How to Get to Sleep
Your sleeping area, along with what you do during the day, can affect how well you sleep.
Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Create a quiet, comfortable area that’s only for sleeping – meaning no TV, email, or snacking.
Improve your sleep with these simple tips:
- Try to not use technology devices such as smartphones, computers, or tablets during the hours before bedtime. The light from these devices, and the emotions that can result from checking email or social media sites, can make it harder to unwind and fall asleep.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. You might want to take a warm shower or bath, listen to soothing music, or drink a cup of non-caffeinated, herbal tea (try chamomile or peppermint). This will help your body get used to a sleeping schedule.
- Go to bed at the same time every night – and get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired.
- Use a sleep mask and earplugs if light and noise bother you.
- Get regular exercise. Figure out what time of day works best for your sleep patterns, although it is recommended not to exercise too close to bedtime.
- Get outside during daylight hours. Spending time in sunlight helps to reset your body’s sleep and wake cycles.
- Don’t drink liquids after 6 p.m. If you wake up often to go to the bathroom, limiting what you drink at night could help you sleep for longer periods.
- Limit caffeine (coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas) during the day. Don’t have any for at least four to six hours before bedtime.
- Try a sleep-inducing snack: yogurt with bananas, apple with string cheese, or peanut butter with whole-grain crackers.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eyeshades, earplugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and make sure your mattress is 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. Sneezes, sniffles, and itchiness from allergies can lead to lousy shut-eye. Your mattress may hold the cause. Over time, it can fill with mold, dust mite droppings, and other allergy triggers. Seal your mattress, box springs, and pillows to avoid them. Air-tight, plastic, dust-proof covers work best.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex 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.
- If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
- Put your neck in 'Neutral' Blame your pillow if you wake up tired with a stiff neck. It should be just the right size -- not too fat and not too flat -- to support the natural curve of your neck when you're resting on your back. Do you sleep on your side? Line your nose up with the center of your body. Don’t snooze on your stomach. It twists your neck. Use good posture before bed, too. Don't crane your neck to watch TV.
- Save your bed for sleep and sex. Your bedroom should feel relaxing. Don’t sit in bed and work, surf the Internet, or watch TV. The best sleep temperature for most people is between 68-72 degrees.
- Hush noise such as faucet drips, nearby traffic, or a loud dog can chip away at your sleep. And if you're a parent, you might be all too aware of noises at night long after your children have outgrown their cribs. Use a fan, an air-conditioner, or a white noise app or machine. You can also try earplugs.
- Beds are for people. A cat's or a dog's night moves can cut your sleep short. They can also bring allergy triggers like fleas, fur, dander, and pollen into your bed. Ask your vet or animal trainer how you can teach your pet to snooze happily in its bed.
- Free your mind. Put aside any work, touchy discussions, or complicated decisions 2 to 3 hours before bed. It takes time to turn off the "noise" of the day. If you’ve still got a lot on your mind, jot it down and let go for the night. Then, about an hour before you hit the sack, read something calming, meditate, listen to quiet music, or take a warm bath.
- Use caution with sleeping pills. Some sleep medicines can become habit-forming, and they may have side effects. Ideally, pills should be a short-term solution while you make lifestyle changes for better Zzzz's. Ask your doctor what’s OK.
- Know when to see your doctor. Let your provider know if your sleeplessness lasts for a month or more. They can check to see if a health condition -- such as acid reflux, arthritis, asthma, or depression -- or medicine you take is part of the problem.