Tips for Sounder Sleep

Tips On How To Improve Your Sleep

Many people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep may have become accustomed to sleep-related routines and habits that actually perpetuate the insomnia or make it worse—even if these habits (for example, drinking before bedtime) may have seemed to help initially.

Most people can significantly improve their sleep by improving their “sleep hygiene”– by retraining their bodies. However, changing old habits requires patience and practice. We recommend that you follow the principles below for at least two weeks. In our experience, you will likely notice a significant improvement in your quality of sleep and ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. (If you do not, a medical consultation is recommended to rule out treatable problems such as obstructive sleep apnea or clinical depression or anxiety.)

Positive ways to retrain your body for better sleep:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time (plus or minus an hour), even on weekends.
  • Allow yourself seven to nine hours in bed.
  • Keep the bedroom quiet, comfortable, dark, and cool.  Use ear plugs if necessary.
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Reserve bed for two activities: sex and sleep.
  • Give yourself an hour before bed to wind down in preparation for sleep. Relaxation exercises, meditation, listening to music, and light reading are all excellent preparations for allowing the mind to shut down.
  • Use a to-do list if you are worrying about something. If another worry occurs to you, add that to the list. Put the list on an imaginary shelf that you can take down in the morning. Avoid jumping up from bed to do something you remember you need to do.

What to avoid when retraining for better sleep:

  • Watching TV, eating, or reading disturbing or exciting material in bed.
  • Staying in bed if you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes to an hour of lying there.  Get up and do something monotonous or boring until you feel sleepy.  Then you can return to bed.   The trick is to avoid associating bed with sleeplessness.
  • Exercising vigorously within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Drinking caffeinated drinks or eating chocolate in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Drinking fluids before bedtime if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate.
  • Drinking alcohol to help you sleep.
  • Drinking more than 2 alcoholic beverages (e.g., two shots or two small glasses of wine) daily.  Alcohol disrupts sleep architecture, interfering with restful sleep in the long run.
  • Worrying that you will not be able to sleep.
  • Daytime napping. This will perpetuate the problem.

(Formulated by Devra Braun, M.D., from multiple articles, including the blog of Robert Chang, DO, Los Angeles, CA)