Seven Strategies To Improve Your Sleep For National Sleep Awareness Week

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

General media impressions and formal sleep studies show that sleep plays an essential role in our lives, giving our bodies and minds a chance to rest and repair themselves. For this reason, the National Sleep Foundation developed National Sleep Awareness Week, which takes place annually during the second week of March. Understanding how to improve your sleep health and care for your body is one way to celebrate this year.

When Sleep Awareness Week begins, the focal point of many people will be on sleep education and developing healthy sleep behaviors. In general, the public understands key attributes of healthy sleep habits and the hallmark sleep disturbances, such as obstructive sleep apnea, but the overarching goal of Sleep Awareness Week serves to provide a consistent message about sleep health theory.

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What is Sleep Awareness Week?

National Sleep Awareness Week helps promote healthy sleep patterns and education on how sleep can be crucial to overall health and well-being. Based in America (specifically in Washington D.C.) The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) began promoting sleep awareness over a week in March 1998 to encourage the public to prioritize sleep.

Every year, this national public education campaign starts alongside the beginning of daylight saving time. As time springs forward, the National Sleep Foundation’s aim is to spread knowledge regarding the improvement of overall health through sleep. In 2023, National Sleep Awareness Week will occur from March 12th to the 18th.

When the National Sleep Foundation started Sleep Awareness Week, they sought to provide a consistent message and practical tips through their cornerstone campaign towards improving health and key attitudes toward getting a good night’s rest.

What is the importance of sleep?

Getting healthy sleep is vital to mental and physical health. Research shows that when individuals don’t get enough sleep, they are three times more likely to experience chronic stress. Sleep disruptions have been linked to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and several other mental health conditions. Left unchanged, poor sleep can also contribute to serious physical health concerns, including a weakened immune system, cardiovascular conditions, obesity, and diabetes. Sleep can help you focus, retain valuable information, perform physically, and make better decisions.

Techniques for better sleep during National Sleep Awareness Week

You might not think about how to improve the quality, duration, and consistency of your sleep. When daily tasks, desires, and ideas get in the way, it can be challenging to focus on achieving better quality sleep. The following seven strategies can help you include healthy sleep hygiene habits into your daily schedule. 

Fall asleep faster with a consistent sleep schedule

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can impact how fast it takes to fall asleep. Many external causes can lead to disruptions in your body’s circadian rhythm, which helps you adjust your physical, mental, and behavioral state based on stimuli like light and darkness. 

Your circadian rhythm controls various functions in your sleep-wake cycle, and disrupting it can cause acute insomnia. Insomnia is a term that describes difficulty falling and staying asleep, often causing individuals to stay awake for many hours during the night. It may be considered acute if your trouble falling asleep lasts a few days or weeks. However, if you’ve been struggling with falling asleep and staying asleep for months or years, you may be living with chronic insomnia. 

Developing routines that contain a regular sleep schedule may help you reduce insomnia or other sleep challenges. For Sleep Awareness Week, try to commit to going to bed at the same time every day. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University, a consistent sleep schedule maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock. You may have to give up certain activities during this week, such as going out late with friends, in order to get to bed at a regular time. But by the end of the week, you may notice that your insomnia symptoms have been reduced.  

Note that insomnia can be a chronic and medical concern. If you aren’t able to sleep after many attempts to change your sleep hygiene habits, reach out to a sleep doctor or psychiatrist for support. Many individuals take medications to fall asleep each night, and there are natural supplements like melatonin that may help short term. Safety is important when considering medications; it is essential that you talk to a doctor before starting, changing, or stopping any medication.

Stay asleep longer by utilizing white noise

Waking up in the middle of the night can disrupt your sleep. A 2010 sleep study found that some people, specifically those who don’t produce as many sleep spindles (a type of brain wave that promotes restful sleep), are often awoken when they hear loud noises.

Slow-wave noise (like a white noise machine) can increase your brain’s sleep spindles. Consider investing in a white noise machine or downloading a white noise app on your phone for this year’s Sleep Awareness Week. White noise machines produce calming sounds (like wind blowing through the trees or waves hitting the shore) that can help you stay asleep through noises in the night.

Avoid hitting snooze

Sleep inertia can cause a feeling of grogginess between sleeping and waking states. During these periods, your body is in a state of low arousal, and your productivity often decreases. Sleep inertia causes some individuals difficulty functioning up to four hours after waking up. 

Sleep inertia can cause individuals to hit snooze on an alarm or avoid waking up to go back to sleep. To prevent severe sleepiness, waking up during your first alarm can be beneficial. To avoid hitting snooze, try the following strategies:

  • Put your phone on the floor across your bedroom with the alarm volume on high so that you must get out of bed to turn it off

  • Download an app that requires you to complete puzzles and games to turn your alarm off

  • Buy a physical alarm clock with a loud, repeating sound

  • Have someone in your life wake you up each day. For children, this person may be a parent; for adults, this may be a partner, roommate, or another individual in their family. 

  • Immediately put your face in a sink of cold water upon getting up to turn off your alarm

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Create a restful sleep environment

There are multiple types of insomnia.

According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, sleep-maintenance insomnia involves difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early without being able to fall back asleep.

This type of insomnia can cause you to feel tired throughout the day and hinder your ability to stay on a consistent sleep schedule. 

For Sleep Awareness Week, take a moment to look around your bedroom before you go to sleep to notice any distractions. Try to keep your room free of bright lights and moving objects. You can also consider buying black-out curtains to block the lights of passing cars, take your TV out of your room, and keep your phone out of reach while in bed. If you need something to do before bed, consider an activity that doesn't involve a screen, like reading calming stories or listening to an audiobook. 

Staring at the blue light from cell phones and TV screens before bed can keep you in a state of alert. A poll done by the National Sleep Foundation found that 50.4% of people who watch TV before bed get less than seven hours of sleep. To encourage longer and higher-quality rest, try putting electronics away for at least an hour before going to sleep.

In addition, ensure your bed is comfortable and conducive to sleep. If your mattress distresses you, you have too many pillows, your room is too hot or cold, or you feel stuck in your blankets, you might not be able to sleep due to your body’s sensory needs not being met.

Take a short nap to improve your mood

Many people may find themselves feeling unmotivated or low in productivity by the middle of the workday. You may start to experience sluggishness, an inability to communicate with colleagues, brain fog, and general fatigue at this time. 

A nap may help boost your mood and cognitive function if you are slowing down mid-day. A power nap is a sleep session that lasts between ten to 30 minutes—any longer, and you might feel the effects of sleep inertia; any later in the day, you might affect your nightly sleep schedule. 

According to a study published in the academic journal Sleep, a “ten-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance).” 

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Practice positive sleep strategies beyond National Sleep Awareness Week

After learning about the potential benefits of sticking to a sleep schedule, rearranging your bedroom, adding a white noise machine, power-napping, and avoiding the snooze button, consider implementing these practices during Sleep Awareness Week and beyond. Try to continue improving your sleep by remembering these strategies throughout the year and adding new techniques for better sleep as you feel able. 

To learn more about the NSF annual campaign and/or obtain campaign materials, visit https://www.thensf.org/sleep-awareness-week.

Improve your sleep with counseling

If you are slowing down mid-day, a nap may help boost your mood and cognitive function. A power nap is generally a sleep session that lasts between 10-30 minutes—any longer and you might feel the effects of sleep inertia; any later in the day you might affect your nightly sleep schedule.  

The more stress we face, the more it affects our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Research shows that with every new stressor you face, your likelihood of developing insomnia increases by 19%. However, these stressors don’t have to stick around forever, and with support, you may manage your stress and sleep successfully. Counseling is one solution, and if you find that sleep challenges have made your schedule unpredictable, therapy methods like online counseling can allow you to find help outside of regular business hours. 

According to one study, online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively support clients experiencing anxiety and insomnia as they work to improve their sleep quality. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely accepted form of treatment that helps the participant identify and replace unwanted thought patterns that may cause maladaptive behaviors, such as those related to stress and poor sleep habits.  

Online therapy for better sleep

If you’re living with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, excessive stress, or similar mental health-related challenges, online therapy may help. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp can match you with a therapist based on your preferences and areas of concern. You can also reach out to your therapist outside of sessions. If you have a question about insomnia or want to clarify a point made during therapy, you can send them a message, and they’ll respond as soon as possible.

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”Ms. Crowe was easy to talk to and listened to how I was feeling and what I was experiencing in my life. She gave me different techniques that I could use and did use to feel better, sleep better, and be a better person. I would recommend her to anyone who needs some help emotional or just someone to talk to!” 

Takeaway

Quality, consistent sleep can positively impact your physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. By becoming more involved in sleep improvement and utilizing the above strategies, you can take advantage of the many benefits of a healthy night’s sleep. Some people feel incredibly proud after developing a premier awareness of consensus-based best practices, thus advancing excellence in their sleep routine. If you’d like further support managing stress and staying on a healthy sleep schedule, consider contacting a sleep doctor, psychiatrist, or mental health professional. Working with a professional, you can be well-rested and relaxed as you take the next step on your mental health journey.
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