Experts recommend these to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and
wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start a new day.
- Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same
time every morning. Set and maintain a sleep schedule. Try to stick
to it even on weekends and when life gets crazy. Failure to do so
can lead to insomnia. “Sleeping in” on the weekends will make it
harder to wake up on Monday morning because it resets your sleep
- Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime. While it may initially
sedate you, alcohol keeps your brain in light sleep – you have trouble
getting to the deep sleep and REM sleep phases and your sleep is
less efficient. Arousals due to alcohol can cause sweating, headaches
and intense dreaming.
- In the late afternoon and evening, avoid caffeinated drinks because
they act as stimulants. Caffeine sources include some soft drinks,
coffee, chocolate, non-herbal teas, some pain relievers and diet
drugs. Caffeine can stay in your system up to 14 hours. It increases
the number of nighttime awakenings and decreases total sleep time. Remember that even decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine, although not as much as regular coffee.
- Avoid nicotine in the evening. This includes both smoking and
smoking withdrawal systems such as nicotine patches. Nicotine is
a stimulant, like caffeine, so it pumps your heart up. Smokers often
have trouble sleeping because the length of a good night’s sleep
is more than their bodies want to go without a cigarette. They wake
up early due to nicotine withdrawal.
- Wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning.
Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself
each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning
sunlight for people having problems falling asleep. This is also
a great treatment for jet lag.
- Keep the bedroom quiet and dark and at a comfortable temperature.
Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling
- Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day but not right before bedtime.
For maximum benefit, exercise at least three hours before going
to bed, especially if you are the type of person who becomes more
alert with exercise.
- Develop a relaxing routine before bed. This may include a warm
bath, light stretching, listening to soothing music, reading or
other relaxing activities.
- Don’t go to bed feeling hungry, but don’t eat a big, heavy meal
right before bedtime. For a light snack before bedtime, carbohydrates
or dairy products (e.g. non-chocolate cookies or crackers and milk)
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes,
go to another room and do something restful until you feel tired.
Don’t read in bed. If you want to read, get out of bed and sit in
- Don’t have a visible bedroom clock because “clock watching” will
only help intensify the misery of insomnia. You can always turn
the face of the clock away from you or put it in a drawer.
- Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex. Keep the television, laptop,
cell phone, food, etc. out of the bedroom.
- Don’t make bedtime the time to solve your problems. Make a to
do list for the next day then try to clear your mind.
- Think about your napping policy. Naps
can be great in helping some people improve performance. But for
others, napping is an invitation to night-time insomnia. Figure
out which category you are in. Don’t nap during the day if you have
trouble sleeping at night. If you must, take a brief nap 10 to 15
minutes about eight hours after waking.
- Try not to drink fluids at least two hours before bedtime as a
full bladder can interfere with sleep.
- If you need to get up during the night, do not expose yourself
to bright light. Intense light can reset your internal clock and
make it harder to get back to sleep. See circadian
- Avoid sleeping with your pet because their movements or your allergies
can decrease the quality of your sleep.
- Know the side effects of your medications. Certain medications
can either compound sleepiness or make falling asleep more difficult.
Let your doctor know if you have sleep problems so they can do their
best not to prescribe medications that worsen your sleep difficulties.
- If sleep problems persist, see your doctor. If you have trouble
falling asleep night after night or if you always wake up feeling
unrefreshed, you may have a sleep disorder that needs treatment.
- Respect the sleep needs and practices of others. Practice good sleep manners.
"Sleep hygiene" originally referred to the cleanliness
of the sleeping environment, especially with regard to bedbugs. In
the 19th Century many beds even had the posts sit in pots of oil to
prevent insects from crawling up into the bed. Mattresses were manually
pulled tight with draw-strings, to provide firmness. Cleaning floors
and rugs was harder in those days before the invention of power vacuum
cleaners. And contagious diseases were more prevalent. So "sleep
hygiene" literally referred to how clean and hygienic the sleeping
In contemporary usage, sleep hygiene refers all the practices and
habits that help you get restful sleep. This includes comfort of
bedding, room temperature and light level, noise level, regular
bedtimes, and how recently you ate and exercised before going to bed.
Attention to sleep hygiene is the first thing to look to when people
have trouble sleeping.
Other factors that influence sleeping and waking are posture, exercise level, noise, light level, and mood.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain’s anterior hypothalamus controls circadian rhythms, taking cues from the external environment.
Check out our sleep resources page for
more information. And guidelines for The Smart Sleeper.
“What hath night to do with sleep?”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
The Sleepdex book is now available on Amazon.com.