The following tips are appropriate for both the person with a brain injury and you. You can work together to get better sleep.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine
Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can keep you awake and alert, and when taken before bed, they make the natural chemicals your brain releases much less effective.
Create a bedtime routine and good sleep environment
Creating a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine is an important part of proper sleep hygiene. It’s also good for the person with a brain injury’s mental health to engage in relaxing, self-care focused activities. This includes:
- Bathing 2-3 hours before bed, or at least thoroughly washing their face
- Engaging in proper dental hygiene
- Keeping a paper and pencil by their bed so they can write down everything that is on their mind. By writing it down, they have the freedom to let it go from their mind and don’t have to worry about forgetting it
- Only getting into bed at bedtime
- Using earplugs if the home or community is noisy
- Using a supportive mattress or pillow
- Making sure the bed is big enough and there is plenty of space if they are sleeping with a partner
- Using an eye mask if they need a little extra help blocking out light
They can set reminders on their phone or computer to put technology away, start getting ready for bed, or anything else they have scheduled into their bedtime routine.
Don’t exercise right before bed
Exercising is great for overall health and happiness. When a person exercises, the body releases adrenaline, and heart rate and temperature are elevated. For many people, if they exercise before bed they find it harder to go to sleep.
If the person with a brain injury has sleep difficulties and are exercising later in the day, try moving their exercises to a few hours before bed time. Every person is different, and it will take some time to figure out the best time to exercise.
Get outdoors when you can
Fresh air and outdoor activities are great for overall health and well-being. Natural light and fresh air are commonly known to make a person feel good and can help with proper sleep hygiene.
Keep your room cool and dark
It is recommended that bedrooms be kept cool and dark during sleep because temperature and light interference can impact a person’s sleep. Ways to help create the right sleeping atmosphere include investing in blackout blinds, removing unnecessary technology from the room, opening a window, and using a fan or using a portable air conditioner if the room is too warm.
There is medication available to help with sleep, but this should only be taken at the recommendation of a physician. The person with a brain injury should speak to their doctor about whether a sleep-aid medication is a safe, appropriate choice.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up time
Establishing a regular routine helps the body and brain realize its time for bed. Pick one time for bed, and one time to wake up/set an alarm.
Stop screen time a couple hours before bed
Technology has become an important part of daily life, and while neither of you must give up screens, they shouldn’t be used before bedtime. The body responds to screens and the artificial blue light they create by suppressing natural functions designed to help with sleep. You should both stop using screens and technology at least a couple of hours before bed. The earlier you stop, the easier it will be for the body’s natural sleep functions to kick in.
Take only essential naps
People with a brain injury may need naps or rest periods since more energy is needed to complete physical or cognitive tasks. But naps should be kept short, and only taken when necessary. Instead of napping, they can try restful periods of meditation or doing something that doesn’t require much energy such as sitting and listening to music.
Use the bedroom only for sleep
Over time, bedrooms can become multi-purpose rooms where people read, watch television, go on their phones, or work. But when a person is experiencing sleep problems, a big part of practicing proper sleep hygiene is to use the bedroom only for sleep and intimacy. Remove all distractions from their bedroom, such as phones, laptops and televisions.