Top ten sleep tips

The following sleep tips apply to healthy adults. Consult a doctor if you have concerns about your sleep or if you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. 


1) Keep a regular sleep schedule >>

Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a "circadian clock" in our brain and the body needs to balance both sleep time and wake time. That is also why it is important to keep a regular bedtime and wake-time, even on the weekends when there is the temptation to sleep-in. 


2) Avoid caffeine >>

Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can produce an alerting effect. Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, remain in the body on average from 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you do not think caffeine affects you, it may be disrupting and changing the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed can help improve sleep quality. 


3) Avoid nicotine >>

Nicotine is also a stimulant. Smoking before bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep. When smokers go to sleep, they experience withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, which also cause sleep problems. Nicotine can cause difficulty falling asleep, problems waking in the morning, and may also cause nightmares. Difficulty sleeping is just one more reason to quit smoking. 


4) Avoid alcohol >>

Although many people think of alcohol as a sleep aid because of its sedating effect, it actually disrupts sleep, causing night time awakenings. Consuming alcohol leads to a night of less restful sleep. 


5) Dont eat or drink too much close to bedtime >>

Eating or drinking too much may make you less comfortable when settling down for bed. It is best to avoid a heavy meal too close to bedtime. Also, spicy foods may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty falling asleep and discomfort during the night. Try to restrict fluids close to bedtime to prevent night time awakenings to go to the toilet, though some people find milk or herbal, non-caffeinated teas to be soothing and a helpful part of a bedtime routine. 


6) Exercise at the right time promotes sleep >>

In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult. In addition to making us more alert, our body temperature rises during exercise, and takes as much as 6 hours to begin to drop. A cooler body temperature provides a signal that it is time to sleep. Finish your exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. Late afternoon exercise is the perfect way to help you fall asleep at night. 


7) Use relaxing bedtime rituals >>

A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights sends a signal to your body that it is almost time to go to sleep and will make it easier to fall asleep. Avoid arousing activities before bedtime like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games or family problem-solving activities. Try an activity that is relaxing, such as soaking in a bath, reading or listening to relaxing music, or having a massage. Some studies suggest that soaking in hot water before retiring to bed can ease the transition into deeper sleep, but it should be done early enough that you are no longer sweating or over-heated. If you are unable to avoid tension and stress, it may be helpful to learn relaxation therapy from a trained professional. 


8) Create a sleep-promoting environment >>

Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep – cool, quiet, dark, comfortable and free of interruptions. Also make your bedroom reflective of the value you place on sleep. Check your room for noise or other distractions, including a bed partners sleep disruptions such as snoring, light, and a dry or hot environment. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise," humidifiers and other devices. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive —the one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy—about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep, but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night. 


9) Associate your bed with sleep and 'passion' only >>

Use your bed only for sleep and 'passion' to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine. For example, if looking at a bedroom clock makes you anxious about how much time you have before you must get up, move the clock out of sight. Do not engage in activities that cause you anxiety and prevent you from sleeping. 


10) Limit awake time in bed >>

If you do not fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of going to bed and turning out the lights, it is best to get out of bed and do another relaxing activity until you are feeling sleepy again, or use a kindle or ereader with glare free display. If anxiety about something you need to do prevents you from sleeping, it is sometimes helpful to jot down notes in a "worry" or "to do" book. Nap during the day only when needed to maintain alertness and plan on napping 20-30 minutes.