Some sleep problems may improve if you change a few of your sleep-related habits. A routine that helps get your body ready for sleep is sometimes called “proper sleep hygiene.” In general, avoiding stimulants and engaging in relaxing behaviors before bedtime promotes better sleep.
Of course, some more complicated sleep problems may not be improved simply by making some of the changes listed below. It is always best to discuss your sleep problems with your doctor. But in the meantime, if you have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or if you wake up feeling tired, these tips may be a great first step toward preparing your body for restful sleep.
- Get to bed and wake up at consistent times, even on the weekend. You may find this is difficult to do, but keeping to a more consistent schedule will help your body know when to expect periods of sleep and wakefulness.
- Treat your bedroom as a sanctuary only used for sleep and sexual activity (if applicable). That means no TV in the bedroom, or even reading in bed, which can be too stimulating to promote sleep for some people.
- Make sure the temperature of the bedroom is comfortable enough to promote sleep. Adjust the thermostat, open or close windows, wear appropriate sleepwear, and modify the bedding as necessary. Many people find a slightly cooler environment is ideal, but find the temperature that works for you.
- Darken the room with black-out curtains to help promote longer sleep in the brightness of the early morning.
- Turn off electronics (phone, computer, television), and quit other stimulating activities several hours before bedtime.
- Exercise daily. It is best to exercise earlier in the day so your body is not over-stimulated too close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Cut back on coffee, tea, colas and energy drinks.
- Avoid smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant and will affect your sleep.
- If you are having trouble sleeping, get up out of bed and try a relaxing activity.
o Meditate or perform some stretches (such as yoga). Information about meditation as a stress-buster can be found here.
o Read for pleasure in your favorite comfortable chair (but not in your bedroom).
o Take a warm bath.
o Listen to relaxing music.
o Write in a journal.
o Make a list of things that are on your mind and keeping you up. Writing them down may help put you at ease to deal with them in the morning.
Studies have suggested that getting too little quality sleep can contribute to health problems, including cardiovascular disease. You can learn more about the possible impact of sleep apnea and other sleep problems here.