How to Improve Your Sleep

Develop good sleep habits or sleep rituals that prepare you for sleep.  One good sleep habit is to allow your self enough time to get ready for bed, to get in your bed clothes, brush your teeth, turn out lights, and whatever else you need to do to be in the mood to sleep.  Make your bed a comfortable, soothing place to be. Consider eating a very light snack like milk & crackers or Sleepytime® tea before bed.  Slow down your mind at bedtime with a soothing bedtime ritual.  Look forward to going to bed and getting restful sleep.

Regulate your sleep wake schedule by keeping a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day (weekdays AND weekends).  Start by restricting your sleep to a defined eight-hour time period of sleep with a well-defined bedtime and wake-up time. Normally, most people fall asleep about the 16 hours after awakening and sleep about 8 hours – repeat daily.

Establish a wind-down time by turning off all screens (TV, computer, gaming, phone/tablet) at least an hour before bedtime. No TV, computer, working, eating or reading in bed at all.  Restrict your time in bed to just sleeping.  Train yourself to associate sleep only with your bed at night.

Make your bed as comfortable as possible for sleep. Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room without the distractions of TV or any light at all.  Even a dim light can interfere with sleep.   Eye shades are very helpful for sleeping when there are lights around.  A “white noise” sound machine or fan can mask background noises.

Sleep is easily disrupted by emotions and medications. Expect emotions such as anger, fear, exhaustion, worry, and sadness to interfere with sleep (see below). Avoid alcohol after dinner and consider avoiding alcohol altogether.  Avoid caffeine in the second half of the day.

Exercise (especially vigorous exercise) anytime during the day helps sleep.  Exercise at bedtime is too stimulating.

No naps!  But do spend at least 5 minutes each day in silent meditation.

The normal time to fall asleep is about 15 minutes (after an hour wind down time without TV or computer).  If you are not asleep in 20 minutes or so get out of bed and do something really really boring!  Try to avoid looking at any lights at all.  Sit in a slightly uncomfortable chair or perhaps even stand up.  Go back to bed when you’re ready to sleep. Try to restrict your time in bed to just sleeping.

Don’t worry about your sleep when you are NOT in bed and when you ARE in bed do not worry about anything at all.

If worry interferes with your sleep, get your worrying done before bedtime by scheduling 30 minutes before you go to bed to think about your concerns on paper.  Write your worries down in a journal to get them out of your head or make a to-do list of what you need to do.  Once you get in bed to sleep, dismiss your worries (or worry about them tomorrow during your worry time) and trust that your list-of-things-to-do will be there in the morning.

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