More than 100 million Americans have trouble sleeping. But did you know that most sleep difficulties (about 80%) are either caused or reinforced by our own behaviors or daily habits?
Getting a good nightís rest begins long before you get into bed. The tips below will help you get the most out of your hours in bed:
|DO stay away from stimulants. Coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications contain caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure and heart rate. Drinking a can of cola or cup of coffee in the late afternoon can keep you awake at midnight. Avoid consuming caffeine at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Beware: Sensitivity to caffeine can increase with age.|
DONíT smoke, especially before bed. The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant. Insomnia is among smokersí greatest complaints. Research shows that smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night than nonsmokers. Having a smoke before bed may feel relaxing, but it is actually putting a stimulant into your bloodstream.
DO retire at regular hours. An erratic schedule can cause problems such as ďSunday night insomnia.Ē 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. Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and, no matter how long you slept, get up at your usual time in the morning.
DONíT eat heavily before going to bed. Forcing your digestive tract to work overtime interferes with sleep. Also, try not to drink anything after 8 p.m. Often people wake up to go to the bathroom (once or twice a night as you get older is normal).
DO exercise regularly. Sleep is facilitated by relaxation and exercised muscles relax more easily. Aim for 20 minutes of exercise that increases your heart rate at least three times a week. Late afternoon is best. Important: Donít exercise immediately before bed. Allow yourself at least an hour to cool down after a workout.
DONíT use alcohol to induce sleep. A nightcap can lull you to sleep, but alcohol typically produces light, unsettled sleep. Also, using alcohol to fall asleep could lead to dependency. And never mix alcohol with sleeping pills.
DO get into a relaxing bedtime routine. Set the mood for relaxation before bed. 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).
DONíT get your mind racing before bed. Bedtime is not the time to be rushing about or planning the following days events. 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.
DONíT use your bedroom as an office. This environment will discourage restful thoughts. Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only; do not watch TV, listen to the radio, eat, or read in bed.
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.
DONíT 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.
Tip For Those With Insomnia
Restrict the amount of time you spend in bed to the actual amount of time you sleep. Youíll end up with more hours of satisfactory sleep. If you canít fall asleep or go back to sleep within 10-15 minutes, get out of bed and do something else until you feel sleepy again. You can read, listen to soft music, or watch a movie. Donít fall asleep on the couch. Repeat this as often as necessary during the night. Youíll be conditioning yourself to associate your bed with sleep rather than with nonsleep.
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.
© 2003 Office of Employee Assistance/Florida International University. Home Top