Self Help Resources >>Sleep
1. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. You are training your body to get into a sleep schedule. Even if you had a tough time falling to sleep the night before, it is important to get up when the alarm rings. You may be a bit tired during the day, but you will be more likely to fall asleep on schedule that night.
2. Develop sleep rituals. Give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. For example, listen to relaxing music, read something soothing, have a cup of chamomile tea, meditate, do relaxation exercises.
3. Don’t try to “make” yourself sleep. If it has been over 20 minutes since you went to bed and you are still lying there awake, get up and do something boring for a short stretch of time. For example, move to a couch or chair in a dimly lit place and read something that is fairly dull. This is not the time for a new Stephen King novel. Let yourself get drowsy and then get back into bed.
4. Don’t take naps. Again, you need to establish and train your body into having a sleep schedule. Naps often interfere with your ability to go to sleep at night. If you really cannot make it through the day without a nap, make it a short one (less than 60 minutes) and early in the day (before 3 p.m.).
5. Exercise, but do it early in the day (at least 3 hours before bedtime). Exercise that gets your heart pumping (cardiovascular exercise) is most helpful. Morning/early afternoon exercise is best: 20+ minutes of cardio or 45-60 minutes of brisk walking.
6. Only use your bed for sleeping and sex. Don’t use it to watch TV, do homework, read, etc. You are training your body to associate bed with sleep.
7. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other drugs at least 4-6 hours before bed. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Alcohol, while it may feel like it helps you get to sleep, will actually interfere with your ability to have a deep restful sleep (that is, you will actually wake sporadically throughout the night). If you are a caffeine drinker try limiting it to 1-2 cups in the morning; if you are still having trouble with sleep, try cutting caffeine altogether.
8. Don’t go to bed hungry or overly full. It may be helpful to have a light snack before bed. Having a glass of warm milk is actually quite helpful as this contains a natural sleep inducer (tryptophan).
9. Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable. If there are external noises that are bothersome, wear earplugs or use a “white noise” machine. Consider a “blackout shade” for your windows if the light bothers you in the mornings. Make sure you are comfortable in terms of temperature (that the room is neither too hot nor too cold). Typically, most people do best with the room a little on the cooler side (60s). Make sure to have adequate blankets.
10. Take a hot bath or shower 90 minutes before bedtime. There is research that shows that a drop in body temperature following a bath may leave you feeling sleepy.
11. Use sunlight to set your biological clock. As soon as you get up in the morning, go outside and turn your face to the sun for 15 minutes.
12. If you can’t sleep, try to avoid getting too upset about it. Pay attention to your thoughts and whether they are likely hindering or helping. Tell yourself that if you don’t get much sleep that night, you will likely be tired the next day, but you will be able to function adequately and your sleep is likely to be better the next night.
13. Avoid prolonged use of sleep medications. Short-term sleep aids can be helpful in getting a couple of nights of good rest during a difficult period, but long-term use of medications should be avoided. Certain medications, once stopped, can cause rebound insomnia, and medications can be habit forming. See your health care professional about the appropriate use of such medications. Overall, lifestyle changes are safer and more effective in producing quality sleep over the long-haul.
Resources: Some of the above tips are adapted from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, Ph.D.
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