We all have trouble sleeping from time to time. But you can make it easier
to get a good night's sleep every night with these simple steps.
Cut caffeine. Simply put, caffeine can keep you awake. It can stay
in your body longer than you might think – the effects of caffeine can take as
long as eight hours to wear off. So if you drink a cup of coffee in the
afternoon and are still tossing at night, caffeine might be the reason. Cutting
out caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep
Avoid alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol may initially help you fall
asleep, but it also causes disturbances in sleep resulting in less restful
sleep. An alcohol drink before bedtime may make it more likely that you will
wake up during the night.
Relax before bedtime. Stress not only makes you miserable, it wreaks
havoc on your sleep. Develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual to break the
connection between all the day's stress and bedtime. These rituals can be as
short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour.
Some people find relief in making a list of all the stressors of the day,
along with a plan to deal with them this can act as "closure" to the day.
Combining this with a period of relaxation perhaps by reading something light,
meditating, aromatherapy, light stretching, or taking a hot bath can also help
you get better sleep. And don't look at the clock! That "tick-tock" will just
tick you off.
Exercise at the right time for you. Regular exercise can help you
get a good night's sleep. The timing and intensity of exercise seems to play a
key role in its effects on sleep. If you are the type of person who gets
energized or becomes more alert after exercise, it may be best not to exercise
in the evening. Regular exercise in the morning even can help relieve insomnia,
according to a study.
Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortable. For many people,
even the slightest noise or light can disturb sleep like the purring of a cat
or the light from your laptop or TV. Use earplugs, window blinds or curtains,
and an electric blanket or air conditioner everything possible to create an
ideal sleep environment. And don't use the overhead light if you need to get up
at night; use a small night-light instead. Ideal room temperatures for sleeping
are between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 75 or below about
54 can disrupt sleep.
Eat right, sleep tight. Try not to go to bed hungry, but avoid heavy
meals before bedtime. An over-full belly can keep you up. Some foods can help,
though. Milk contains tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other
foods that may help promote sleep include tuna, halibut, pumpkin, artichokes,
avocados, almonds, eggs, bok choy, peaches, walnuts, apricots, oats, asparagus,
potatoes, buckwheat, and bananas.
Also, try not to drink fluids after 8 p.m. This can keep you from having to
get up to use the bathroom during the night.
Restrict nicotine. Having a smoke before bed -- although it feels
relaxing actually puts a stimulant into your bloodstream. The effects of
nicotine are similar to those of caffeine. Nicotine can keep you up and awaken
you at night. It should be avoided particularly near bedtime and if you wake up
in the middle of the night.
Avoid napping. Napping can only make matters worse if you usually
have problems falling asleep. If you do nap, keep it short. A brief
15-20-minute snooze about eight hours after you get up in the morning can
actually be rejuvenating.
Keep pets off the bed. Does your pet sleep with you? This, too, may
cause you to awaken during the night, either from allergies or pet movements.
Fido and Fluffy might be better off on the floor than on your sheets.
Avoid watching TV, eating, and discussing emotional issues in bed.
The bed should be used for sleep and sex only. If not, you can end up
associating the bed with distracting activities that could make it difficult
for you to fall asleep.
SOURCES: Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, Kryger, Meir, et
al., Fourth Edition, 2005. Sleep: "Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and risk
of Occupational Injuries in Non-shift Daytime Workers," Vol. no. 3.
Sleep: "Dose-response Relationship Between Sleep Duration and Human
Psychomotor Vigilance and Subjective Awareness," Vol. 22, No. 2. Sleep:
"We Are Chronically Sleep Deprived," Vol. 18 No. 10.