Tips For Better Sleep

Almost everyone has occasional sleepless nights. Rather than just swallowing a pill which can lead to more problems in the long run, you can try some of the following techniques for good night sleep.

Behavioral techniques can actually cure chronic insomnia and studies have reported that between 70% and 80% of those who are treated with non-drug methods experience improved sleep. Furthermore, studies report that about 75% of those who have been taking sleeping pills are able to stop or reduce their use.

  • 1Don't worry about not getting enough sleep.
    Try not to be rigid about when and how much you sleep. Why? Those who worry about their difficulty sleeping start a cycle of obsessive thoughts that contributes to a condition, known as "learned insomnia". Learned (or psychophysiological insomnia) occurs when a person worries so much about whether or not he/she will be able to get adequate sleep, that the person's bedtime rituals and behavior actually trigger insomnia. Worrying about a sleep can just make it harder to fall asleep.
  • 2Don't force yourself to sleep.
    The very attempt of trying to do so actually awakes you, making it more difficult to sleep.
  • 3Don't look at the alarm clock during the night.
    Nocturnal time monitoring behavior or "clock-watching" promotes anxiety and obsession about time[3]. Remove the clock from view and try to avoid looking at the time. Keep the clock as far away from the bed as possible.
  • 4Try to stay awake.
    The study (Ironic effects of sleep urgency) found that trying to stay awake as long as possible can have the opposite effect and help people fall asleep. Research on the effects of the paradoxical directive "to try to stay awake for as long as possible" consistently reports significant reductions in sleep onset latency for insomniacs. Here is a comprehensive explanation how this technique works.
  • 5 Go to bed only when you are sleepy.
    Stay up until a reasonable bedtime even if you feel sleepy earlier. Go to bed only when you are feeling really tired and sleepy.
  • 6Don't lie in bed awake for more than 15 minutes.
    This can make you anxious and worsen insomnia. So, if you are not asleep within 15 - 20 minutes go into another room, read or do a quiet activity using dim lighting until feeling very sleepy.
  • 7Body-heating procedures.
    Some studies suggest that soaking in hot water (such as a hot tub or bath) before retiring to bed can ease the transition into a deeper sleep. This may be due to a temperature shift (core body temperature drops after leaving the tub, which may signal the body it's time to sleep). Or the sleep improvement may be related to the water's relaxing properties, which may also have sleep promoting effects.
  • 8Naps.
    If you suffer from insomnia, try not taking a nap. If the goal is to sleep more during the night, napping may steal hours desired later on. If you're a regular napper, and experiencing difficulty falling or staying asleep at night, give up the nap and see what happens. However, napping can help promote short-term alertness, for example, to prepare for driving or in the middle of a long car trip.
  • 9Establish a regular sleep schedule.
    Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Getting your body used to a schedule can help regulate your sleep cycle. Avoid sleeping late on weekends to keep your schedule consistent and make it easier to wake up on Mondays. Also, don't oversleep to make up for a poor night's sleep - doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.
  • 10Develop relaxing sleep rituals.
    Follow the same bedtime routine, such as having a warm drink or a light snack, reading something soothing, listening to soft relaxing music, or meditating. Let your body know you're getting ready to sleep.
  • 11Bedtime snacks.
    Bedtime snacks can help. An amino acid called tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and peanuts, helps the brain produce serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax. Try drinking warm milk or eat a slice of toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal with bananas before bedtime.
  • 12Don't eat a heavy meal late in the day.
    If you eat a heavy meal before bedtime, it can interfere with sleep. It is harder to digest late meals, since the digestive system slows down at night. Lying down with a full stomach can make you very uncomfortable. So, make sure to finish a heavy meal at least four hours before bedtime.
  • 13Associate your bed and bedroom with sleep and sex only.
    Don't watch TV, work, eat, or read in bed. Although these things help some people sleep, they can also give your brain the idea that bed isn't just for sleeping - and this can keep you awake. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • 14Keep bedroom dark
    Try to keeping nighttime bedroom dark[1]. Even small amount of light in the bedroom whilst you’re trying to sleep may cause negative functional changes of the circadian system[2].
  • 15Room temperature
    Keep your room temperature cool and comfortable. Typical recommendation is to keep the room about 65 -72 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 16Sex.
    Sex is a well known great nighttime stress reliever! Healthy sex life enhances your relationship, relaxes your body, releases 'happy' chemicals, and even promotes wellness. And it welcomes sleep.
  • 17Noise.
    Noise is a common cause of sleeplessness. Isolation from loud noise or pets is a sensible way of ensuring sound sleep. Use earplugs if it's noise you can't do anything about - or change your attitude towards it. Keep a radio/player by your bed and use it to mask other noise.
  • 18Alcohol as sleeping aid.
    Avoid the use of alcohol in the late evening to facilitate sleep onset. The most common myth found among people is they believe alcohol helps in the sleep. But the fact is, alcohol may initially act as sedative, but it produces a number of sleep-impairing effects in the long run. Alcohol causes awakening later in the night. In addition to causing the release of adrenaline, alcohol impairs the transport of tryptophan into the brain, and, because the brain is dependent upon tryptophan as the source for serotonin (an important neurotransmitter that initiates sleep), alcohol disrupts serotonin levels.
  • 19Caffeine.
    Discontinue caffeine intake four to six hours before bedtime and minimize total daily use. Caffeine is a stimulant and may disrupt sleep.
  • 20Nicotine.
    Avoid nicotine, especially near bedtime and on night. Nicotine is a stimulant and may disrupt sleep.

Further reading:

References:

  • 1. Obayashi K, Saeki K, Iwamoto J, Ikada Y, Kurumatani N. Exposure to light at night and risk of depression in the elderly. J Affect Disord. 2013 Oct;151(1):331-6
  • 2. Shuboni D, Yan L. Nighttime dim light exposure alters the responses of the circadian system. Neuroscience. 2010 Nov 10;170(4):1172-8. PubMed
  • 3. Krakow B1 Krakow J, Ulibarri VA, Krakow J. Nocturnal time monitoring behavior in patients presenting to a sleep medical center with insomnia and posttraumatic stress symptoms. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2012 Sep;200(9):821-5. PubMed

Created: August 18, 2006
Last updated: December 24, 2014



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