If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone. For many people, sleep is a delicate balance easily disrupted by stress, pain, shift changes, aging, and other life events. When sleep problems persist, they can affect mood, health, and work performance. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to help improve your sleep.
- Exercise regularly so that you’re tired at bedtime–but don’t exercise within four hours of bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol within four hours of bedtime.
- Avoid naps. If this is not possible, nap for less than an hour and not within six hours of bedtime.
- If you are bothered by noise, turn on a fan or “white noise” machine to mask outside sounds.
- Make sure your bedroom is sufficiently dark, or wear eyeshades. Darkness is an important cue for our bodies to sleep.
- Keep your bedroom slightly cool.
- Consider a light snack before bed. Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry.
- Set up a bedtime ritual to practice every time you get ready to sleep. “Wind down” with something relaxing such as meditation or soft music.
- Don’t read, watch TV, or do paperwork in bed.
- Keep the same bedtime seven days a week, and don’t “sleep in” on weekends. It is difficult for your body to adjust to a constantly changing sleep schedule. However, if you are not sleepy at bedtime, wait until you’re sleepy to go to bed.
- If you don’t fall asleep within thirty minutes, get out of bed. Keep the lights dim, and do something boring until you feel sleepy.
- Get some sunlight in the morning to help keep your body clock regulated. However, if you work nights and are just getting off work in the morning, wear dark glasses on the ride home.
- If you work a late or rotating shift, you may need to take additional steps to help you sleep. For example, it may help to ask other household members to keep quiet while you are trying to sleep, turn off the phone ringer, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, and get blackout drapes for your bedroom.
Persistent sleep problems can be a sign of depression, anxiety, stress, or illness. You may wish to consult your doctor or speak with a counselor for additional evaluation and treatment.