In general, people are so used to going without enough sleep that they don't recognize that their sleeping habits make sound slumber unlikely. Following these simple tips will help you settle down for a good night's rest. Do the following to improve the quality of your sleep as well as to get more restful sleep:
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime—Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can make falling asleep easier. However, it interferes with deep sleep later on during the night. Exercise also acts as a stimulant, but a workout earlier in the day can improve nighttime rest.
- Leave worrying outside the bed—If you stay awake worrying about things you have to tackle the next day, write out a list of "to-dos" to take the pressure off. Then put the list aside to deal with the next day. After all, it's not likely you can deal with these problems in the middle of the night.
- Keep other activities out of the bedroom—Don't confuse your bedroom with your family room. Keep your television viewing and Internet surfing out of your sleeping quarters. You need to associate your bedroom with sleep and not activities that will keep your mind engaged.
- Don't try to force yourself to sleep—You'll just lie awake staring at the clock. After 20 minutes of wakefulness, go to another room to read or perform some other quiet activity. Return to your bedroom only when you've become tired enough to sleep.
- Temperature counts—Keep your bedroom set up for a restful night's sleep with a comfortable mattress and proper temperature setting. A too-hot or too-cold room can keep you awake.
- Reduce noise levels—Apartment-dwellers with noisy neighbors or those on heavily trafficked streets can block out noise with a fan, white noise machine, or ear plugs.
- Avoid stimulation before sleeping—Try not to engage in anything that will give you a boost of energy just before bed, such as viewing an action-packed movie or sitting in a brightly lit room. Instead, try listening to soothing music or reading.
- Slow down—Don't hurriedly get ready for bed at the last minute. Brush your teeth and wash yourself a while in advance. Try to stick with an early-to-bed, early-to-rise pattern. That way, you won't go to bed too late during the work week and need an alarm clock each morning to wake you out of a sound sleep.
If you're troubled with chronic difficulties falling asleep—or staying asleep—see a doctor. Sleep disorders are very common and can be treated. Call (800) 447-0459 to make an appointment with one of our physicians.