of your sleep. You may thus wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall asleep again, or you may wake up the next morning still feeling tired.


  1. Use your bed only for sleeping

In order to train your mind that the bed means sleep, don’t use it for anything else, like watching series or movies, studying, eating, etc. Your mind and body will start to associate the bed with sleep (Siebern & Manber, 2011).


  1. Goodbye afternoon naps

Naps only makes it harder to sleep in the evening, thus replace nap with an alternative activity when you feel tired, which is also relaxing, but is not sleeping. Listen to music, read a book, build a puzzle.


  1. Personal sleep rituals

Find something personal that works for you, that reminds your body and mind that it is almost bedtime. Drink chamomile tea or hot milk (which contains tryptophan – it acts as a natural sleep inducer), do breathing exercise, stretch while listening to relaxing music, spray lavender on you pillow.


  1. Bath/shower time

In order for us to fall asleep, our body temperature changes slightly, bathing or showering 30 minutes or an hour before bed can assist with this process.


  1. Avoid constant time-checking

When you struggle to fall asleep, constantly checking the time will increase your anxiety, which may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Avoid constantly checking the time, and rather get up (Centre for Clinical Interventions, 2018)


  1. Keep a sleep diary

Sometimes we assume things about our own sleeping pattern and habits, without realizing that it is not necessarily that accurate. Rather keep a diary in the mornings where you monitor you sleeping and associated habits (Stepanski & Wyatt, 2003).


  1. Exercise

Exercising makes your body feel more tired in the evenings, but getting the right time to exercise is very important. Most people find that exercising three hours before bedtime makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Try morning exercising, either strenuous exercises or a walk around the block (Stepanski & Wyatt, 2003).


  1. Healthy eating

General healthy eating is important, but also the time when you eat. Not too close to bedtime, but also not too far to feel hungry. Avoid big portions of food just before bedtime (Stepanski & Wyatt, 2003).


  1. Adjusting light and sound

Light and noise is distracting when trying to sleep, thus try to minimize these distractions in order to make it easier for you to fall asleep. Soft light, or no light is best. Use earplugs or an eye cover if there are distractions. Furthermore, if possible try to adjust the temperature as to not make it too hot or cold in the room (Centre for Clinical Interventions, 2018).


  1. Daytime routines

If you struggled the previous night with sleeping, avoid adjusting your routine the next day accordingly. This may reinforce the insomnia. Try to still get to everything you planned on doing.



CCI. (2018). Centre for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved from

Geiger-Brown, J. M., Rogers, V. E., Liu, W., Ludeman, E. M., Downton, K. D., & DiazAbad, M. (2015). Clinical review: Cognitive behavioral therapy in persons with comorbid insomnia: A meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2354-67. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.11.007

Siebern, A. T., & Manber, R. (2011). New developments in cognitive behavioral therapy as the first-line treatment of insomnia. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 4, 21–28.

Stepanski, E. J, & Wyatt, J. K. (2003). Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomnia. Sleep Med Rev, (7): 215-225


Compiled by Karen Pretorius (Counselling Psychologist at Thuso1777, Potchefstroom Campus)

Updated May 2020