10 Tips for Better Sleep
The way you feel during your waking hours depends on how well you sleep at night. If you experience occasional or chronic sleep problems, it is important to learn ways to avoid the common enemies of good sleep. You can experiment with these sleep-promoting techniques and find the combination that works best for you. Having 7-8 hours of sound sleep may not be possible every night, but it is attainable most of the time. Sleeping healthily will mean that you will be mentally sharper and more productive, feel emotionally balanced, and have more energy each day.
Create an Optimal Sleep Environment
You can improve your sleep by creating an optimal sleep environment. For example, sleeping in a warm room makes it harder for your body temperature to fall. This makes it more difficult to fall asleep and makes it more likely that you’ll wake up at night.
To keep the bedroom cool:
- Turn the heat down
- Leave a window open
- Use a fan or air conditioner
You should also make sure that your room is quiet. Reduce bedroom noise by:
- Using earplugs
- Closing the window if there is noise outside
- Using a fan, air conditioner, or a commercially available sound conditioner
- Listening to music or the television at bedtime helps some people fall asleep. However, a timer should be used so that the music or television turns off after about 30 minutes. If not you may wake up during the night because sound stops us from getting deep sleep.
The bedroom should be kept dark by using:
- Heavy shades
- An eyeshade
Keep a Regular Sleep-Wake Schedule
Keep a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each morning, even on weekends. Get up at the same time regardless of the amount of sleep you get. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. Sleeping-in on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday mornings because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Also, avoid napping to ensure you are tired at bedtime. You can also use a sleep diary to monitor your sleep habits.
Exercise can help you sleep by causing your body temperature to rise, then drop a few hours later. This drop in body temperature makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. The benefits of exercise on sleep are greatest when exercise happens within three to six hours of bedtime. Exercising less than three hours before bedtime, however, can make it harder to fall asleep because body temperature may then be too high near bedtime.
If you already exercise, try exercising in the afternoon and see if this helps you sleep. If you are not exercising, try taking a brisk walk in the late afternoon or early evening (but not within 3 hours of bedtime). See if you sleep better on these days.
If you do, make exercise a regular part of your life to help you sleep better.
Other suggestions for exercise include:
- Gardening or mowing the lawn
- Pushing a stroller
- Mall walking
- Golf or tennis
- Hiking or dancing
- Running outside or on a treadmill, etc.
Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Minimise caffeine, alcohol and nicotine 4 hours before bed. Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine will interfere with your ability to sleep. Everyday substances such as tea (including green tea), chocolate, coke and even some prescription and non-prescriptions medications contain caffeine. Although alcohol is a “relaxant” and often causes drowsiness, it actually reduces the duration of deep REM sleep, resulting in fragmented, rather than restful sleep. Also, smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up early because of nicotine withdrawal.
Relaxation Techniques for Sleep
Close your eyes softly and bring your attention to your heart. With inner awareness on your heart, feel the area around your heart and silently say, “one”.
Find the most comfortable position you can and find something pleasant to focus your eyes on.
Now bring your attention to your left shoulder and silently say, “two”.
Breathe normally. Your eyes can stay softly open unless you wish to close them or are using this to fall asleep. Keep your head and eyes quite still.
Next let attention come to your left hip, feel the hip and silently say, “three”.
Open your senses… Now name, out loud (to deepen the effect): 5 things you see, 5 things you hear and 5 physical sensations you are aware of in your body. Notice each detail, maybe taking a breath between each one.
Continue through the body, bringing awareness to, and feeling the following parts as you count them: navel “four”, right hip “five”, right shoulder “six”…
Naming an item more than once or counting on your fingers is fine. If you lose count simply begin again. If pain or discomfort is present, notice what needs to be noticed, then move on to notice other sensations.
Let attention come back to your heart again for “one” and so on, moving your awareness at a comfortable and relaxed pace, simply noticing and feeling each part as you count it.
Now proceed to 4 sights, sounds and sensations; then 3, 2, 1 of each category.
Let your mind ‘busy’ itself by slowly moving in this pattern; it will soon tire and spiral inwards to come to rest at the heart, its settling place for sleep. As you begin to drift off, simply let go of the practice and sink into sleep.
Repeat the whole cycle as needed to deepen the effect. After, take 5 regular breaths to reorient. To fall asleep, let eyes close at any point.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Avoid spicy foods and heavy meals before going to sleep. However, going to bed hungry can also interfere with the ability to sleep. Milk contains tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Try a warm glass of milk about an hour before bed. Almonds are also thought to be a sleep-inducing foods as they contain magnesium (a muscle relaxant) in addition to tryptophan.
Get More Sunlight
Sleep and body temperature are affected by light and darkness through hormones found in the brain:
- Darkness causes melatonin levels to rise and body temperature to fall, which promotes sleep.
- People who have a hard time going to sleep often have a body temperature rhythm that falls too late at night.
- Being exposed to early morning bright light can make it easier to fall asleep by causing body temperature to rise earlier and fall earlier.
- Here are a few ways to increase your exposure to sunlight in the morning:
- Open the drapes when you wake up
- Eat breakfast or read the newspaper near a window
- Take an early morning walk
- People who wake up too early often have a body temperature rhythm that rises too early in the morning. Increased exposure to evening bright light can reduce early
- morning waking by delaying the morning rise in body temperature.
- To increase your exposure to late day sunlight:
- Take a late day walk
- Sit near a sun-exposed window the hour before sunset
Develop a Sleep Routine
Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals that will give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. This can inculde things like a warm bath, light snack, relaxing music or a few minutes of reading. A variety of relaxation techniques can help you achieve a relaxed state including slow breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and tai chi. Refrain from using your bed to watch TV, pay bills or do work.
- Get up at the same time everyday.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment.
- Find rituals that help you relax each night before bed.
- Try to have a regular sleep schedule but don't go to bed until you are feeling sleepy.
- Only use your bed for sleeping, having sex or recovering from illness.
- If you can’t fall asleep after 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring till you start feeling sleepy.
- Avoid Caffeine and alcohol 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- Get some natural sunlight early in the morning.
- Start by making small changes and being consistent with it.
- Limit your napping time to less than 1 hour and never take a nap after 3 p.m.
- Keep the bedroom cool; lower temperatures trigger the body to sleep.
- If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs.
- Turn lights down an hour before bedtime.
- Try placing a cotton ball with a few drops of a calming and relaxing essential oil, such as Roman chamomile oil or Lavender oil, by your bedside, or use a bed linen spray.
- Avoid screens (television, computer, ipad, etc.) an hour before bedtime.
Don't Lie in Bed Awake
If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy. Avoid using devices with a screen. Try reading a book or listening to soothing music.
Manage Unhelpful Thoughts
If worries keep you awake, earlier in the day make a list of what you are worried about and what you plan to do about it. Also, anxiety and excessive worry about being unable to fall asleep can also contribute to insomnia. Sometimes we can get caught up in a cycle of thinking that we won’t be able to fall asleep, which is self-perpetuating. There are many cognitive and behavioural techniques for overcoming negative thinking associated with insomnia.
See a Doctor
If you have trouble falling asleep every night, or if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a sleep disorder and should seek medical advice. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively, and you will be able to make positive and lasting changes and to ensure a good night’s sleep regularly. Also, there are several prescription medications used to treat insomnia; talk with your doctor if you feel one would be helpful. There are also over-the-counter products, such as melatonin, which may help with sleep. Some OTC products contain antihistamines which may help with sleep. Talk with your doctor before using these as antihistamines may pose a risk for some people.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.