Tips For Achieving A Good Night’s Sleep
There’s a lot you can do to regain control over your sleep. Minor lifestyle and environment changes, such as preparing for sleep, following a sleep schedule, and making your bedroom conducive to sleep can have a major impact. If you do shift work, there are ways to meet the unique challenges you face.
Prepare for sleep – Setting the stage for a good night’s sleep can help you get your mind and body into “sleep mode.”
- Follow a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day — even on weekends. Creating this routine can help condition your mind and body to expect sleep at a regular time.
- Make a “Sleep Pact” with your bedroom. Make a commitment to treat your bedroom as a sanctuary for rest and sleep leaving out all the things that would get in the way of rest and sleep. Learn to relax and turn your mind off to the daily thoughts of accomplishing tasks, or worrying about something, etc.
- Make your bedroom “Sleep Friendly”. Adhere to the bedroom checklist written below.
- Unwind mentally. About a half hour before going to bed, enjoy a low-key activity such as reading or listening to music
- Once in bed, learn to stop thinking or worrying. Avoid solving your problems from your bed. Before going to bed, make a list of problems and “next steps” for the following day or just forget about them until tomorrow. If your mind won’t turn off tell yourself “This is not the time to accomplish or plan. It is the time for letting go, relaxing into the bed, clearing my mind and falling asleep. I’ll pick up where I left off tomorrow.” Remember your sleep pact.
- Relax your body. To reduce muscular tension, try techniques such as meditation, progressive relaxation or even taking a warm bath.
- No eating After 8pm. No heavy, spicy, or high-sugar foods 2-3 hours before bed.
Bedroom check – Your bedroom may not be as conducive to sleep as it could be. The following strategies can make your bedroom more sleep-friendly:
- Block out noise. Or better yet, eliminate it. Sleep in the quiet without any background noise. Turn off radios, televisions, or stereos in the bedroom (and other rooms as well). If you can’t control the noise, try earplugs.
- Reduce light. Keep the room dark. The issue isn’t merely how light affects your eyes. Light also affects the way your brain produces hormones that regulate your sleep cycle. Even a minimal amount of light can disrupt your sleep. Possible solutions: Ask your sleep partner to read in another room; wear a “sleep mask”; use heavy shades or other window treatments that keep the room very dark.
- Adjust the room temperature. If you are too warm or too cold, you are less likely to sleep soundly. Adjust the thermostat, your sleep clothes, or your bedding; open or close a window.
- Move the clock. If you can’t sleep, looking at the clock can make you anxious. Therefore, it’s best to keep it out of view.
- Have your pet sleep somewhere else. If your dog or cat sleeps in your bed, your chances for sound sleep are jeopardized. Have your pet sleep on the floor, or get your pet its own cushion and place it in another room.
- Address your partner’s sleep problems. A bed partner who snores, tosses and turns a lot, steals the covers, talks while sleeping, or gets up often can affect your own sleep. In some cases, using earplugs or adding “white noise” (from a fan or similar humming appliance) can help. If your partner gets up a lot, make sure he or she sleeps closest to the door. If your partner tosses and turns, consider a larger bed, or even separate beds.[m1]
Tips for shift workers – If you need to get a good night’s sleep during the day, one of your biggest challenges may be dealing with the sunlight. Here are some suggestions:
- If possible, work in brightly lit areas during your shift.
- When you drive home in the morning, wear sunglasses. Limiting light to your eyes tricks the brain into thinking it’s getting close to nighttime.
- Make sure your bedroom is absolutely dark. If any daylight is creeping in through the curtains or shades, drape a thick towel or blanket over the window. You might also consider wearing a “sleep mask.”
Things to Avoid – Some activities can interfere with sleep — especially if you engage in them too close to bedtime:
- Exercise Avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime. Some people try to tire themselves out by exercising close to bedtime. This tactic can backfire, since exercise actually stimulates the body by speeding up the heart rate and metabolism. There’s a positive flip side: Exercising on a regular basis (during the day, ideally) may help you sleep well at night.
- Smoking Nicotine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Avoid smoking in the six hours before your bedtime.
- Alcohol Although alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep, it can disrupt your sleep during the second half of the night and leave you feeling unrested. It’s best to avoid alcohol before bedtime.
- Caffeine Caffeine can delay your sleep and cause you to wake up during the night. Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) after noon. Another option, avoid caffeine entirely for at least 1 month and see if your sleep improves.
- Liquids Avoid drinking fluids before bedtime to decrease the chance of having the urge to go to the bathroom during the night.
- Some products that may affect sleep: Alertness medications, Analgesics, Antidepressants, Arthritis medications, Asthma medications, Blood pressure medications, Cold/allergy medications, Diet pills
Discover Patterns – To solve any problem, you have to identify it first. One reliable way to pinpoint your sleep problems is to keep track of each night’s sleep (or lack of it) for about seven days. The easy-to-use sleep diary offered here can help you find out if anything you are doing during the day, in the evening, or at bedtime might be contributing to your sleep difficulty. Like many individuals, you may have developed habits that get in the way of restful sleep. Even if you think you know the causes and nature of your sleep problems, use the sleep diary. You may be surprised by the patterns you uncover.
How to use the sleep diary – Each day’s sleep log takes only a few minutes to complete. After the seven days, you will have a detailed picture of your sleep habits. With all the facts in front of you, it will be easier for you and your doctor to detect patterns that can lead to solutions.
Older Adults and Sleep – Contrary to popular perception, older adults do not need less sleep as they age. Like younger adults, they require between seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. Older people may seem to need less sleep because they are prone to waking up more frequently during the night.
Sleep Promoting Techniques Offered By Others
Not Thinking – “I have one method that never fails to put me to sleep. As long as I’m ‘decently’ tired, i.e., not trying to overdo it, it’s bedtime, etc., I just lie down, close my eyes, and concentrate on ‘not thinking’. This often becomes a competition of my strength of will, versus my instinct to think. Occasionally a pinprick of an idea strikes you, but you just have to ignore it, and it always puts me to sleep in about two minutes. It’s better than just lying there. ”
Backwards Counting / Mental Computer – “Even though I am only a kid, I still have problems falling asleep sometimes. Usually, all I have to do is count backwards from 1,000, taking a deep breath in between each number, as far as it takes to get to sleep.” Another mental exercise to use is to mentally ‘type’ in your worries onto a mental computer, such as ‘fear’, ‘stress’, and ‘anxiety’. Then hit the delete key until the entire “screen” is blank.” I know many adults often say, ‘I wish I was as carefree as a kid,’ but it really isn’t that easy to be a kid!
Earplugs – “How about plain old-fashioned earplugs? I finally figured out that the reason I couldn’t relax into sleep was that I was being kept irritated and awake by the crickets chirping outside my window. Earplugs work! And they’re inexpensive, too.”
Secure Place – “A technique that I have found most useful is to envision myself in some ideal spot: a house, say, that is perfectly secure and warm while a blizzard rages outside. I picture a window next to my bed, with snow striking against it. Then I work out the layout of the house, the heating system, the surroundings; and I make them all ideal so that the idea of security and no disturbing thoughts can intrude.”
Bedtime Routine – “It helps to develop a bedtime routine. Have a series of things that you always do when going to sleep. For example, before going to bed, feed the dog, fold laundry, check the locks. Humans are creatures of habit. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? He rang a bell and they knew it was dinnertime. It’s the same theory. Doing this will ‘program’ your body to know that it’s bedtime.”
Hot Water Bottle – “To help you sleep after a high stress day, lie down with a hot water bottle on your stomach, close your eyes and breath deeply, so the bottle rises and falls. We carry a lot of tension there and the weighted heat releases it.”
Green Cows–and Other Animals of Color – A technique I’ve generally had good success with is to visualize animals in the wrong colors. For example, blue cat, green cow, red elephant, and so on. After coming up with a color/animal combination I try to actually visualize it and then I move on to the next one. Coming up with the combinations and then trying to picture the animal seems to keep my mind occupied and distracted from whatever stressful thoughts were keeping me awake and it gets boring enough that I can generally fall asleep pretty quickly.
The Impact of Daily Sleep Duration on Health: A Review of the Literature
Gonzalo G. Alvarez, MD; Najib T. Ayas, MD, MPH University of British Columbia
(Prog Cardiovasc Nurs. 2004;19:56-59)
A healthy amount of sleep is paramount to leading a healthy and productive lifestyle. Although chronic sleep loss is common in today’s society,
many people are unaware of the potential adverse health effects of habitual sleep restriction. Under strict experimental conditions, short-term restriction of sleep results in a variety of adverse physiologic effects, including high blood pressure, activation of the sympathetic nervous system (cuasing stress, tension and possible anxiety) , impairment of blood sugar control, and increased inflammation. A variety of studies have also suggested an association between self-reported sleep duration and long-term health. Individuals who report both an increased (9-11 hrs/night) or reduced (<7 hrs/night) sleep duration are at modestly increased risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and developing symptomatic diabetes. Although the data are not definitive, these studies suggest that sleep should not be considered a luxury, but an important component of a healthful lifestyle.