1. Establish a Bedtime Routine and Sleep-Wake Schedule
Establishing a bedtime routine will assist in making your body and mind aware that it is time to go to sleep. This can be established through taking a hot bath followed by a bedtime snack, listening to soothing music or reading a book. In order to establish your sleep-wake routine, you must exercise the same sleep-wake time everyday (even weekends). This adapts your body to understanding how much time it needs to be asleep and how much time it needs to be awake. 1 Make sure to establish your bedtime at a time that allows the optimal sleep time required that doesn’t hinder the next day’s schedule.
2. Create a tranquil sleep environment.
A tranquil sleep environment is vital to relaxing the mind and body to induce sleep. This can be done by dimming the lights in your home about an hour prior to bedtime. Buy soft sheets with a high thread count and, perhaps, a soothing color to not distract your mind. Security may also be a contributing factor to sleep troubles. Add an extra lock to the front door or an extra smoke alarm. A clean, well decorated bedroom can also help coax you to sleep by helping to avoid stress. Finally, lighting is extremely important when going to sleep. You can adjust the amount of light that comes in your room by hanging dark curtains or putting a towel under the crack in the door. Also, avoid watching television to go to sleep as it is too much for the mind to handle in order to relax and the lighting can be distracting from sleeping. 2
3. Limit your time in the bedroom.
The idea behind this is that you won’t associate negative or stressful things like working with the bedroom. Leave the bedroom for sleeping and your bedtime ritual, so you will have the ability to free your mind when wanting to go to sleep.
4. Value Sleep.
Sleep deprivation is a growing problem in the world today because people tend to not understand the importance sleep has. If one values the time they are spending relaxing and healing their bodies and minds through the sleep process, finding the time to do so will be easier.
5. Exercise regularly.
Engaging in exercise within three hours of intended bedtime or sporadically will reduce too much adrenaline and cause an individual to be too alert at bedtime. Body temperatures are increase a great deal during exercise and take around six hours to drop back to our normal body’s temperature. This drop in temperature can be very relaxing and help to induce sleep. 1
6. Pay attention to what you eat and drink.
Avoid consuming any substances that can harm your ability to sleep such as caffeine, alcohol and heavy foods that can cause acid reflux. While alcohol and a heavy meal will initially make you feel tired, they will ultimately cause a disruption in the sleep cycle. Additionally, cigarettes work as a stimulant and will disrupt your attempts to sleep as well as the many other negative risks associated with smoking.
7. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Everyone has different preferences as far as softness and firmness of mattresses and pillows; however, all mattresses and pillows must provide adequate support for the entire body. Often times the problem with individuals’ sleep is that their mattress is worn out. Look for these signs to determine if it is time to buy a new mattress: discomfort when lying down and aches when waking up, visible signs such as stains, sagging or lumps, you can hear the box springs when lying down, the bed is over 10 years old or if you have allergies and have slept on the mattress for several years without a protective cover. 2 The correct pillow is equally important and can make the difference in your night’s sleep. Consider the position you sleep in to determine the thickness and firmness you require.
8. Don’t sleep with your pet.
Many pet owners today find it comforting to sleep with their pet or pets when it can be very disrupting to sleep. Their movements and noises can be very distracting when trying to go to sleep (especially if your dog likes to hog the bed like mine). Unless you absolutely need the pet sleeping near you, it is best to let them have their own bed.
9. Don’t bring stress into the bedroom.
Choosing to leave your phone or work papers out of the bedroom area allows you to unwind and forget about the day’s stresses. Additionally, leave any negative interaction out of the bedroom and do not watch the news to fall asleep as that will add stress to the concept of sleeping.
10. Consult a Sleep Specialist (if necessary)
If your sleep problems cannot be solved by the steps above, consider seeing a sleep specialist. You may have a sleep disorder if you are having chronic trouble sleeping or consistent problems.
1. The Sleep Foundation—Healthy Sleep Tips http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips
2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.