Content provided bywww.HealthBytesNYC.com
Everyone knows how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, but not everyone has an easy time falling asleep. Here are 10 tips that might help you stop tossing and turning and start resting and dreaming:
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1. Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little cool. Think of a cave. Bats are champion sleepers, sleeping 16 out of 24 hours per day in their cool, dark caves.
2. Don’t go to bed unless you’re sleepy. If you are not sleepy at bedtime, do something else. Read a book, listen to soft music or work on a crossword puzzle. Choose something relaxing, but not stimulating to take your mind off worries about sleep.
3. Don’t read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone or play cards in bed. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Find something else to do that will make you feel relaxed, in another room, if possible. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep, not where you go when you are bored. Once you feel sleepy, go back to bed.
4. Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bed. Follow a soothing bedtime ritual that you follow every night before lying down to sleep. Some ideas: A warm bath or shower, light reading, listening to soft music or laying out your clothing for the next day.
5. Try to get rid of or deal with things that make you worry. Leave your worries about job, school, family and daily life behind when bedtime arrives. Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues. Set aside a quiet time before bed, outside your bedroom, to do your worrying and planning. Jot down notes on thoughts or ideas you want to follow up the next day. Don’t dwell on the thought or idea—just jot it down and put it aside, knowing that you’ve captured it on paper.
6. Get up at the same time every morning and keep a regular schedule. Do this even on weekends and holidays. Regular times for meals, medications, chores, exercise and other activities help keep the inner body clock running smoothly.
7. Avoid taking naps if you can. If you must take a nap, try to keep it under an hour and never take a nap after 3 p.m.
8. Do not consume caffeine after lunch, drink alcohol within six hours of bedtime or smoke before bed. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but can cause restless slumber, which leads to awakening during the night.
9. Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal either. Avoid heavy, spicy or sugary foods four to six hours before bed. Instead, have a light snack with carbohydrates and calcium, such as cheese and crackers. It’s the calcium not the milk’s temperature that makes warm milk effective as a traditional sleep aid. If you wake up in the middle of the night, do not have a snack or you may find you begin to wake up habitually at that time feeling hungry.
10. Try taking melatonin before bed. This naturally occurring substance is released by the brain in response to the setting of the sun and has some function in regulating sleep. Melatonin is available in drugstores and health food stores.
Psychological and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and stress are often associated with abnormal sleep patterns. Waking up very early and being unable to fall back asleep—known as “terminal insomnia”—can be a sign of depression, and may be the only sign. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing terminal insomnia to discuss proper treatment.
Abigail Strubel is a Social Worker at Beth Israel Medical Center.