By Amy R. Wolfson
- Establish a Regular Bedtime Schedule. Experts
recommend that you get up and go to bed at roughly the
same time each day, to keep your biological clock on a
regular rhythm. Try to stick to your usual sleep schedule
on weekends and holidays, as well as on workdays. Otherwise
if you sleep late one morning and rise before dawn the
next day, you may give yourself a case of what can be termed "at-home
- Exercise Regularly. Regular exercise can help
reduce stress that has built up over the day, as well as
help you sleep better and deeper. Experts recommend 20-to-30
minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as walking, biking
or swimming, at least three days a week. But do not exercise
strenuously within four-to-six hours of bedtime, or your
body may be overstimulated.
- Cut Your Caffeine Intake. It is recommended that
you have your last caffeinated beverage of the day no later
than four-to-six hours before bedtime. Many people are
unaware of how much caffeine they consume each day, or
how much of an effect it can have on their sleep patterns.
Although coffee is the first thing that comes to mind when
discussing caffeine, other caffeine culprits include chocolate,
colas, tea, and even some over-the-counter pain medications.
- Do Not Smoke. Several studies have shown that
heavy smokers take longer to fall asleep, awaken more often
and spend less time in REM and deep NREM sleep. Nicotine
is an even stronger stimulant than caffeine. Finally, nicotine
withdrawal can cause some smokers to awaken in the middle
of the night craving a nicotine fix.
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation. Many erroneously
believe that alcohol consumption can aid in getting a good
night's sleep. On the contrary, too much alcohol can make
it harder to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Even moderate
drinking can suppress REM and deep NREM sleep and accelerate
shifts between the various sleep stages.
- Sleep on Good Bedding. Proper bedding can help
you fall asleep and stay asleep, and, at the same time,
provide support to your back and neck while you sleep.
Start with a good mattress and comfortable pillows. Also,
a down comforter is lighter and more comfortable than conventional
- Plan for the Next Day Early in the Evening. Try
to avoid lying in bed thinking about what you should have
done that day or hope to accomplish the next. Review what
needs to be done for the following day with your family.
Make lists and write out your priorities so you won't keep
reminding yourself of what needs to be done.
- Turn off all Electronics before Bed. While some
find it comforting to fall asleep in front of the television,
many others might find what's on television can be overstimulating
before bedtime. Ask friends not to call after a certain
hour, so that you won't be startled by a late night call.
Resist the urge to check e-mail one last time before retiring
- Make Sure You Have Eaten Properly. Obviously
if you have eaten a large meal before bedtime your digestive
system will have to work overtime while you are trying
to wind down. Avoid high fat foods that take longer to
digest, as well as foods that can cause excessive gas.
Conversely hunger can also interfere with your ability
to settle, so it is wise not to go to bed on an empty stomach.
- Develop a Bedtime Routine. We already know that
children sleep better when they have an established bedtime
ritual, so it makes sense that adults can benefit as well.
Your sleep ritual can be as elaborate or as simple as you
choose. Whatever you decide, try to follow the same routine
each evening as an internal cue for your body that it is
time to settle down for the night.
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