Updated: Mar 3
Regardless of our age, we all need some help now and then in getting to sleep. So rather than just popping a pill that can be habit-forming and lead to more sleep problems in the long term, try these sleeping tips. One or more of them will surely help.
Have a hot bath.
Not hot enough to make you uncomfortable, though. The heat of the water relaxes the muscles and causes the core body temperature to drop afterward, which sends a sleep signal to the brain. It is excellent for children too. It only works for baths, though, not showers!
Get more light during the day.
It is vital for good sleep at night. Our brains are hard-wired to go to sleep when it is dark and wake when light. Not getting enough light during the day will deprogram our biological clock. Once our circadian rhythm has been upset, our brain will not receive the sleep signal when we are ready to sleep.
Even if you are working long hours, try to get outside into the sunshine for a while at lunchtime. If you live in a part of the world with short days in winter, install a bright light at home and sit under it for at least 30 minutes. It should be enough to keep that biological clock ticking!
It is a good reason not to watch TV in bed. Even if the program is dull, the bright flickering light of the TV screen will be working against your natural sleep patterns!
Do not lie in bed and worry about not sleeping.
It will only cause stress and make sleep even harder to achieve. If you become concerned about not sleeping, get up and make yourself a drink (not coffee!) Find something to read. Stay up until you feel sleepy again, and then go back to bed.
Go to bed at the same time every night and get
up at the same time every morning.
It reinforces the natural biological rhythm and helps your brain send a sleep signal. As a result, you will develop a habit that is an essential part of better sleep. Of course, you will not be able to do this every single night, and there will be nights where you might go out to a show or out on the town with friends! However, if you manage most nights, this will still work well.
Do not go to bed until you are tired.
Yes, I know! It sounds like a direct contradiction of the previous tip! The logic behind this is that if you are not sleepy, you will lie in bed awake and start worrying about not going to sleep. The essential part of all this is to get up at the same time every morning, no matter what time you went to bed the night before. Eventually, you will feel very sleepy at your usual bedtime. Getting up in the morning when you are still tired is not easy, but it will help in the longer term. Stick with it!
Keep a sleep diary.
Keeping a diary, while rather tedious, will give you an excellent idea of your sleep patterns and will be a necessary record if you ever decide to visit a sleep clinic for help. Some people have done this and found their sleeping problems disappeared of their own accord! The asleep diary should note the following:
What you had for dinner.
What drinks did you consume after dinner?
Any naps you took during the day.
What time do you go to bed?
How long does it take you to fall asleep?
If you woke during the night
What time did you wake up in the morning?
How you rated the quality of sleep (1-10)
Any further observations.
Do this every day for a few weeks, and you should see a pattern emerging. In addition, it will give you invaluable information on your sleep habits and routines.
Develop an evening ritual.
It would help if you did the same things at the same time each night. It programs the unconscious mind that you are preparing for sleep. For example, brush your teeth, put the cat out, and check the doors' locks. Do each step in the same order. It may sound simplistic, but it can work well.
Exercise more during the day.
Exercise relaxes the body and mind, is suitable for your health, and helps with weight loss. Even walking just 30 minutes a day will help. If walking's not your thing, try Yoga or Qigong. Both are soothing and will relax you. If there are no classes near you, videos or CDs are readily available.
Practice muscle relaxation.
You can do this during the day or after going to bed. Practice tensing and relaxing each muscle group in turn, starting at the top of the head and gradually working down to the toes. It relaxes the body and distracts you from any worrying thoughts while performing it. Visit the page on relaxation techniques for some easy-to-follow methods.
Write down worries before going to bed.
There is always something to worry about, isn't there? These are the things that can keep you awake when your mind will not let go. Solution? Have a worrying time before going to bed. Think of all the current problems in your life and write them down. Then, decide to do something about them the following day.
If you start to think about any of those things while you are trying to sleep, tell yourself, "It is ok; I've made a note of it, and I'll handle it tomorrow."