The Better Sleep Council reports that one of every two people will experience a sleep problem sometime in their life. However, not all the news is bad. In fact, most experts concur that the majority of sleep difficulties are either caused or reinforced by our own behaviors and daily habits. Late meals, too much coffee, an irregular schedule, mulling over the next day’s problems or plans while in bed, can spark sleeplessness.
Guidelines For Better Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest begins long before you get into bed. The following tips, compiled from current research, will help you get the most out of your hours in bed:
* DO stay away from stimulants. Coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and some medications contain caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure and heart rate. Note: It takes three hours for one cup of coffee to leave your system.
* DON’T smoke, especially before bed. The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant. Research shows smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night than nonsmokers.
* DO retire at regular hours. An erratic schedule can cause problems such as “Sunday night insomnia.” This problem often occurs to people who stay up late and sleep late on weekends and then try to switch back to their usual bedtime to prepare for Monday morning.
* DON’T eat heavily before going to bed. Forcing your digestive tract to work overtime interferes with sleep.
* DO exercise regularly. Sleep is facilitated by relaxation and exercised muscles relax more easily. However, don’t exercise immediately before bed. Allow yourself at least an hour to cool down after a workout.
* DON’T use alcohol to induce sleep. A nightcap can lull you to sleep, but alcohol typically produces light, unsettled sleep.
* DO get into a relaxing bedtime routine. Start letting down about an hour before bedtime: read, listen to music or take a warm bath (not a hot bath, which is actually invigorating).
* DON’T get your mind racing before bed. Set aside time for thinking and planning several hours before bedtime.
* DO make sure your sleeping environment promotes relaxation and sleep. Your bedroom should be quiet, dark and at the proper temperature – in the mid 60s.
* DON’T use your bedroom as an office. This environment will discourage restful thoughts.
* DO use imagery or other techniques to put yourself to sleep. Counting sheep is the oldest trick in the book for a simple reason…it works. According to research, this technique distracts both sides of the brain with soothing, repetitive activity. As you count the woolly animals leaping through your mind, you literally bore yourself to sleep.
* DON’T take sleeping pills; they induce less restful sleep and can cause serious problems. Oftentimes, the person relying on sleeping pills is left with his/her original insomnia, plus a drug problem.
NOTE: If you suffer from chronic or severe insomnia, visit your doctor or a sleep disorders clinic to see if there is an underlying medical condition.