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6 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Sleep
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- Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This is the best way to train the internal clock of your body as to when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep. Whenever possible, avoid the temptation to sleep in on weekend mornings or to stay up late on weekend nights.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Don’t consume either substance within four hours of trying to go to sleep or of awakening. People can become reliant on them fairly quickly and may need more and more over time to get the desired effect. It has been shown in a number of studies that alcohol decreases the quality of sleep even in small amounts.
- Slow down before going to bed. Your body and mind need time to wind down after being awake and busy. It can be very difficult for your body to go at a fast pace to the slow pace of sleep in a few minutes or even an hour, so it is important not to be too busy or physically stimulated before bedtime. Strong emotions can also create sleep difficulties, so if you know that you must have a difficult conversation or do something that stirs up emotions, try to do it well before bed. Also, avoid exercising, challenging activities, computer work and television watching at least two hours before retiring.
- Modify your sleeping environment. Make sure that your bed is comfortable and supportive and that your room is as quiet and undisturbed as possible. The degree of darkness is also very important and often overlooked. Use bedroom curtains that keep out the light (consider using dark fabrics such as brown and dark blue). Have a low wattage lamp or candle next to your bed and avoid bright overhead lighting. Additionally, cover or turn off the display on digital alarm clocks if they create extra light.
- Beds are for sleeping and sex. When you retire to bed, give yourself 10 minutes to fall asleep. If that doesn’t work, don’t stay in bed – you don’t want to risk associating your bed with struggling to fall asleep. Instead, get up and try doing a simple, dim-light, low-level activity such as reading, taking a hot bath with Epsom salts or deep breathing. When you start to get noticeably tired try falling asleep in your bed again. Do not watch TV or use the computer as the bright light will increase cortisol levels and decrease melatonin, making it even more difficult to fall asleep.
- No late napping. Naps tend to make it hard to fall asleep later, although your body can work hard to convince you that you need to sleep “right now!” The fact is, a nap, especially if it’s longer than 20 minutes, does begin to reset your body clock. Naps can throw off the internal timekeeping your body does and make it difficult to fall asleep when you want or need to get some sleep.